Tottenham Hotspur were hoping to bounce back after a weekend loss to Chelsea, hosting Brighton & Hove Albion at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Boxing Day. Spurs had a goal called back by VAR for a marginal offside infraction and then went down a goal in the first half after a phantom foul on Harry Winks, but bounced back with a roaring second half, getting goals from Harry Kane and Dele Alli in the North London rain. The final score was 2-1.
We expected rotation for this match and we got it, but not as much or in the way that we anticipated. Jose Mourinho made just two changes — he started with the same defensive back four that he has used the past number of matches, but Eric Dier moved to the bench with Winks replacing him. Strangely, Tanguy Ndombele was not in the matchday 18 at all; reports were that he was experiencing some lingering pain connected to his recent injury.
With Son Heung-Min suspended, Ryan Sessegnon came in to make his first Premier League start as a Tottenham player. Lucas Moura and Dele retained their starting jobs behind Harry Kane.
KICK-OFF! Can Spurs bounce back after an insipid performance and loss at home to Chelsea?
5’ — Close! Harry Kane with a lovely cross from the right side. Ryan Sessegnon made a run to the back post but couldn’t get a boot on the ball and it goes out for a corner.
8’ — Sess is through on goal and plonks a ball off the post... but it wouldn’t count anyway, as he was flagged for offside.
13’ — First shot on target from Brighton as Alzate forces Gazzaniga to push a shot wide. After an early spell of dominance, Brighton have worked their way back into this match.
22’ — Another chance for Brighton as Mooy gets some space at the top of the box. His shot is deflected wide for a corner, which is headed away by Spurs.
24’ — GOAL! It’s Harry Kane, who received a long ball from deep from Harry Winks. However, the goal is called back after a lengthy VAR check as Kane was deemed to be an armpit-length offside. VAR is still terrible and the score remains 0-0.
31’ — Yellow card for Brighton’s Dan Burn after he barges down Lucas Moura at the top of the box. Harry Kane takes the free kick... and it’s a bad one, straight into the wall and out for a corner.
36’ — Goal to Brighton. Yellow card for Harry Winks who makes an ill-advised late challenge outside of Spurs’ box. Replay shows that he might not have made any contact on the player, but to no avail. Free kick results in a cross that is headed past Gazzaniga by Webster. Everything is terrible.
39’ — Yellow card for Davinson Sanchez as he holds Aaron Connelly outside the box. Brighton’s free kick is headed out for a corner, and Webster has another header on target that’s saved by a diving Gazzaniga. This is bad football, folks.
42’ — Chance for Spurs — Sissoko drives into the box and tries to fizz a pass to Dele at the near post, but Brighton block it out for a corner.
HALFTIME — Another anemic half of football from Spurs. The midfield has been vacuous which makes the decision to leave Tanguy Ndombele out of the side even worse. Spurs need something to change to get back into this match. It’s 1-0 to Brighton at the break.
Back underway. No changes for either side! Wheeee!
48’ — Second half starting much like the first. Aaron Connelly with a free header in the box that thankfully he puts over the bar. Not a great start, Jose!
52’ — GOAL TOTTENHAM! It’s Harry Kane! Lucas Moura gets things going but loses the ball right in front of the box. Thankfully, the ball riccochets off of a Brighton player and to the feet of Kane, who has his first shot blocked but fires home the rebound. 1-1!
55’ — OH MY GOD GIOVANI LO CELSO IS COMING ON. It’s a Boxing Day miracle! Ryan Sessegnon makes way.
57’ — Another chance for Spurs off of another deflection! Sissoko has a shot blocked in the box, and the ball again falls to Harry’s feet. This time, Harry’s touch is heavy and he can’t bring it down in time to get a shot away.
65’ — Harry Winks isn’t having a great match and very nearly gets sent off with his second yellow of the match after putting in a late challenge at the top of the box. Instead, it’s a garden-variety foul but results in a free kick for Brighton which Gazinga does well to parry away.
68’ — Spurs make their second sub, with Winks coming off for Christian Eriksen. Christian looks to be playing in the pivot, with Lo Celso still in an advanced midfield role.
72’ — GOAL DELE!!! Spurs take the lead through their playmaker with a lovely ball! Christian Eriksen plays a long ball to Serge Aurier who one-touches it to Dele in the box, and he puts a curler into the far corner! That was very pretty! 2-1 Spurs!
74’ — Ooooh, nearly an insurance goal for Spurs. Aurier puts another good ball into the box for Sanchez, but he can’t get it past the keeper. Lucas then picks up a yellow for a late foul on Aaron Mooy.
76’ — Spurs make their third and final sub, as Lucas Moura comes off and Eric Dier comes on.
81’ — Shot on target for Brighton’s Pascal Gross, and Gazzaniga is able to save after failing to catch the ball initially in the wet conditions.
83’ — Sub for Brighton; Schelotto off, and Yves Bissouma on.
83’ — FIGHT! FIGHT! Moussa Sissoko squares up to Dan Burn and there’s some shoving going on. Sissoko picks up the yellow card, his fifth, which means he will miss the next match for accumulated yellows.
89’ — Oh, Harry. Kane was in the box, one-on-one with a defender, and then slipped while taking the shot and put his ball well wide of the post. Dele then goes close just afterwards, taking a lovely touch in the box from a chipped ball from Kane, but Dele’s shot goes just over the bar.
92’ — Another chance from Spurs as they get players into the box but Eriksen’s shot is blocked.
FULL TIME! Tottenham score two in the second half and get the three points on Boxing Day! Final score is 2-1.
- Well, it wasn’t pretty but Spurs got the three points today. A win’s a win.
- Look, we all knew what things would look like when we saw the Winkssoko midfield, and it pretty much worked out exactly how we expected. That midfield is AWFUL, and Winks was clearly the worse of the two in the middle. He was lucky he wasn’t sent off, and left a gaping hole in the middle. Just terrible.
- Lucas Moura also had an awful performance for Spurs — wasteful on the ball, bad decision-making, and a stupid yellow card tackle. Spurs’ equalizing goal was lucky, considering Lucas basically tried to dribble through four players instead of passing to open teammates nearby.
- Serge Aurier had another Jekyll/Hyde match, putting in a couple of good crosses including the assist to Dele but looking completely absent defensively.
- But let’s talk about who played well — Giovani Lo Celso continues to do good things in his limited minutes and I really hope that we see more of him going forward. Likewise, Christian Eriksen, while not dominant, was a stabilizing presence in central midfield as a Winks replacement.
- Davinson Sanchez had another very good defensive performance. Mourinho seems to be getting good things out of the Colombian.
- Kane also played extremely well despite not getting any service in the first half. His passing was exquisite in the second half.
- Boy, we’re gonna be dissecting this match quite a bit for the next while. Happy with the win, not happy (generally) with the performance. Still things to work on. A trip to Norwich up next on Saturday!