Mauricio Pochettino’s 100th match in charge of Spurs was probably a bit more nervy than he would’ve liked.
Tottenham had to hold on in the final stages to beat Middlesbrough 1-0 at White Hart Lane. On another day, Spurs might’ve won by multiple goals or Boro might’ve stolen a point.
Still, it was a massive three points. The result gives Spurs a bit of breathing room in 2nd place, while also keeping them nine points away from league-leaders Chelsea.
Tottenham lined-up again with four at the back, as they have since Jan Vertonghen went down with an injury. The rest of the starters were as expected, with Ben Davies coming in for the injured Danny Rose.
After an early opportunity for Alvaro Negredo, Spurs controlled the first half. Mauricio Pochettino’s team had upwards of 70% possession, but again, they couldn’t find the goal they needed.
Spurs were creating more chances than in the Sunderland match. Son, Alderweireld, and Kane all had great sights at goal in the opening frame. Kane had the ball in the back of the net at one point, but it was rightfully ruled out for offside.
Aitor Karanka’s side came to White Hart Lane knowing they would have to commit men behind the ball. They clogged the middle and tried to attack on the counter when they could. They defended quite well, but exerted a lot of energy in the process.
Heading into the match, the Tottenham players would’ve known about the day’s early results. Poch would not be happy with another 0-0 draw against a team fighting relegation, and neither would the fans.
The game restarted and took up a similar form to the first half. After another period of frustration in attack, something finally worked.
In the 57th minute Son got space in the box, cut back on the ball, and was clipped by Bernardo. Mark Clattenburg pointed to the spot, and Harry Kane dispatched the penalty past Victor Valdes.
It was almost two a moment later through Christian Eriksen, but Valdes denied him. Now trailing, Middlesbrough were forced to come out of their shell. With things so close at the bottom of the table they really didn’t have any other option.
Tottenham responded by never really putting the game away. They kept finding good areas on the edge of the box, only to flub the final pass or dribble. Valdes also made a few saves to keep Boro in it.
The home side were almost made to pay towards the end of the match. Negredo went for a sensational bicycle kick, and he actually came pretty close. Then in stoppage time Martin De Roon fired a volley just wide.
If you say you weren’t nervous in the last 15 minutes, you’re lying. Especially when Boro had a free kick past the allotted three minutes of stoppage time.
The final whistle blew, and heart rates around White Hart Lane gradually decreased back to comfortable levels.
An unconvincing match from Spurs will give Pochettino much to harp-on in training this week. He knows Tottenham will need to be better going forward next weekend, when they make a highly anticipated trip to Anfield.