It was a clash of the “who has the biggest injury list” titans at The AMEX for Tottenham Hotspur’s first post-Christmas fixture, as Spurs took on a limping Brighton & Hove Albion. The Seagulls were missing a number of first team players, with the likes of Joel Veltman and Kaoru Mitoma possibly those having the most impact.
From Tottenham’s perspective, the revolving door of injured or suspended defensive players continued, with Cristian Romero out with a hamstring strain, Yves Bissouma suspended, and Oliver Skipp the latest addition to the hospital ward, missing the match with a knock.
The signs were ominous for Tottenham’s makeshift backline early on, as Danny Welbeck got in behind twice for huge chances. Guglielmo Vicario was heroic, however, in goal, with the second save especially a fantastic stop on a huge chance, as Welbeck found himself essentially free on the penalty spot. Spurs couldn’t hold out Brighton for long though, as Joao Pedro slalomed through the Tottenham defense from Brighton’s left, before laying a pass off to right back Jack Hinshelwood. His shot across Vicario was well-struck and Brighton were in the lead. It was poor defending by Spurs, who had multiple chances to dispossess the Brazilian attacker.
Joao Pedro continued to have chances, cutting inside Pedro Porro and forcing another good save from Vicario, before a header from a corner crashed off the post, causing a melee in the Tottenham box. After a short period, VAR instructed the referee to review a shirt pull on the monitor, as Dejan Kulusevski looked to have pulled down Welbeck. The former England striker absolutely sold the contact, but it was stupid from Kulusevski (who I clearly haven’t insulted enough lately). He collected a yellow card for his troubles and added himself to the suspended list as the referee pointed to the spot. Pedro stepped up and cooly converted the penalty.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic, as Brennan Johnson soon found himself through on goal. He somehow spurned the chance though with a poor touch as he had only the keeper to beat, as well as three fellow attackers as options. Brighton went up the other end, and looked like they had added insult to injury with a third after Buonanotte ran in behind the Tottenham backline to finish off a cross from the right. This time, fortunately, the linesman’s flag saved Spurs, with the Argentine caught offside.
Things just weren’t clicking for Spurs, as a terrible Pedro Porro backpass played Joao Pedro through on goal. Fortunately for the Spaniard, the winger was unable to put Brighton three up thanks to yet another intervention from Vicario. The resultant set piece almost ended up with a goal the other way, however, with Spurs breaking up the other end and Richarlison hitting the post from the top of the 18-yard box. That, and a late bending effort from Son that went wide were all Spurs could muster to close out the half, as Brighton took a 2-0 lead to the sheds.
You wouldn’t have blamed Ange Postecoglou for making changes after a poor half of football, but instead Brighton opened the half with a substitution of their own: Pervis Estupinan, previously linked with Spurs, came on at left back in a straight swap for Igor, as Roberto De Zerbi looked to lock things down. It was Tottenham though who started brightly, as Richarlison had the ball in the net almost immediately; unfortunately, the linesman’s flag went up as the Brazilian #9 hadn’t managed to hold his run.
Richarlison was getting himself more involved, hitting a big chance narrowly wide, then again getting flagged offside on a chance in behind, before Destiny Udogie was denied with a double save from Jason Steele. Spurs were looking better, and once more had the ball in the net only for Richarlison to play it again, Sam, and be flagged offside.
All the positive second half play came to nothing, however, as substitute Estupinan hit an absolute golazo from long distance. It was one of those strikes you just have to shrug your shoulders at, as Vicario picked the ball out of his net for the third time. Postecoglou made a double change in response, with Bryan Gil and Giovani Lo Celso coming on for Pape Matar Sarr and Richarlison, before Alejo Veliz entered the fray for Johnson, but it was too little, too late for Spurs, who were shellshocked.
Brighton soon had a fourth as it seemed Tottenham had collapsed. Lo Celso made an idiotic challenge on Evan Ferguson in the box, the striker went down, and the referee awarded the clear penalty. Joao Pedro duly dispatched the spot kick, and it was four. There was though a late strike for Spurs, with a first Premier League goal for Veliz. Deki did well in the press to win the ball from Lewis Dunk, before Son fed the ball across the box to the young Argentine striker. His shot was scuffed, but dribbled past Steele, and Veliz deservedly celebrated.
There was further late drama, however, as a late goal from Ben Davies off a Pedro Porro cross cast fear into the hearts of Brighton supporters. Regardless of the scoreline, all the play was with Tottenham, as they battered the Brighton defense trying to get themselves back in the game. Hojbjerg hit the post, and there were some late penalty shouts, but Brighton were able to withstand the Spurs assault, and secured themselves a 4-2 win.
- I was just gonna write fart noise but those late goals made me actually put some effort in. So screw Spurs for that.
- That was a terrible first half, up there with the performance against Wolves. The attack in particular were terrible. If you tweaked the colors on the playing strips, you might have thought Brighton were Spurs, as they opened up the Tottenham defense time and again, while the Spurs front four just froze when they got close to the Brighton box.
- Speaking of the attack, I was somewhat bemused by Postecoglou’s decision to pull Richarlison first. He was the only one of the front four really doing anything; Son particularly was a total black hole of possession.
- Emerson Royal really struggled at center back today, but it was in part due to a pretty poor performance from Sarr. Sarr seemed to keep getting caught out of position in the press, so Royal would come to try close down that half-space, Davies and Udogie would shift over, and you’d end up with three Brighton attackers against two Tottenham defenders.
- Speaking of the backline, we really missed Romero’s passing out of the back today. At one point, it felt like the Spurs defenders thought they were playing
- Whatever Spurs paid for Bryan Gil, it was far too much. He was awful today, and I’d rather see one of the youth come on as a substitute. He just doesn’t have a future in the Premier League, let alone at Spurs.
- Uh... so that tackle from Dunk on Dejan Kulusevski was very similar to the one Romero was sent off for in the Chelsea match. Not sure how Dunk stayed on the field.
- Speaking of Deki, he is now suspended. That’s gonna make Bournemouth fun.