Tottenham Hotspur welcomed bottom-of-the-table Crystal Palace to Wembley Stadium today, just days after an emotional win over Real Madrid in the Champions League. Spurs weren’t at their best but did enough to earn a scrappy 1-0 win thanks to a second half strike from Son Heung-Min.
There were some surprise lineup changes just before the match. We knew that Toby Alderweireld and Hugo Lloris were set to miss a couple of weeks for injuries they picked up in the Real Madrid match. What we didn’t know is that backup keeper Michel Vorm also had a knee injury, possibly picked up in training. Enter Paulo Gazzaniga! The former Southampton keeper is Spurs’ third choice goalkeeper and got his Tottenham debut in goal. Youth keeper Alfie Whiteman was his backup on the bench.
Also, news broke just before kickoff that Dele Alli had a hamstring strain and would miss not only today’s match, but also the two upcoming England friendlies. So Moussa Sissoko and Son Heung-Min slotted into the lineup. Serge Aurier and Danny Rose were the fullbacks. Harry Kane was the lone striker.
Crystal Palace isn’t a great side, but they have a few threats with pace in Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha, and Roy Hodgsen set up his side to hit long balls over the top of Spurs’ midfielders for them to run onto. However, Palace’s best chance of the first half came in the third minute: Mamadou Sakho collided with Gazzaniga as he attempted to head in a cross from Zaha. Gazza was trying to make himself big and it probably should’ve been a penalty to Palace, but official Kevin Friend decided to swallow his whistle.
Gazzaniga redeemed himself just before halftime after making a fingertip save of a header on target from Scott Dann, an alert play that showed why Mauricio Pochettino liked him so much.
Otherwise, the story of the first half was injuries. In the 18th minute, Harry Winks rolled his ankle in a tackle attempt and was treated on the sidelines before returning to action. Six minutes later, Timothy Fosu-Mensah tripped Harry Kane who also appeared to pick up a knock. Kane stayed on the pitch for the remainder of the first half but was not moving around as freely.
Spurs had a few decent opportunities, mostly from crosses from the flanks. Midway through the match, Aurier found Danny Rose at the back post, who mishit his header. Rose also had a number of good crosses into the middle, including one that fell to Kane who headed over the bar. Spurs were unable to capitalize, and the first half ended scoreless.
Mauricio Pochettino opted to bring on Mousa Dembele for Winks at halftime, perhaps in an overabundance of caution. There were no halftime changes for Palace.
Gazzaniga had another big save for Spurs just after intermission. A bad Serge Aurier pass sent Andros Townsend streaking at goal, but his shot was parried away by a diving Gazza who did well to keep him out. He had another outstanding stop on a header from a Luka Milivojevic header in the 60th minute capping off a pretty decent performance from the young keeper.
Aurier nearly undid Spurs again with another bad pass in the 57th minute. Zaha was clear on goal and Gazzaniga rushed out to block him. Zaha had the goal gaping but somehow his shot trickled just wide of the post.
Spurs finally broke through in the 64th minute! A Sissoko cross bounced around a bit and eventually fell to Son Heung-Min at the top of the box. He left Speroni no chance as his blast found the back of the net, and Spurs led 1-0.
Sonny had two more opportunities on the break to double Spurs’ lead but wasn’t able to convert: he went one on one with Speroni in the 82nd minute but hit side netting, and wasn’t able to get a shot off on another counter a few minutes later.
Palace threatened through Zaha a few times in the second half, but Tottenham’s defense was able to deal with the threats. Spurs eventually brought on Fernando Llorente for Harry Kane, and Ben Davies for Danny Rose, and Tottenham saw the game off, with the final score 1-0.
- I watched this match on my iPad from a sweaty high school pool at my kids’ swim meet, so I’m sure I missed a few key insights. Be gentle.
- This was NOT a great match, but who cares? After such an emotional midweek win and the number of injuries Spurs had to deal with, I’ll take a crappy three points off the team bottom of the table. In years past, we lose this match.
- That’s the Danny Rose I remember! He looked like he’s regaining his old pace, and had some great low balls into the box from the flanks. Love the hair, too.
- Eric Dier was outstanding in the first half, putting in numerous last-ditch tackles. Wilf Zaha was an absolute menace in this match on the counterattack, but the combo of Dier and Sanchez were able to nullify his attack (though sometimes right at the death).
- Gazzaniga was lucky not to concede a penalty early and had a few WTF moments, but was otherwise solid enough and had a few critical saves for Spurs. I don’t want to see him every match, but he wasn’t bad at all! He also got MOTM which was probably fair
- A quiet night from Eriksen, but that’s okay. Palace went over the top of the midfield quite a bit, and Eriksen wasn’t really able to assert himself.
- The injuries are a bit worrisome for Spurs, with Kane and Winks both picking up knocks, and Dele out for possibly a few weeks. Thankfully we have the international break coming up for players to rest and recuperate.