Tottenham Hotspur got two early goals from an exceptional Son Heung-Min and held on after conceding in the second half to nab a 2-1 away win over Middlesbrough at The Riverside Stadium. Ben Gibson scored Boro’s only goal on a set piece header.
Tottenham started the match with another rotated side: Moussa Sissoko and Son Heung-Min started in the forward attacking band, and Ben Davies again started in place of Danny Rose at left back. Victor Wanyama and Dele Alli started in the midfield pivot, with Mousa Dembele and Eric Dier both were not in the match day 18.
The match started open and frenetic, with both sides pushing forward to open the scoring early. Spurs’ Moussa Sissoko had the best chance in the opening minutes, making a good turn in the box and firing a shot just over the bar.
It didn’t take long after that for Spurs to get on the board. Son Heung-Min slalomed past two Boro defenders and blasted a left-footed shot past Victor Valdes with a shot inside he box off of a Tottenham corner kick to put Spurs up 1-0. Vincent Janssen got the assist.
Sonny got his second 15 minutes later. He picked up the ball on the left side of the box near the touchline, dribbled past two Boro defenders, turned, and rifled a beautiful shot, this time with his right, into the top right corner to double Spurs’ lead. Valdes had no chance.
Spurs nearly had a third in the 35th minute after Dele Alli was shoved down in the box by a Boro defender. Match official Graham Scott was having none of that, and signaled instead for a goal kick.
The two early goals sucked away any early momentum that Boro might have had, and it was all Spurs for the remainder of the half. Tottenham were pressing well, pushing forward, and looking bright in attack. The first half ended 2-0.
The second half got underway with no changes for either side.
It was mostly more of the same in the second period: Tottenham mostly dominated possession for the opening period, but Boro made a double substitution, bringing in Jordan Rhodes and Adama Traore. Boro immediately started countering with speed, and it knocked Spurs back on their heels a little bit.
Boro clawed a goal back on a set piece in the 66th minute. Stuart Downing put a swinging free kick into the box that was met by the head of Ben Gibson, who placed it perfect past Hugo to make the score 2-1. Replays showed Gibson all over the back of Moussa Sissoko, but the ref either didn’t see it or opted not to call a foul.
Boro really started to assert themselves late in the second half. After Moussa Sissoko was trucked by a Boro player (again, with no foul called), he was subbed off for Erik Lamela. Tottenham had opportunities but were stymied by a Boro defense that did just enough to keep Spurs from getting good looks on goal.
With five minutes to go, Harry Winks came on for Vincent Janssen as Spurs tried to take control of midfield. Sonny moved to the tip of the spear. Just before time, GK N’Koudou came on in relief for Christian Eriksen. Despite a nerve-wracking end of the match which included five minutes of extra time, Spurs were able to hang on for the 2-1 win.
- There was some social media discontent early over the omission of Dembele and Dier. Some took it as a sign that they really are injured, others that they were being rested for upcoming matches against CSKA and City. I thought this was a match where they could get away with resting both of them, and it was.
- This was the Son Heung-Min that we thought we were buying last year. He’s full of confidence and is scoring ridiculous goals right now. How can you keep him out of the starting 11 right now?
- Another fantastic match from Christian Eriksen today, but I’m worried that we’re playing him too much after the midweek match against Gillingham.
- I don’t like to play the “blame the ref” game but there were two solid penalty shouts that weren’t given, and Gibson’s goal could’ve been called a foul. This should’ve been a comfortable win for Spurs. Instead it felt like a nail-biter when Spurs were clearly the better team.
- Dele Alli was getting into good positions today, but his finishing was pretty trash.
- Once again I was quite impressed by Harry Winks in midfield, who was tidy in possession and good with his passing. He’s earned more minutes, and I hope he gets them.
- Vincent Janssen is fine, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
- In the end: doesn’t matter. The win puts Spurs up to 2nd in the table with 14 points, behind Manchester City, which has 18.
- Bring on CSKA!