Tottenham Hotspur hosted Crystal Palace in Spurs’ first home match of the season and came away with a well-deserved 1-0 win. Victor Wanyama headed home the match winner in the second half off of a corner kick after Spurs dominated the match and did just about everything but score.
The match was a homecoming for former Tottenham player Andros Townsend, who made his first return to White Hart Lane since being sold to Newcastle last January. Now with Palace, Townsend was the focus of Palace’s attack with Christian Benteke not yet signed and Yannick Bolasie now departed for Everton.
Tottenham’s lineup was slightly different from the one that started last week at Everton. While Spurs kicked off with the expected midfield pivot of Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama, Mauricio Pochettino shook things up by starting Vincent Janssen with Harry Kane behind in the #10 role. Dele Alli started the match on the bench.
Spurs attempted to control the match from the opening kick and for the most part it worked. The midfield duo of Wanyama and Dier was a lot more effective than against Everton, and Spurs were able to get the majority of possession in the first half.
Spurs had numerous opportunities to score in the opening 15 minutes of the match, none better than when Toby Alderweireld managed to elude Scott Dann on an Erik Lamela corner kick. Toby’s header went straight at Wayne Hennessey, and Palace were able to scramble it away. Harry Kane also had an effort from an acute angle just moments later, and again Hennessey was there to save.
The best effort of the first half came late in the half. A low Harry Kane shot was deflected nearly past Hennessey, and Janssen was there with two rebound efforts that were also blocked away. In the dying moments of the half Kane had another blast on goal that just went wide.
It was a thoroughly dominating first half performance from Spurs, but they took a scoreless draw into halftime.
Crystal Palace brought on Yohann Cabaye in for Joe Ledley at halftime, but Spurs made no halftime changes as the second half kicked off.
The second half was mostly more of the same for Tottenham: thoroughly outplaying Palace, lots of opportunities to score, but nothing going into the net. Palace did have a stretch midway through the second half where they started to assert themselves a little more, both on the counter and in possession. Tottenham’s defense was able to effectively cope and Palace’s chances didn’t amount to much, but it still made for some nervous viewing.
Eriksen, who didn’t have the best of matches today, made way for Dele Alli in the 68th minute, and Spurs started looking a little better in the final third. Perhaps their best chance of the match came two minutes after Alli’s entrance: Alli put in a gorgeous through ball to a streaking Vincent Janssen who had the goal wide open. Janssen inexplicably mishit the ball, and the chance went begging.
Just when things were looking like the match might be heading for a frustrating nil-nil draw, Tottenham finally broke the deadlock in the 83rd minute. Off of a corner kick, Harry Kane headed the ball towards goal from the top of the box, and Victor Wanyama was there to flick the ball into the back of the net to put Spurs up 1-0. It was a great reaction by Wanyama, and it was his first career goal for Spurs.
That was all it took. Spurs eventually brought Josh Onomah and Tom Carroll on for Kane and Lamela, withstood a couple of late Palace breaks, and held on for a deserved 1-0 win.
- There were a couple of players who I thought stood out, but if I have to pick a man of the match it’s probably Vincent Janssen. Despite his inexplicable Soldado-esque miss in the second half, he was impressively strong in the box, had very good movement, and showed a grit and strength that was a lot of fun to watch. He interplayed well with Harry Kane, and was unlucky not to score two.
- Victor Wanyama also looked good, I thought. You can criticize him for not being Mousa Dembele (he isn’t), but he was so strong in possession and looked to me like he was working on being more progressive with the ball. His goal was well taken, and although Palace’s midfield is trash, I feel better about him in midfield after this match. Dunno about anyone else, but I’m making spaghetti for supper tonight.
- Christian Eriksen was pretty poor today. Passing was off, he looked like he was getting knocked off the ball a lot, and he generally just wasn’t his usual self. My initial take is that we don’t need to worry, but he sure didn’t help himself in those £150k/wk contract negotiations.
- I wasn’t particularly impressed with Erik Lamela either, who inexplicably played much of the match on the left side of midfield. His interplay with Danny Rose wasn’t nearly as good as it usually is with Kyle Walker, and Lamela just seemed off his game.
- Benching Alli for Janssen was controversial at the time, but I think it worked and was probably the right decision. Alli was emphatically rusty last week and if you’re going to move Kane back to the hole, then it makes more sense to leave Eriksen and Lamela as your “wide” midfielders. Considering how well we played overall, I’m wondering if Poche is going to keep doing this against Liverpool.
- This was a deserved win. Spurs looked really good for much of the match, and while it was frustrating to see so many chances squandered, ultimately karma prevailed.
- Big match next week against Liverpool, who lost 2-0 to Burnley today.