After the weekend’s disappointment in the FA Cup, Tottenham Hotspur were forced to bounce back quickly, with midweek action in the Premier League against fellow London club Brentford. Brentford had tested Spurs in the first fixture of the season, with the Lilywhites only able to achieve a solitary point on the road.
James Maddison got his first start since his absence due to an ankle injury, and Oliver Skipp returned to the starting XI also, in place of Brennan Johnson and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. Brentford, struggling with injuries to their attacking band, lined up in a 3-5-2 shape, with striker Ivan Toney available after seeing no further punishment following “ball-move-gate” against Nottingham Forest in the previous round.
It was a fluid start early for Spurs, with Maddison heavily involved. A quick Kulusevski break in behind the Brentford defense provided excitement, but the Bees recovered, and the Swede was flagged for offside. Keane Lewis-Potter found himself in a similar situation for Brentford, but Mickey van der Ven’s pace diffused the situation, with replays showing the Bees wingback was probably offside. Spurs’ high line continued to be under pressure as Brentford broke once more, with Mads Roerslev this time finding the back of the net from the right of the box. It was an excellent finish, but there was a clear offside in the buildup and the goal was chalked off.
That didn’t matter to Brentford, however, as they soon gave themselves a genuine lead. An awful giveaway on the halfway line from Destiny Udogie allowed Brentford to surge forward, before Ivan Toney’s shot stung the palms of Guglielmo Vicario, ricocheting back into the 18-yard box. Neal Maupay was on hand to squeeze the ball goalward and silence the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium crowd.
Tottenham were looking to hit back, and almost did immediately as a Timo Werner wormburner nearly snuck its way inside the near post. The German had a huge opportunity off the resultant set piece, but could only scuff his header wide with the goal begging. Richarlison was the next to have an opportunity, with a beautifully struck rocket from outside the 18 only narrowly missing the goal.
Spurs had appeared to be in the ascendancy early, but Brentford started to look more and more dangerous as their high press clicked into gear. Maupay and Nathan Collins nearly conspired to find the net following a goalbox scramble, before another shot crept past Vicario’s post. It was Tottenham, however, who had the ball in the goal next after Collins appeared to lose the ball in his own six-yard area. The referee flagged for a foul, deeming Richarlison had clipped the defender, and replays showed only the slightest of touches on Collins who embellished the contact heavily; it was enough for VAR to uphold the onfield referee’s decision.
Brentford were next to go close, after Ivan Toney managed to get himself a free header off a free kick. The header was powerfully struck, but too close to Vicario, who made another good save. The Lilywhites continued to push for an equalizer, but their efforts were nothing more than noise to the stout Brentford defense as the first half came to a close with Brentford holding a 0-1 lead.
Ange Postecoglou was clearly dissatisfied with the first half, making a double change: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg for Rodrigo Bentancur, and Brennan Johnson for Oliver Skipp. This meant an aggressive midfield setup, with Kulusevski, Hojbjerg, and Maddison in the center, with Johnson taking Deki’s place on the right wing. Rather than the substitutes, however, it was the player at fault for the first goal, Destiny Udogie, who got Spurs back into the match. Udogie broke into the Brentford box, with his toe poke fortuitously falling back to him for a second attempt. The second shot was true, and Spurs equalized.
It was then double trouble for Spurs, with two in two minutes. Kulusevski played a nice pass through to Werner who broke forward into space. His low, left-footed cross was inch-perfect, bisecting keeper and defense, and Brennan Johnson found himself with a tap-in only minutes after coming on. The level of play had clearly elevated, with Spurs cutting through Brentford, and they soon had three. A deflected James Maddison shot fell to Richarlison, following a driving Destiny run. Spurs’ #9 swept home a well-deserved goal from the penalty spot, and the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was rocking.
Brentford were not ready to give up, however, and continued to attack. Toney had a shot sail narrowly wide from the top of the 18-yard box, before a series of poor giveaways from Hojbjerg set Brentford free. Only a Toney slip prevented a clear sight on goal, as Vicario and the Spurs defense scrambled to cover. Toney soon made the most of the multiple opportunities, as he received the most gilt-edged of chances. A horrendous backpass from Destiny Udogie went straight to Toney, who had posted himself high up the pitch near the Tottenham box. The Italian fullback clearly didn’t expect Toney to be there, attempting to play back to Vicario, and Toney pounced, knocking the ball past Vicario to bring the scoreline to 3-2 and keep Brentford in the match.
Things got nervy from there for Spurs, and Postecoglou made further substitutions to try and hold the lead. Timo Werner and Maddison made way for Jamie Donley and January signing Radu Dragusin, as Tottenham switched to a back three. Spurs got deeper and deeper as Brentford pushed forward, but that meant opportunities still on the break for Tottenham. Brennan Johnson looked to be away on one such opportunity before he was clattered into by Christian Norgaard, who was on a yellow. It was a clear foul, and should have been a second yellow for the Dane, but the referee somehow waved play-on.
There were more late chances for Brentford to equalize, with Shandon Baptiste scooping his close-range volley over the bar, and a flurry of set pieces creating pressure for the Tottenham defense. Eventually though, the referee brought the game to a halt as Spurs prevailed 3-2 in an exciting contest.
- Really good win, especially coming from behind. Ange’s substitutions made a huge difference.
- Bentancur is still looking a bit off the pace following his injury, which is somewhat to be expected; Maddison clearly isn’t quite there yet as well. Here’s hoping they look better and better as the matches go by.
- Destiny Udogie... that was a rocks and diamonds match if I ever saw one. He did well on two of Spurs’ three goals, but he was also responsible for two of Brentford’s. Is he exhausted? He’s played a lot. He REALLY needs to work on his right foot as well, as his one-footedness causes him to get into situations he can’t get out of (watch the replay of the first Brentford goal again where he refuses to play forward on his right).
- I think I remember saying this after the away match, but man, Brentford are a dirty side. Leading elbows, shirt pulling, and some diving there (twice!) from Nathan Collins. He should have been shown a yellow for simulation when he went down on a set piece outside the Tottenham box.
- Speaking of refereeing - I have no idea how Norgaard didn’t get a second yellow. He committed multiple fouls following his cautioning, and that cynical play to stop Johnson’s break was clear as day.
- I REALLY like what I’m seeing from Timo Werner. Great runs, and he gets into really good spaces - and he seems to be the only Spurs attacker really looking to beat a player! Ange will have some decisions to make when Son gets back from the Asia Cup.
- This win puts Spurs into fourth, overtaking Aston Villa. Let’s keep the table climb going! COYS!!!