For the first time in Premier League play this season, José Mourinho started Kane, Heung-Min Son and Gareth Bale together. The rest of the lineup had familiar faces for EPL play, including Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who has played every minute thus far in the league. West Bromwich Albion were without Branislav Ivanovic and Matheus Pereira due to positive COVID-19 tests.
The opening half of this match started sluggishly, even with the firepower Spurs had in their lineup. The Baggies pressed for much of the first twenty minutes, stymieing the visitors and not allowing space to chain together passes. Spurs’ best chance in the first thirty minutes was a Son chance after being freed up in the penalty area, but he took too much time to get settled and had his effort blocked.
West Bromwich Albion asked the questions for much of the first half, though they only had a couple of shots to show for their trouble as the Spurs defense held strong. Eric Dier, who started alongside Toby Alderweireld at center back, made a goal line clearance on a cross that was a certain goal if he missed. He timed his leap perfectly and headed the ball just enough over everyone to end the threat in the 25th minute.
The two sides traded possession as the half wound down. Neither side put together a decent enough attack to get a threat going though Spurs did play a bit better in the closing minutes. As is tradition at The Hawthorns, though, the first half ended scoreless. This match cried out for changes to spice up the attack in the second half. Ben Pearce summed up all of our thoughts while we waited for the second half.
#thfc What is it about Spurs and West Brom? One win in the last 6 matches against them, and another disappointing half there. It seemed to take Spurs a while to realise they couldn’t simply lob the ball over the top for Son & Bale. Better build-up needed, with quicker passing.— Ben Pearce (@BenPearceSpurs) November 8, 2020
Those changes we hoped for had to wait as Mourinho opted to stick with his Starting XI for the second half. Spurs started a bit brighter as Kane almost found Bale on a lovely cross into the penalty area though Bale was marked well and couldn’t get on the end of it. While West Brom couldn’t put together an attack at all, that was Spurs only real attack with the exception of two long range efforts by Sergio Reguilon, though the shots weren’t bad. The problem is that the first effort was Spurs first shot on target in the match.
While we expected Mourinho to make changes in the second half, the way he was forced to make one is not what we wanted to see. Tanguy Ndombele had his foot stomped on at full speed around the 60th minute mark, sending him to ground in obvious pain. While he did come back onto the pitch, it wouldn’t be for long as Giovani Lo Celso came into the match for the Frenchman.
West Brom put together a couple of attacking efforts by the 70th minute, including a fantastic set piece where Karlan Grant got a glancing header on target. Hugo Lloris was in perfect position to make the save and keep the match scoreless. Just prior to that, Conor Gallagher had a big chance as he fired a shot from 20 yards out that left Hugo standing in place, but the shot flashed just wide of the post.
Mourinho burned his final two subs in the 78th minute, bringing on both Carlos Vinicius and Lucas Moura for Moussa Sissoko and Gareth Bale. Spurs shifted into a 4-4-2 as they tried to take all three points in the remaining minutes of the match. Alderweireld had a solid chance in the 82nd minute on a headed effort from a corner kick, but Sam Johnstone didn’t have to move to make the save.
Spurs kept the pressure on as they had another chance just a minute later. Vinicius received a pass from the left flank about 15 yards out and, while his first touch was a tad heavy, he gathered it and ripped a low screamer that forced Johnstone to make a diving save. It felt like Spurs had a goal coming and were close to unlocking the Baggies defense.
After nearly ninety minutes of what felt like the worst slogfest of the season, Spurs finally got their goal. Matt Doherty played an absolutely perfect ball into the penalty area that just floated to Kane. A simple little header was enough to flick it over Johnstone into the net to make it 1-0. Spurs had to hang on for five minutes of stoppage time as West Brom threw the kitchen sink at them.
West Brom didn’t get much of an opportunity to level it up. Spurs played solid defense, receiving support from both Lucas and Son on the flanks to disrupt any passes into the middle of the pitch. A few clearances and couple of earned fouls later, Spurs had three points as the final whistle blew.
Thoughts on the Match:
- A win is a win? I think if I never saw The Hawthorns again, I’d be perfectly fine with that.
- Spurs weren’t great by any stretch, but the final twenty minutes were the best of the match and it paid dividends.
- Matt Doherty had a rather anonymous match until those last twenty. That ball into Kane was perfection when needed the most.
- Here’s hoping Ndombele is okay. He has the international break to stay off of it, at least.
- Eric Dier was pretty fantastic in this match. We didn’t hear his name much but, when we did, he was a rock. A good Dier would be invaluable this season.
- For at least a couple of hours, Spurs go to the top of the table.
- After the international break, Spurs will have a brutal run of matches in EPL play: Manchester City, at Chelsea, Arsenal, at Crystal Palace, at Liverpool, Leicester City, Wolves. If Spurs are going to be in the title picture, they will need to be at their best through the holidays.