Spurs fell 3-1 to Sheffield United up in Yorkshire on Thursday in a game that frustrated for quite a few different reasons. There was refereeing controversy, but there was even more poor defending from Jose Mourinho’s team.
At the end of the day, it just wasn’t a good enough effort, which is something that can be said of quite a few Tottenham matches over the course of this mediocre season.
Not much changed from the Spurs lineup that beat West Ham 2-0 last Tuesday. The only alteration was a place on the bench for Dele Alli instead of a place in the lineup, which is likely due to the upcoming fixture congestion. Steven Bergwijn started in lieu of the Englishman.
Once again, it was a match filled with drama and controversy.
Things started off normal enough. Sheffield United pressed hard, and Spurs took a few minutes to get accustomed to the hectic pace of the game.
Most of the Tottenham chances were coming via the counter attack. The away side had the better movements into the box, but the final pass or cross just wasn’t there at the start.
The Blades took the lead slightly against the run of play in the 31st minute. Sander Berge got space in the box and dragged a low shot into the far corner.
For a moment, it seemed like Spurs had responded immediately through Harry Kane, but then came the aforementioned controversy. The ball had come to Kane after Lucas Moura drove forward through the defense. Moura was tripped, and fell forward into the ball, knocking it into Kane’s path.
Kane finished the chance deftly, but VAR stepped in to rule the goal out for a handball. It looked to be an incredibly harsh call. Lucas only made contact with the ball on the ground because he was fouled from behind.
Mourinho was furious. He was soon given a warning for his behavior on the touchline, but his behavior was totally warranted.
A few minutes later, Oliver Norwood should have seen red for an elbow to the back of Son Heung-Min’s head. VAR looked at the incident and decided no serious action was necessary.
What good is the technology if the people using it to make the calls are applying rules and logic inconsistently?
Spurs continued fighting hard and taking the game to Sheffield United for the rest of the period, but they entered the halftime break down a goal.
Despite feeling like the game should be tied, the Lilywhites had to push on in the second half and not let that injustice seep into their heads, but there wasn’t nearly as much intensity as there had been in the first half.
Mourinho brought Erik Lamela on for Steven Bergwijn on 56 minutes to try and change the game.
Lamela pushed forward on a threatening move a few minutes later, but he failed to pick out Kane, who had slid to the side into an open position in the box.
Another throw of the dice was then made, with Tanguy Ndombele and Dele replacing Serge Aurier and Moussa Sissoko. It was an encouraging gambit by Mourinho, but Tottenham were pegged back again before the subs could even enter the game.
Atrocious defending allowed Enda Stevens to break down the left, and atrocious defending allowed Lys Mousset an easy tap-in right on Hugo Lloris’ doorstep. Eric Dier and Davinson Sanchez were particularly poor on the play.
That essentially ended the match. Ndombele and Dele were in, but the life had gone out of the attack. The Tottenham moves forward were devoid of the motivation and intensity that they had earlier in the contest.
The home side even managed a third goal. This time, it was Oli McBurnie who was left unmarked in the box by the Spurs defenders. Berge found him with a cutback that he put into the roof of the net.
Tottenham did get one goal back. VAR looked but didn’t overturn a late tap-in from Kane, who clearly deserved more than one goal on the day.
This match had represented an opportunity for Spurs to make up some ground on Chelsea and Leicester, but of course that didn’t happen. With only six games left, the Champions League is little more than a pipe dream.