Tottenham Hotspur welcomed Southampton to White Hart Lane today without Harry Kane but still with a golden opportunity to put some space between itself and its rivals for top four. They did just that, eking out a nervy 2-1 win over the Saints off of first half goals from Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli.
Spurs started the match with an expected lineup with Kane out rehabilitating his ankle. Son Heung-Min moved to the tip of the spear in the 3-4-3 with Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli flanking him. All else was as expected.
Spurs started out brightly and it didn’t take long for them to create a scoring chance. In the third minute, Eriksen fired a beautiful long ball into the box from the right side of midfield for Son to run onto. Sonny one-touched the ball at goal, but Southampton keeper Fraser Forster was there to palm the ball away.
Spurs continued to pile on the pressure throughout the opening part of the match. Eric Dier received a yellow card for a late challenge in the 11th minute and should probably consider himself lucky not to be sent off.
Eriksen got Spurs off the mark two minutes later. Mousa Dembele made a nice turn in midfield and laid the ball off to a streaking Eriksen cutting in from the right wing. Eriksen put a wonderfully-placed bouncing low shot past Forster into the bottom left corner to put Spurs up 1-0.
Saints eventually settled down and got back into the game. trying to hit Spurs on the counterattack. They noticed a couple of decent efforts towards goal, none closer than when Manolo Gabbiadini put a shot into the side netting. Southampton’s goal scoring threat had a shortened day, however, and he was subbed off late in the first half after picking up an injury, replaced by Shane Long.
Spurs doubled their lead in the 32’ when Dele Alli was taken down in the box by Steven Davis. Dele stepped up to take the penalty and sent Forster the wrong way to convert the spot kick.
So’ton had a penalty shout waved off just before the break when Ben Davies whiffed on a clearance and kicked Dusan Tadic in the knee in Spurs’ box. It looked like a PK, but match official Andre Marriner waved play on to the consternation of the visiting Saints fans.
The first half ended 2-0 to Spurs.
The second half started off more of the same, with Spurs trying to dominate midfield and set up opportunities for Dele, Eriksen and Son. But it was Saints who struck first. Toby Alderweireld flubbed a clearance on a Southampton cross, and James Ward-Prowse was there to put the ball past Hugo and make the score 2-1. It was a rare mistake from Alderweireld who was otherwise very solid in defense.
Saints, sensing blood in the water, continued to press forward to try and nick an equalizer. Victor Wanyama was issued a yellow card in the 61st minute for bringing down Tadic, and Spurs looked on their back heels for a good portion of the second half.
Seeking to regain control of midfield, Spurs brought on Harry Winks for a mostly-ineffective Son Heung-Min in the 75th minute, and Kieran Trippier was a 78th minute substitute for Kyle Walker. Vincent Janssen came in six minutes from time.
The match ended on a bit of a terrifying note as Sofiane Boufal went just wide on a Saints counterattack, but Spurs were eventually able to hang on and grab a big three points. The final score was 2-1.
- Despite the win, it’s hard to say that this was an especially great match for Spurs. They clearly miss Harry Kane, but great teams find ways to win even when they’re not at their best.
- Christian Eriksen is so good. That’s all I really want to say.
- That was a bad clearance from Toby that led to Southampton’s goal, but considering how good he’s been all season I think we can all find some grace to forgive him for one mistake.
- For me this was an opportunity to see how Sonny would do at CF in the 3-4-3, but apart from that early chance he was fairly anonymous.
- Victor Wanyama had the touch of a brick wall today, but he was great at breaking up play in midfield.
- Harry Winks was one of the few bright spots of the second half for Tottenham, looking bright on the ball and also showing a fierce temper when crossed. Despite his diminutive size, I wouldn’t bet against him in a midnight back-alley rumble.
- Never look too askance at a win. Spurs are still undefeated at home, in second place, and also nine points ahead of Arsenal (though the Gunners have a game in hand).