Tottenham Hotspur came to St. Mary’s Stadium today knowing that they needed a win to keep pace with Liverpool, Manchester United, and Chelsea in the race for top four. Instead, they struggled throughout the match in super wet conditions, and limped to a 1-1 draw. Harry Kane’s 99th career Premier League goal cancelled out an early own goal from Davinson Sanchez as Spurs dropped two important points.
Mauricio Pochettino put out an unexpected starting lineup out of necessity, as Hugo Lloris and Christian Eriksen were both sick with the flu and missed the match entirely. Michel Vorm came in for Hugo, and Pochettino opted to start Moussa Sissoko ahead of Erik Lamela, who was on the bench. Otherwise, it was Tottenham’s strongest lineup, with Son Heung-Min and Dele Alli in the attacking band behind Harry Kane. Serge Aurier and Ben Davies were the fullbacks.
The match was preceded by a minute’s applause for Cyrille Regis, who passed away this past week.
Southampton came out on the attack very early in this match, pressing Spurs very high up the pitch and trying to catch Spurs off guard. It very nearly worked: Gabbiadini, who started the game for the ill Shane Long, had a shot inside the first minute that was saved by Vorm. Just a few minutes later, he nearly scored again, muffing a touch after a good cross from Dusan Tadic.
Spurs looked disjointed and out of sorts for the majority of the half, and it was clear very early on that they missed the creativity of Christian Eriksen. Without the Dane to make those gorgeous passes, Spurs found it difficult to get much going on offense.
An unfortunate, unlucky play put Saints up in the 16th minute. Sanchez, who was trying to cut out a Southampton cross into the box, instead put the ball off the near post. The ball riccocheted across the face of goal, past Vorm, and into the net, putting Southampton up 1-0.
Soton’s lead didn’t last long, though. Immediately after the goal, Eric Dier smacked a ball through traffic and off the post, and three minutes later Spurs got their equalizer from — who else — Harry Kane. Ben Davies’ well placed corner kick to the center of the box found Kane, who out-jumped a Saints defender to head it into the net, bringing Spurs level.
Southampton had numerous chances up the flanks in the first half through their fullbacks Ryan Bertrand and James Ward-Prowse, with the pair getting past Davies and Aurier on numerous occasions when both Spurs backs were caught up field in attack. It led to a number of Saints chances and half-chances. The best chance might have come from Jack Stevens, who had an open header off of a free kick, only to put his header wide right. Mario Lemina also had a shot from the top of the box late in the half, but it was well saved by Vorm.
Southampton did not look like the disillusioned team that Spurs rolled 5-2 on Boxing Day, and Spurs might have felt a little fortunate to go to halftime level at 1-1.
Mauricio Pochettino opted to make no changes at halftime, and Spurs started the second half much like the first.
There’s a lot that I could say about the second half, but it mostly was a repeat of the first half, minus the scoring. Spurs appeared to be bogged down in midfield, with Southampton pressing them hard and forcing them into difficult decisions with the ball. Spurs on occasion tried to bypass the midfield with long balls from Dier and Vertonghen, but Southampton defended resolutely and were mostly able to repel Spurs’ chances.
Dele Alli had one of the better chances when he fired a low shot from distance in the 65th minute. His shot went just wide of the post, which mostly told the story today.
Pochettino, as is his pattern, waited until the 70th minute to make his first substitution, bringing on Erik Lamela for the mostly-invisible Son Heung-Min, who struggled on the day. Two minutes later, Serge Aurier went down with what looked like a twisted ankle. He was subbed off for Kieran Trippier.
As the half went on, both Spurs and Soton started pushing for a late winner, and the action was end-to-end for the last ten minutes or so. In the 85th minute, Spurs fans thought they had scored after Sissoko fed Erik Lamela right in front of goal. Southampton got a leg to his shot, and the ball trickled just wide.
Spurs’ best chance to win came from Kane in the 90th minute. Lamela played him into the box with a nifty pass, but Kane’s low shot — get this — went just wide of the post.
Spurs had 17 shots in the game, but only two of them were on target, both of those coming in the first half. The match ended 1-1.
- This was an awful, awful performance from Spurs in terrible weather conditions. There isn’t a whole lot of good to talk about.
- If you wanted Exhibit A as to why Christian Eriksen is so important to this Tottenham side, this was it. Spurs looked completely disjointed and without ideas in his absence, and it’s annoying that more fans don’t recognize just how crucial he is to Spurs’ success.
- Along with that, holy hell was Sissoko bad today. I’m struggling to understand why Lamela, who seems like a natural choice to replace Eriksen as an on-pitch creator, didn’t start the game.
- Also bad: the midfield tandem of Mousa Dembele and Eric Dier. Folks, I’m back to worrying that Dembele might be crocked.
- Sanchez had an awful start to the match, but rebounded well and actually put in a pretty good shift overall.
- Kane buries that late shot nine times out of ten. It’s a little bit incredible that he dragged that ball wide.
- Spurs’ next four games: vs. United, at Liverpool, vs. Arsenal, at Juventus. The next few weeks could determine Spurs’ season.