Tottenham Hotspur came into today’s match against Wolverhampton as newly-crowned title contenders, second in the table, and riding a five match winning streak. That all came crashing down around their ears. Spurs took the lead in the first half via a fantastic goal from Harry Kane, but let in three in the second half, falling to Wolves 1-3.
Rotation? What rotation? Mauricio Pochettino rolled out the DESK again against Wolves, starting Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-Min, and Harry Kane MBE in front of Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko. Ben Davies and Kieran Trippier were the fullbacks, with Davinson Sanchez coming in alongside Toby Alderweireld in the center of defense.
The match started slowly, interrupted in the fourth minute by a pause in play to attend to Wolves’ Leander Dendoncker after a collision with Moussa Sissoko in midfield. Both players were fine and play eventually continued.
Son Heung-Min had the first crack at goal in the 8th minute after some excellent Spurs passing around Wolves’ box. Son got a step on his defenders at the top of the box but his shot was just wide of the left post.
Spurs had another good chance in the 13th minute after Harry Kane earned a free kick just outside of the box. Kieran Trippier lashed a low shot at goal, but Rui Patricio was there to collect the chance.
Ben Davies had a couple of scary moments in the first part of the half — matched against Adama Traore on the left side of the pitch, he had some difficulty with Traore’s pace. Around the 15 minute mark Davies was lucky not to concede a handball penalty, and then picked up a cheap yellow for a bad tackle just outside the area.
Tottenham’s chances came mostly on the break moving forward against a Wolves back five. Christian Eriksen forced an excellent save from Rui Patricio in the 19th minute after a Son blast ricocheted off of Sissoko’s head, but it was Harry Kane who opened the scoring on another fast attacking move three minutes later. Kane took a dribble and cut inside before unleashing a furious hit with his left foot from distance into the top corner past Patricio. It was a fabulous goal that moved Kane into a tie with Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with 13 goals, best in the Premier League.
Sonny nearly doubled Spurs’ lead at the half hour mark with two chances — a blast at the top corner that went wide, and a breakaway that got away from him after a heavy touch.
Spurs controlled the match in the opening 45, and never really let Wolves get a sniff at goal. Traore’s dribbling ability did lead to a yellow card for Christian Eriksen, however. Hugo Lloris didn’t make a single save in the opening half, Spurs dominated possession, and carried a solid if tenuous 1-0 lead into halftime.
The second half started auspiciously for Spurs after Kieran Trippier took a blow to the head in a confrontation with a Wolves player in the opening two minutes and received treatment on the sidelines before eventually rejoining play.
The second period was a more sedate affair for much of it — Spurs kept the ball for much of the half, and snuffed out Wolves’ attacks before they had a chance to get anything from them. Neither side did much offensively, though Spurs had a few promising half-chances on the counter.
Wolves made the first substitution of the match in the 59th minute as Helder Costa came on for Traore, much to the relief of Spurs fans.
Spurs were exceptional defensively, and showed their pace against Wolves’ speedy attackers. In the 66th minute, Costa broke into space on a counterattack, but Davinson Sanchez caught up to him and made a vital tackle that prevented a chance.
Pochettino made his first substitution of the match in the 68th minute, bringing on Lucas Moura for Dele Alli, while Wolves brought on eternal Tottenham transfer target Joao Moutinho for Dendoncker.
Wolves managed a slightly concerning period of possession and pressure starting around the 70th minute, passing well and forcing several Spurs turnovers in the middle of the pitch. It led to Wolves’ first shot on target, and the equalizing goal as Wily Boly headed home from close range off of a corner kick.
From there, the momentum shifted to the visitors. Wolves had their tails up, controlling the match and easily throwing defenders back to deal with any Tottenham attacks. Kane picked up a harsh yellow card for diving around the edge of the box after having his ankle clipped in the 82nd minute.
And then things got worse. On a Wolves counterattack, Raul Jimenez stuck the dagger into Spurs’ back, poking a shot past Hugo Lloris who was wrong-footed. Just like that, Wolves led 2-1.
Spurs thought they had a penalty late in the match after Kane went down in the box, but the match official waved on. Wolves immediately countered, and Jimenez got one on one with Lloris and made the most of his chance, scoring again to put the visitors up 3-1.
Spurs had another penalty appeal waved off just before time, but it wouldn’t have mattered. Wolves earned their victory at Wembley, and Spurs’ chance to potentially cut the lead on Liverpool at the top of the table was wasted. The final score was Tottenham 1-3 Wolverhampton.
- This was one of the worst matches I’ve seen Spurs play all season. They looked tired almost from the opening whistle.
- Wolves are a solid defensive team and pretty much dared Spurs to shoot from distance. They seemed happy to oblige, and Kane’s shot was a worldy.
- But that was pretty much the extent of Spurs’ offense. They had a really bad game in and around the box, fluffing counterattacks and not taking advantage of the few chances they had.
- The match changed as soon as Wolverhampton brought on Moutinho. Suddenly they had a midfield passer and took advantage of it. Wolves had four shots on target all match, and scored on three. Spurs, meanwhile, had no shots in the second half. That’s embarrassing.
- Spurs were really, really hurt by their midfield today. Against a team playing defensively and on the counter, they couldn’t progress the ball through the middle with any effectiveness. Christian Eriksen in particular was bad by his standards.
- Spurs have been a bit lucky this season. Today, they didn’t get the benefit of luck — three penalties waved off — and it sucks.
- One match after being declared title contenders, I can’t wait to read all the hot takes that will come out about this match. (That’s sarcasm, btw)