Tottenham Hotspur picked up a win in their final match of 2023, but it was a costly one — both Pape Matar Sarr and young striker Alejo Veliz were taken off the pitch crying after picking up injuries during the match. Sarr was subbed off after a half hour with what appeared to be his hamstring, while Veliz sustained an injury to his knee.
Both were upset but for different reasons — Sarr because of what his injury might mean for his participation in next month’s African Cup of Nations competition with Senegal, and Veliz because he was in so much pain but was trying to soldier on because Spurs were out of substitutions.
After the match, Spurs manager Ange Postecoglou addressed both injuries, and while he didn’t give much of an update on either player’s situation, he did say he hoped Sarr’s injury wasn’t so bad that it would keep him out of the competition.
“Hard to say. Pape felt his hamstring and he’s emotional because he wants to go away with his national team. It’s a big tournament for them. It’s kind of the way our season has gone. He was so good again early in the game, apart from his goal, and then he gets an injury. Disappointing for him but I am hoping it is not too serious and he can still go away and contribute to his country. Alejo was in a lot of pain and we’d already done our substitutions so we were trying to get it out to him to just lay down so we can get him off, but it just shows the character of the boy because he knew we had no more substitutions and he just wanted to keep going. I’m not sure the extent of what he’s done but we’ll find out.”
The emotional nature of Veliz’s injury extended over to the bench. Both benches started yelling and pushing each other while Veliz was on the ground, apparently over a miscommunication regarding how seriously Veliz was hurt. Both head coaches, along with player Giovani Lo Celso, were yellow carded for the incident. Ange addressed that as well.
“I was fine. We were just wishing each other happy new year. It’s alright. Just a little bit of emotion in the game. I was more concerned with Alejo because we were kind of trying to get him off the field, and apart from my physically going on the pitch and dragging him off he wasn’t really going to go down. So we were just shouting at him and I think the Bournemouth staff thought, I don’t know what they thought, maybe that we were trying to make a substitution but we knew we had none. It was just about getting him off.”
The biggest surprise in the match came with the starting lineup after Rodrigo Bentancur not only returned to the team but started in central midfield. Postecoglou said he was pleased with Lolo’s contribution, and especially that he was able to play for more than half the match after only training with the team a week.
“[Bentancur] trained all week with us and speaking to him yesterday, he felt really good about how he was feeling. We kind of knew there would be a time limit to how much we could get out of him. It was great to see him out there again and he gives the whole group a lift. Not just because he is a fantastic player but this group has seen what he’s gone through in recent times and within that context, he’s never let it get him down. He is a warrior. The frustrating thing for all the guys missing out at the moment is they want to help and he wanted to help. I thought it was great today. Apart from the win, that was probably the most pleasing thing that he got through 60 minutes and he can help us from here on.”
Spurs’ next match is this coming Friday home to Burnley in the FA Cup, a match for which Postecoglou might do some moderate rotation to keep players fresh. Spurs’ next league match is January 14 at Manchester United.