West Ham United always get up for matches against Spurs, but this one felt a bit different without fans in the seats.
The two London rivals renewed acquaintances on Tuesday evening in North London as part of each team’s second game of the Premier League’s restart. There were a couple nervous moments for Spurs, but they ultimately secured a 2-0 win, their first since February 16th.
A goal came from Harry Kane, and an unfortunate own goal came from West Ham’s Tomáš Souček.
Despite clamor from the fans to give Tanguy Ndombele his first action of the restart, Jose Mourinho kept the talented Frenchman on the bench once again. Much of the lineup was the same, but Giovani Lo Celso came in for Harry Winks, while Lucas Moura and Dele Alli slotted in for Erik Lamela and Steven Bergwijn.
As has been the case with a lot of the games this month, things started slow. Both teams applied pressure to the other with hopes to force a mistake, and the Hammers in particular prepared to sit back and defend.
The first real chance of the game came to Lucas. The Brazilian fired a hard shot from outside the box, but Lukasz Fabianski got up well to tip the effort over the bar.
Tottenham asserted its dominance as the half went on, with David Moyes’ squad content to keep every man behind the ball in defense.
Son Heung-Min thought he had opened the scoring a few minutes before the halftime break, but VAR had other ideas. It was one of those tight calls that might not have been given back in the day, but it was ruled out here thanks to the technology.
Moments later, Lucas scuffed a shot wide just on the stroke of halftime. He had a lot of space in the box and really should have done better.
Tottenham once again controlled the ball as the second half began, but it was the Hammers who almost took the lead. Pablo Fornals really should’ve scored after he received a pass in a great position, but he failed to do so.
Kane continues to work his way back to fitness. The striker had a few sights of goal early on, but they were either saved or curled narrowly over the bar. One particular promising chance came after a great Tottenham counter, but Kane’s left-footed effort dragged just wide of the far post.
It was actually a West Ham player who would open the scoring for Spurs. Souček was unlucky on a corner when the ball came through the crowd and bounced off the back of his leg and into his own goal.
The visitors almost hit back on 78 minutes. A dangerous free kick eventually came to Jarrod Bowen, and his quick shot clanged off the post.
That must’ve woken Spurs up, because they sealed the deal a few minutes later via a familiar face. West Ham turned the ball over, leaving quite a few players out of position. That allowed Son to play a ball across midfield to set Kane up on the breakaway, and Tottenham’s number ten did the rest, sliding the ball past the out-rushing keeper.
If there had been any fans in the ground, they’d have been awful relieved after that. West Ham had been threatening to equalize, and Spurs fans certainly remember how the team had thrown away points in similar positions earlier in the season.
After a few more subs, notably not including Ndombele, Spurs saw out the 2-0 victory. The points take Spurs above Sheffield United into seventh place, and it keeps their hopes of making the Champions League alive.
There are still seven games left for Mourinho’s side to play, and quite a few of those are against teams in the lower half of the table. It would take quite an effort to reach the Champions League from this position, but it’s not impossible.
One thing is for sure, the coronavirus break was helpful for Tottenham. Spurs’ form was awful, and there were injuries abound, but things are looking a bit better now. Even if a resurgence doesn’t result in a place in the top four, it should push the club up a bit in the table towards a more respectable finishing position.