With matches now coming thick and fast, Tottenham Hotspur visited Selhurst Park in the second of a series of three London derbies, this one against Crystal Palace. This could have been a banana-skin fixture, as the side would have likely had one eye on Monday’s match against Chelsea. If Chelsea was to be the main course, Fulham had been the appetizer and Palace were the entree.
Ange Postecoglou made two changes from the Fulham match: Yves Bissouma stepped back into the #6 role in place of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg following his suspension, and Ben Davies came in for Destiny Udogie in an injury-enforced switch.
The first half was largely a dour affair. As has been standard this season, the lion’s share of possession was all Spurs’ way, but in a departure from form the Lilywhites struggled to create shooting opportunities. This wasn’t helped by a Palace side that sat deep in a 4-4-2, as the Eagles relied on quick breaks and a succession of set pieces to try and break the deadlock. In fact, it was Palace with the best chances of the half, calling Guglielmo Vicario into action twice: the Italian was forced to get down smartly at his near post to save from a Jordan Ayew effort, before Vicario made an excellent diving save to keep out Odsonne Edouard, who had wriggled his way free in the Tottenham 18-yard box. For Tottenham, it was half-chances only, and the players were likely feeling frustrated as the half came to a close, especially as they had been fouled with impunity with the referee unwilling to intervene.
Ange was unwilling to sit on his laurels hoping things improved, instead making a half-time switch, with Emerson Royal coming on for Ben Davies. And improve they did, thanks to Spurs stalwart Owen Goal. Spurs worked their way into the box through Pape Matar Sarr and Pedro Porro, before Sarr found Maddison. The Spurs #10 drove the ball across goal, right into Joel Ward, who could do nothing as the ball ricocheted off him into the Palace net. Spurs were in the lead, and it had been a struggle to get there.
Roy Hodgson made a substitution in an attempt to get Palace back into the match, bringing on Jesurun Rak-Sakyi for Jeffrey Schlupp on the wing. Ange responded with two of his own: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Brennan Johnson for Yves Bissouma and Richarlison, and it was Johnson who made nearly an instant impact. It started with a gorgeous cross-field switch to the left from Sarr, which was flicked on by Johnson to Maddison. Maddison played it back to the onrushing Welshman, who cut the ball back to Heung-Min Son on the penalty spot. The Spurs captain coolly slotted the ball home, and Spurs were two up in an instant.
Palace continued to search for a way back, making further substitutions: Nathaniel Clyne and Naouirou Ahamada for Tyrick Mitchell and Will Hughes, before Hodgson brought in Jean-Philippe Mateta and Matheus Franca for Jefferson Lerma and Edouard. Spurs, however, continued to look for a third goal, with Johnson attempting to head back a chipped ball from Royal when it could have potentially been easier to score with the goal open.
Ange made Spurs’ final changes, with a return for two previously injured players: Bryan Gil, and in a landmark moment, Rodrigo Bentancur, seeing the pitch for the first time since his ACL injury. Dejan Kulusevski and Maddison were the two to make way. Spurs would have hoped to see out the match with minimum fuss, but there was a late scare as Pedro Porro was caught out, misjudging a header and leaving Ayew free, who cleanly struck a volley past Vicario. The Spurs players expected VAR to overturn the goal though, as Ayew clearly handled the ball; however, for some reason VAR chose to ignore the clear touch from Ayew’s hand and declared the goal stood.
The late drama continued as Joachim Andersen put in an awful late tackle on Bryan Gil; it was an orange card challenge, and both Gil and the Dane was lucky it wasn’t studs up. Brennan Johnson was then handed a yellow for his reactions, before Ayew was given the same after a foul on Sarr. Palace had one last chance, with the ball falling to Franca on the left, but Porro did just enough to pressure the Brazilian, and his shot was skewed out in the final action of the match as Spurs secured three points with a 2-1 win.
- Let’s start with the good: FIVE POINTS CLEAR AT THE TOP OF THE TABLE!!!
- And let’s follow that up with the obvious: the Palace goal was not a goal. Ayew clearly handled the ball, and the rules state if the ball touches a hand in any way in the build-up to a goal, the goal does not stand. It appears that VAR are making up new handball rules as they go along, and it made the end of the match far more stressful than it needed to be.
- Not to harp on about this either, but the standard of refereeing was pretty poor throughout the match. Andy Madley routinely let Palace get away with clear fouls, and Spurs struggled to achieve any fluidity as a result.
- The first half was probably one of Spurs’ worst this season, with very little in terms of shots or penalty box entries. It was extremely dull, something we haven’t really experienced thus far this season.
- The Lilywhites rallied well though in the second half, and did enough to secure a good away three points.
- Cristian Romero and Mickey Van de Ven were excellent again, and Vicario was probably my man of the match, making a few crucial saves. The Palace fans getting frustrated with him as he dwelled on the ball waiting for Palace to press was hilarious.
- Unlike last week, the subs played pretty well today, and it was fantastic to see Bentancur back on the field again. He can play a huge role for us as the fixture list becomes more congested approaching Christmas.
- One silver lining? No yellow card for Yves Bissouma, meaning he’ll be free to play against Chelsea on Monday!