Tottenham Hotspur were without nine of their biggest stars, but that didn’t stop them from putting on a show on Wednesday night in San Diego. With a squad of returning veterans mixed with development squad players, Spurs went down early to AS Roma before scoring four first half goals and winning their first International Champions Cup match 4-1 at SDCCU Stadium in San Diego, California.
Spurs got two goals from Fernando Llorente and another two from Lucas Moura in a very encouraging display, considering they are in the USA without their World Cup stars from England, Belgium, and France. Consequently, they started the match with a makeshift back line of Serge Aurier, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Ben Davies (at CB), and Kyle Walker-Peters. Injuries to Victor Wanyama and Tashan Oakley-Boothe meant that Spurs played a three man central midfield of Luke Amos, Moussa Sissoko, and Christian Eriksen. Lucas, Erik Lamela, and Fernando Llorente were up top.
Things got off to a rocky start early on in the match. A moment of spotty defending and tight play led to Roma’s only goal of the match in the third minute — Javier Pastore found Patrick Schick who was able to turn and fire a low ball past Vorm to put Roma up by a goal in just the third minute. Roma also had a couple of other moments where they looked good going forward, especially in the early minutes of the match.
That Roma lead didn’t last long. In the ninth minute, Luke Amos found himself with the ball on the right side of the box. His attempted cross was blocked high into the air, and Llorente was able to head the ball past the Roma keeper to level the score.
Nine minutes later, Llorente scored again! Erik Lamela put a gorgeous cross (with his right foot!!) to the back post. Lucas Moura was there to volley the ball at goal, but it was blocked away. The rebound fell right to the feet of Llorente, who easily tucked it home for his second goal.
The fun times continued. In the 28th minute, Lucas Moura headed home after Serge Aurier put a cross on a plate for him, and Lucas got his second just before halftime thanks to a clever backheel flick from Llorente that set him up for a powerful blast into the net.
What might have been a disaster of a half for Spurs turned into a rout and they took a 4-1 lead into halftime.
Predictably, the second half was a much more sedate affair as Spurs took their foot off the gas pedal and both clubs made wholesale substitutions. Spurs came out in the second half unchanged from how they started the match.
Both Spurs and Roma seemed content to play possession football for much of the second half, though Roma did come close a few times over the course of the period. Spurs never seriously threatened much in the second half, but they didn’t really have to, and the match was interrupted as Pochettino opted to make several substitutions, beginning in the 63rd minute.
Poch first brought on keeper Paulo Gazzaniga (for Vorm), Son Heung-Min (for Llorente), and 17-year old promising midfielder Oliver Skipp for Christian Eriksen. Spurs brought on Colombian World Cup star Davinson Sanchez for Erik Lamela in the 77th minute, and the end of the match featured cameos from Georges-Kevin N’Koudou (for Lucas), Anthony Georgiou (for Walker-Peters) and another debutant in George Marsh (for Amos).
No goals in the second half, but it hardly mattered. Spurs ended the game as comfortable winners and should feel encouraged by the performances of several of their players.
- I know it was a meaningless friendly with a bunch of players missing, but we’re totally going to win the league, y’all.
- There were some really impressive performances in this match, and the list is topped by Lucas, who looked sharp, focused, and fast as hell. If early indications continue, he is vastly improved from where he was when he joined last January, and I think he’s going to be a key player for Spurs this season.
- On Twitter, I made an early comment about how Fernando Llorente hasn’t improved much, and then he made me look like an idiot by scoring twice. In fairness, he looks fitter and slightly faster than the plodding Spaniard we saw last season. That’s good! He never got a Pochettino preseason last year, and if Spurs end up keeping him another year, this could pay dividends.
- Erik Lamela looks slimmer, more confident, and HUNGRY. He was really, really good tonight.
- I was also really impressed by the play of Luke Amos, who not only comported himself well in midfield but also put in a couple of crunching challenges. He probably won’t make it at Spurs, but I can see why Poch likes him. He’s a proper professional footballer.
- Serge Aurier and Kyle Walker-Peters both had good games at fullback. Aurier in particular looked good, much less likely to make a dumb decision, and had some good crosses. It was encouraging. KWP played well also, though was a little quieter in the match, playing on the left.
- I need to say something negative. HOLY SMOKES ARE SPURS’ HOME KITS AWFUL. They look bad up close, but they really look awful on the pitch from a distance. They make the Spurs players look like they’re wearing dark blue jorts. Let’s wear the aways all season.
- Couldn’t help but laugh at the ESPN announcer who kept calling Gazzaniga “Gazinga.” I know we got the D-list announcing team tonight, but holy smokes...
- Pochettino’s gold chain, tho.
- Moussa Sissoko is still fine.