The nerves of Tottenham Hotspur fans everywhere had been piqued by recent results. Chelsea’s win over the weekend saw them close their gap to just two points in the race for the Champions League. Old Spurs teams had folded from more favorable positions, but thankfully the current batch did not.
Tottenham increased their lead in fourth place with a 2-0 win over Watford at Wembley on Monday night. They bounced back from a crushing loss in the FA Cup semifinals by picking up a three points that they couldn’t afford to miss out on.
Mauricio Pochettino opted for essentially the same team that lost 2-1 to Manchester United last weekend. The only change was Hugo Lloris coming back in for Michel Vorm at keeper. Davinson Sanchez was sent off in this fixture back in December, but he started today over Toby Alderweireld.
Watford were missing quite a few players from their starting lineup due to injury, but Troy Deeney and Gerard Deulofeu were at least fit enough to make the bench. They came to Wembley with a familiar game plan. The Hornets sat back and waited for counter-attacking opportunities, then they would fly forward, mostly through their talented winger Richarlison. Their strategy worked pretty well, they just couldn’t seem to find the net.
xG map for Tottenham - Watford. The limp to the finish for Spurs continues, Hugo Lloris manages to keep his side on track for Champions League. pic.twitter.com/tCkBICwenV— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) April 30, 2018
Spurs started the game looking like the only side that wanted to play football. Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele found themselves acting as auxiliary attackers as Tottenham kept possession and won the ball back quickly when the visitors did manage to string a couple passes together.
The opening goal came directly from a defensive mistake. Watford keeper Orestis Karnezis was the man to blame after he dropped a cross that had been played in by Kieran Trippier. Christian Eriksen pounced on the error and tapped the ball across the box to Dele Alli. Dele slotted the ball into the net and celebrated with a dance from Fortnite.
Karnezis’ view was obscured when Adrian Mariappa attempted to head the ball, but the Greek goalie still should’ve been able to secure the cross.
Eriksen continued to play well as Spurs continued to press the game, but Watford came back into the fold as the half progressed.
Andre Gray had a great chance on 26 minutes after he was played in by former Tottenham man Etienne Capoue, but the striker saw his effort saved by Lloris.
Hugo recovered well following a few iffy performances in the Premier League. He was called upon again a few minutes later to stop a shot from Abdoulaye Doucouré, and then really saved Spurs’ skin on the stroke of halftime. He blocked a shot from Richarlison on a breakaway, and then was there to play sweeper-keeper a moment later when Tottenham gave the ball away and left themselves wide open to a Watford attack.
The home side were happy to hear Michael Oliver’s halftime whistle, and then came out in the second frame and almost immediately made amends for some of their earlier poor play.
Spurs broke forward through Son Heung-min just a couple minutes after the restart, but Harry Kane slipped at the crucial moment when the Korean attempted to play him a pass. Trippier burst forward on the right to keep the attack alive, and ultimately found Kane with a low cross. England’s striker did the rest to make it 2-0.
Harry Kane can slip and STILL scores goals pic.twitter.com/p7rjgKwNf1— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) April 30, 2018
The game seemed to be drifting to its conclusion, but it came back to life when both sides made their substitutions. Watford gambled with their two key players returning to fitness as they brought Troy Deeney and Gerard Deulofeu on. Spurs countered with Victor Wanyama replacing Dembele.
Jan Vertonghen almost put things truly out of reach when he rose the highest on a free-kick, but life is cruel and his header came back off the post.
With about 20 minutes left Richarlison had a chance to bring his team back into the game, but he missed wildly on a sitter from right in front of the goal. Spurs were once again lucky not to concede.
The result was never in question following that final flub from Watford’s Brazilian. It wasn’t always pretty, but Tottenham got the points they needed. That’s really all that matters at this point of the season.