On a miserable, rain-drenched day in south London, Tottenham Hotspur could only manage a point against Crystal Palace by the final score of 1-1.
Spurs have been on a roll in the league, maintaining a form that has kept them at the top of the table. The question that everyone seemed to be asking this week is could Spurs break down a team that would park the bus and not want to push forward? While Crystal Palace didn’t start out firmly parked, they regularly kept nine players behind the ball and only pushed forward a couple of times in the first ten minutes, conceding possession to Spurs.
Both sides had big chances after the match settled in. Wilfried Zaha had a couple of cracks on net, one of which was saved by Hugo Lloris to deny the Palace attacker. Spurs came back and worked a great possession that ended with Serge Aurier finding Tanguy Ndombele in the penalty area. The one-timer was good but Vicente Guaita was up to the task, saving the shot by his fingertips.
Spurs kept the pressure up, getting a corner kick opportunity that Harry Kane got on the end of with a decent header. Guaita made a two handed save that was at eye level as his positioning was perfect to deny the striker.
The breakthrough came just a few minutes later on what felt like a nothing chance. Ndombele fed Heung-Min Son as he cut across the pitch. Sonny laid off the ball for the Tom Carroll Memorial Assist™ to Kane, who blasted a curler from about 30 yards. Guaita misplayed the shot and tried to dive back to get it, but the ball found the back of the net to make it 1-0.
Palace didn’t shut down as they turned up their pressure, earning a couple of free kicks and getting into dangerous positions as the match approached halftime. Eberechi Eze, who was one of the best players on the pitch in the first half, almost had the equalizer for the south Londoners in the 42nd minute, wrong-footing Toby Alderweireld and ripping a low curler past Lloris. Only the woodwork kept Eze off the scoresheet as it bounced off and went out to touch.
There were no changes to the match to start the second half, whether it was substitutes or to the weather as the rain kept up at Selhurst Park. Palace opened up their attack a bit more while Spurs defended well enough to force bad shots or catch players offside. There were a few nervy moments, including Moussa Sissoko having a couple of rough spots and almost picking up a foul while on a yellow card.
Palace asked all the questions up until the 65th minute when Spurs finally got forward on the attack. Reguilon collected a long ball and cut it back to find Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg from about 25 yards out, allowing the midfielder to fire a low shot that went just wide of the post. Mourinho opted to freshen the squad up at that point, bringing on Giovani Lo Celso for Ndombele.
Spurs maintained their shape even when Palace pushed further up, getting free and earning a free kick about 35 yards from goal. Lo Celso played a beautiful ball into the penalty area and found Eric Dier all alone, but the center back could only get a slight touch on the ball with his head and not enough to direct it to goal. It was a huge opportunity missed to get some insurance as Palace weren’t about to stop attacking.
Palace were far and away the better side for the entire second half. Eventually, their persistence paid off and got the equalizer after Spurs gave away a foul on the flank, allowing a set piece into the penalty area. Lloris was waiting for a touch that never came and the ball hit him in the midriff, bouncing in front of him too far to cover it up. The ball fell to Jeffrey Schlupp, who buried it into the goal.
Mourinho quickly made two changes, bringing on Ben Davies and Dele for Reguilon and Bergwijn. The sudden change almost paid off as Davies blasted a cross into the penalty area that clanged off the crossbar all the way to Aurier. The fullback fired it right back on and found Kane for a headed effort but Guaita made an incredible save to deny the go-ahead goal with just three minutes left before stoppage time.
Spurs got another crack at the winner in the 92nd minute on a free kick opportunity, this time for Eric Dier. His kick was on point and got some bend to it, but not enough to get past a diving Guaita, who made another world class save to keep the match level with just a couple minutes to go. Spurs couldn’t get another opportunity as good as that before the match was brought to an end.
Thoughts on the Match:
- That second half was the worst Spurs have played since the Everton loss. Absolutely dreadful all around, and yet Eric Dier almost stole the points with that free kick.
- Tip of the hat to Guaita. He made three world class saves today to keep Palace in the match.
- I love Harry Kane with all my heart, but I never want to see him take a free kick again.
- We can see why Pochettino wanted Eze so badly. He was one of the best on the pitch today.
- For now, Spurs are top of the table until Liverpool and Fulham play. The mid-week match Wednesday will still be for top of the table status, regardless of the result.
- Watch the film. Burn it. Move on to Wednesday.