SUNDAY 19th MARCH, 2017
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2(2) SOUTHAMPTON 1(0)
Alli, 33 (pen)
Referee:- Andre Marriner
Assistants:- S. Beck & A. Garratt
Fourth official:- K. Friend
Spurs (3-4-1-2):- Lloris (Capt.); Dier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen; Walker (sub Trippier, 78), Wanyama, Dembele, Davies; Eriksen (sub Janssen 86); Son (sub Winks, 75), Alli
Subs not used:- Vorm; Wimmer; Sissoko, Onomah
Booked:- Dier (foul on Redmond), Walker (foul on Bertrand), Wanyama (foul on Tadic)
Southampton (4-2-3-1):- Forster; Soares, Stephens, Yoshida, Bertrand; Davis (Capt.), Romeu; Ward-Prowse, Tadic (sub Boufal, 69), Redmond (sub Rodriguez, 80); Gabbiadini (sub Long, 32)
Subs not used:- Hassen; Caceres; Hojberg, McQueen
Booked:- Redmond (foul on Wanyama), Boufal (foul on Winks), Romeu (foul on Janssen)
Spurs' win was as hard as they come.
Spurs ultimately proved that they can win without their leading scorer Harry Kane, but this win (a Spurs Premier League record tenth consecutive home win) against mid-table Southampton was as hard as they come, and surely the hardest fought home win they have had this season.
The one change in the Premier league starting line-up was Son Heung-min in place of Kane, and of course he earnt this on the back of his FA Cup hat-trick last week. However, apart from one early instinctive chance (and instinct is his strength), I felt this game was more suited to a player with more physical strength, and one who plays well with his back to goal. That player is Vincent Janssen, who had to wait until the 86th minute for his entrance. Janssen did force perhaps the most difficult save of the game from Fraser Forster, and I would have liked to have seen more of him today.
Claude Puel has organised his side well, and Southampton almost matched Spurs for possession over the course of the game. After going 2-0 down, they certainly never gave up. Their front runners always looked sharp against our back three, although of course our defenders were well supported by "Saints"' former team-mate Victor Wanyama, surely a candidate for Spurs man of the match.
That early chance for Son came after only two minutes. "Saints" had kicked off and opted to play towards the Paxton End. Wanyama's pass to Erksen was sent into the Southampton area, where Son pounced towards the right, hitting a powerful right footed shot which Forster saved, conceding a corner.
It only took 5 minutes for the Spurs crowd to start singing "Arsene Wenger - we want you to stay!"
Eric Dier took an early yellow card from referee Andre Marriner for a foul on Nathan Redmond, who was a thorn in Spurs' side as long as he remained on the pitch.
It was Southampton who won the first corner of the game, but that caused no problem. The visitors were closing us down well, and Spurs were too often being forced backwards. Spurs' first corner came a minute later, won by Kyle Walker with a typical run to the bye-line. Unfortunately, Kyle didn't get as much chance as usual to push forward with the twin threat of Redmond and Ryan Bertrand on his flank.
Spurs took a 14th minute lead in superb fashion. Eriksen picked up Dembele's ball just on the edge of the Southampton area towards the right. Christian beat Forster with a great left foot shot. I happen to know at least one (young) person in the White Hart Lane crowd who had come all the way from Canada for this game, with her Dad. Her favourite player is Eriksen, so she was no doubt very, very happy!
Erksen soon had a half-chance following Dele Alli's header towards his feet, but the ball was blocked and fell again into Dele's direction, leading to another Spurs corner. From the corner, Toby Alderweireld rose to head across Forster, but the keeper saved very well, moving quickly to his left.
Redmond went into Andre Marriner's book following a foul on Wanyama. After 27 minutes, Manolo Gabbiadini benefited from a rebounding ball from midfield falling to his feet. He exchanged passes with Tadic on his left before hitting the side netting on the right side of Lloris's goal. Soon after that, Tadic had a chance from close range, but scooped the ball over from a cross by Redmond.
Gabbiadini went down injured and had to be replaced by Shane Long. Gabbiadini was signed in January by Puel and was seeking to become only the third Premier League player to score in his first four consecutive games.
Spurs had appeals for a handball in the box turned down, but in the follow-up play Dele Alli was fouled by "Saints"' skipper Steve Davis and did win a penalty. After a delay during which Gabbiadini was replaced, and Southampton tried a bit of delaying gamesmanship, Dele took the kick himself. Forster dived to his left. Dele planted the ball just right of centre. It was 2-0 and all plain sailing from here for Spurs, wasn't it?
It didn't work out that way, as Southampton never gave up. Walker needlessly over-stretched and fouled Bertrand on the edge of the Southampton box, and he too went into the referee's book. After 40 minutes Dembele passed the ball from right to left across the edge of the box. Eriksen returned it towards the back post but Son just could not quite reach the ball.
In first half added time, Davis took a Southampton free kick in the left and Soares hit a good shot towards the centre of goal, held by Lloris.
During the interval, Paul Coyte welcomed onto the pitch members of the 1967 FA Cup winning squad, including Pat Jennings, Joe Kinnear, Alan Mullery, Mike England, Phil Beal, Jimmy Robertson, Alan Gilzean and Cliff Jones. All bar Kinnear, England and Robertson are regular faces these days at The Lane, and it was great to see them all.
The score in that Cup Final was of course 2-1, and that's how it would pan out today. I'd take a similar scoreline when we meet Chelsea again on April 22nd!
Three minutes into the second half, clever play from left to right involving Dembele, Davies and Alli, led finally to a pass inside by Walker, and a shot by Eriksen that was well over the target.
Southampton got a goal back in the 52nd minute. Bertrand crossed deep from the left. Alderweireld, of all people, missed the chance to clear and James Ward-Prowse swooped to score from close range at the back post.
It was never going to be easy for Spurs from thereon in.
Eriksen gave Son a chance on the right side of goal, but Son was closed down and his shot actually rebounded off his feet for a goal-kick. Long received a good ball down the right channel from Davis, and it beat Alderweireld, giving Long a shot on goal from the right. Hugo was sharp and alert and held the shot comfortably.
Long remained a threat but was often caught offside, much to his personal chagrin. After a foul on Dele Alli, Eriksen's free kick was blocked and cleared.
With fifteen minutes remaining, Son was replaced not by Janssen but by Harry Winks. Dele took on the front running duties. For some reason, perhaps because of his determination to make forward runs, Harry often became a target for fouls by Southampton.
Kyle Walker (on a booking and perhaps feeling his ankle knock) was replaced by Trippier, but he found it just as difficult to get far forward. "Saints"' substitute Boufal was booked when targeting Winks, and Harry won a "He's one of our own" chant from the home fans.
Time was ticking away and Toby Alderweireld was back to his best to block Long on the left inside the box. At the other end, Dele Alli went down again in the box, after a good ball by Ben Davies, but the appeal fell on stony ground. Mr. Marriner managed to upset both sides, and their fans at various stages, so I suppose that shows fairness!
Vincent Janssen, who had replaced Eriksen, received a ball from Dembele and hit a great left foot shot which Forster did well to save in the middle of his goal. Boufal had a chance but managed to out it wide of the back post, and when Janssen won a foul deep in Southampton territory, the home fans taunted their visitors with a rousing rendition of "When the Spurs go marching in".
This Spurs win was certainly hard fought, and as hard as they come. Southampton were the last team to beat us on our own patch, and we remain unbeaten at home this season. The win keeps us 10 points behind Chelsea, and two and three points respectively above Man City and Liverpool, who played out a draw and both lost ground. We are 7 points ahead of fifth placed United, and (ahem) 9 points clear of Arsenal. A top four place is a strong bet now, surely?
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