After the dismay of being bounced from the FA Cup by Sheffield United midweek (say it with me: MAGIC), the last thing Tottenham Hotspur FC and its fans would have been looking forward to was a tough trip to Molineux to play a Wolves side battling relegation. The West Midlands side had sneakily turned their home ground into a tough proposition in recent weeks, with wins over Liverpool and West Ham. This match had the potential to be a sucker punch for Spurs, with one eye firmly fixed on the upcoming home tie against AC Milan in the Champions League.
There were some interesting changes to a hurting Spurs squad: Eric Dier got a rest, with Clement Lenglet starting in the central center back role, with Ben Davies and Cristian Romero either side of him. Ivan Perisic retained his spot from Sheffield, with Pedro Porro on the right finally getting a start next to Romero. Dejan Kulusevski and Harry Kane returned to the starting XI, with Heung-Min Son, perhaps surprisingly, also keeping his starting role from midweek.
Right from the kickoff Spurs looked to put Wednesday’s disappointment behind them with both Kulusevski and Porro taking shies at goal. Son soon had a curling opportunity of his own, cutting onto his left foot, before some nice interplay led to Deki taking another attempt from wide in the box, to which Jose Sa did well to get down low and tip past the post.
Ivan Perisic had an opportunity late in the half, with a header from a Son set piece at too tight an angle to find the net, before the Croat was fouled just outside the box in a good position. Porro lined up the free kick and hit it beautifully, but could only strike the crossbar as the rattling woodwork meant nothing to the scoreline.
The second half almost started with a hiss and a roar for Tottenham, with Harry Kane playing in Son down the left. Son dallied on his shot but still managed to find space to strike and the crossbar shook once more as he couldn’t quite find the target. Soon after, Wolves had a huge chance of their own, as Raul Jimenez ran in behind down the left and flashed the ball across the face of goal with no Wolves player able to reach it.
With the match opening up, Wolves began to have more chances while leaving space on the break: Forster made an excellent save on a Jimenez header, before Spurs broke forward and a long range strike from Pedro Porro was narrowly deflected over the bar. Ruben Neves then had a hat-trick of efforts from range. One of those was created by a horrific Clement Lenglet ball forward, and he tried to repeat the dose, playing the ball straight to Wolves who again nearly scored, this time via Matheus Cunha.
Conte / Stellini brought Lucas Moura on for Kulusevski, and he nearly had an immediate impact, chipping the ball through for Kane who couldn’t quite find the net. Instead though it was a Wolves sub who made the breakthrough with Adam Traore chipping the ball over Fraser Forster, after the Spurs goalkeeper had made a diving save to stop a Jimenez effort from outside the box. The Wolves fans were in raptures and the Spurs players hung their heads.
Tottenham saw Richarlison and Emerson Royal enter the fray, but it was too little too late for Spurs, as Wolves had control of the match and did everything in their power to keep it. They soon had the ball in the net again, but the offside flag saved Spurs further blushes, and Wolves kept it in the corner to run down the clock and secure themselves a valuable 3 points.
- That was a tough watch. It had the feeling of one of those matches where Spurs could have played another 90 minutes and still never get the ball in the net.
- Spurs initially had a lot of control in the middle of the park, with Oliver Skipp especially looking strong, winning second balls and progressing the ball well; but Tottenham’s attack were totally unable to turn that into quality chances.
- Which brings us to SUBS. Lopetegui made substitutions early and regularly, and they changed the match. As the second half went on, Wolves’ change in shape helped them regain midfield control and begin to exert pressure that was totally lacking in the first half.
- On the other hand, Conte / Stellini made their first sub AFTER the 75 minute mark. There were a number of options on the bench, with Richarlison, Danjuma, and Sarr all potential players to make an impact. Instead, the departing Lucas who has spent most of the season injured was the first to see action and Tottenham only ended up making 3 of their 5 substitutions.
- On a positive note, Pedro Porro looked a lot more comfortable playing next to Cuti at least...
- This just feels like another chapter the story of this season: encouraging matches where Spurs look confident and positive followed by frustrating, toothless displays. The inconsistency is maddening.
- Where do we go from here? Things aren’t exactly looking up for Conte’s reign, and there isn’t much time to turn things around with Milan in midweek.