Tottenham Hotspur hosted Sunderland at White Hart Lane today with the goal of resting a few key players and earning a comfortable win. They got the win, but it was anything but easy, and potentially very costly. Harry Kane got the only goal of the match, but was one of three injured Tottenham players as Spurs defeated the Black Cats 1-0.
Pochettino promised rotation for this match and he delivered, but not in the way many people suspected. Left back Ben Davies was rested and set to the bench, but with Jan Vertonghen shifted left and Eric Dier slotting into central defense. Victor Wanyama partnered Mousa Dembele, back for the first time in the league since the Battle of the Bridge, and Son Heung-Min and Moussa Sissoko were in the forward attacking band with Dele Alli behind Harry Kane.
This was a frustrating first half for Spurs. They controlled the ball from the opening kick, dominating possession and shooting nearly at will, but still they were unable to get the ball past Black Cats keeper Jordan Pickford, who played well in the opening 45.
Son Heung-Min was especially good in his delivery, playing on the left flank. Sonny found Kane in the 9th minute with a nice cross that Kane one-touched from point-blank range, but it was blocked away from Pickford. Moussa Sissoko also had a low effort go just wide, and Toby Alderwiereld had a header saved by Pickford.
Sunderland had two main chances in the first half: first from a long ball from Pickford that found Defoe on the break. Defoe somehow got the shot off but Hugo was there to save. But their best chance came just before halftime against the run of play: Adnan Januzaj took advantage of an Dier defensive blunder and found former Spur Steven Pienaar two feet in front of goal, but Kyle Walker was there to make a heroic block off the line.
The first half ended with Spurs dominating in every category, with 71% possession and 19 shots, six on target. And yet they were still fortunate not to be down at the break.
The second half was more of the same: Spurs dominating possession and putting shot upon shot on target, but not creating great chances and not capitalizing on the chances they did make.
Harry Kane broke the deadlock in the 59th minute on a nice play. Kyle Walker put a good cross to Dele Alli, who headed the ball back to Kane. Harry opted to take a touch instead of volleying the ball, but had enough control to poke it past Pickford to put Spurs up.
That was the high water mark of the match, unfortunately. The second half was marred by three potentially catastrophic injuries for Spurs. Mousa Dembele was subbed off for Erik Lamela around the 70th minute with what looked like a hamstring tweak. Just a few minutes later, Eric Dier also tweaked his hamstring and went to the bench for Ben Davies.
Most critically, however, Harry Kane injured his ankle on a challenge around Sunderland’s box late in the game. He got to his feet but needed help to limp to the sidelines and was eventually stretchered off down the tunnel. He was replaced by Vincent Janssen.
Sunderland tried to take advantage of the situation and had a couple of half-chances, but nothing that troubled Spurs’ defense that much. In the end, Spurs looked out of sorts but kept enough composure to finish off the half and its six minutes of extra time, winning 1-0.
- Let’s start with the obvious: the injury to Harry Kane looked really bad. I’m no doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but that looks like an injury where Kane will be out for a minimum of a few weeks. It’s why we bought Vincent Janssen, but this is still really bad.
- Likewise, we don’t know what’s up with Dembele and Dier, our starting midfield pivot. Dembele went into the tunnel, but Dier went to the bench. Maybe that’s a good sign? We’ll have to wait for more information.
- This was a super annoying match that we should’ve won 5-0 but didn’t. 30 shots, 8 on target, huge possession advantage. Ultimately, we won, but it’s pretty frustrating.
- In better news, Sonny had a really nice match, and his delivery was especially on point. Spurs had a ton of corners in the game, and Son’s delivery was exquisite. It’s a shame that Spurs could never really capitalize on them. He didn’t score but that was probably his best match in a Spurs shirt.
- Wanyama looks much better as a direct Dier rotation option than as a shuttler. Still makes dumb fouls though. If Moose is ok, I’m okay with him partnering with Dembele next weekend against Middlesbrough.
- Another annoyingly excellent match by an opposition goalkeeper, this time Jordan Pickford. Ugh.
- This was a pretty poor match from Dele Alli, all things considered. Didn’t look sharp, though maybe that has to do with playing alongside Sissoko and Son, with whom he probably hasn’t developed that Vulcan mind-meld with yet.
- Saw lots of people slagging Sissoko today. I thought he was fine.
- The injuries are worrisome, but thankfully we have a EFL Cup against Gillingham where we can play the reserves and kids. At least, I hope we play the reserves and kids.