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John Ellis's "third eye" report on Swansea v Spurs, 02.01.18

John Ellis is known to many Spurs fans and we have over 450 mutual friends on Facebook. I am pleased to add this "third eye" feature article written by "El Gringo". This time John offers his thoughts on our 2-0 win at Swansea.

John invariably comments after every Spurs game on his Facebook page, and I usually agree with everything he writes. That applies to John's detailed eye-witness report on this game, which is published below, with kind permission:-

Swansea City 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur

On a foul night in pouring rain with strong winds swirling round the Liberty Stadium, the match would almost be as much about attitude as skill and technique. In years gone by in such appalling conditions, this had all the ingredients for the old tags of “southern softies” and “Spursy” to be the morning paper headlines.

Without our talismanic striker Harry Kane who was confined to the bench with a heavy cold, playing against a bottom of the table side fighting for their Premiership lives, a new manager in situ who had already secured an unlikely away win, oh yes in such dreadful conditions, this could well have been a night for the old tags to re-emerge.

This Tottenham side though is made of much sterner stuff and in playing catch up with the top four, came away with a much needed hard fought three points. From the kick off, Spurs showed they meant business and completely dominated the early play against a Swansea side which seemed to adopt strange tactics in handing over possession entirely to their illustrative visitors.

In the 12th minute from an Eriksen free kick on the left wing, Spurs took the lead and whilst the goal was not a surprise, the goal scorer was with Fernando Llorente heading in his first Premier League goal for the club. For the Spurs fans at the opposite end of the stadium peering through the rain, it was a curious moment as immediately after the ball hit the net, some of us were not really sure as to who had scored and with the scorer not celebrating there was a thought the goal hadn’t been given. The story quickly unfolded of it being Llorente who chose not to celebrate against his former club. Ironically, text messages then came into the stadium saying the goal should have been ruled out for offside! No matter Spurs were 1-0 up and seemingly on course for a comfortable away win.

However after 20 minutes or so the pattern of the game began to change with Swansea beginning to get a foothold in the game. The rain was also getting heavier and passes were picking up water as the balled rolled across the surface with spray being clearly visible. As there was still so much of the game to play and Storm Eleanor on its way with 80 mph winds forecast, slight doubts as to whether the match might be abandoned began to emerge.

There was also the added concern of our passing style across the back which along with Hugo’s risky passing, might lead to an under-hit pass on the deteriorating playing surface. Spurs though continued to toil away in their efforts to add a second goal, often trying to play through a crowded centre rather than using the flanks which when they did was reaping more dividends with Llorente looking threatening on crosses.

A silly off the ball foul from Sanchez on the edge of our own box brought a booking but also a free kick from a dangerous position. Fortunately the resulting effort sailed over the bar. Unlike the rain, our poise in the early exchanges had evaporated and Swansea were making much more of a game of it now. Swansea looked to have taken notice of the joy Sane had when cutting inside Trippier at Man City and as the game wore on they enjoyed similar success. For all his technical abilities, in the higher echelons of the game, his left foot at times needs to be much more than just the standing foot it sometimes appears to be. Trippier was looking all at sea in more ways than one, a dodgy back pass caused Lloris to rush across his goal.

Very unusually and somewhat bizarrely, the noise of home fans singing was to be heard - not live in the stadium but through the tannoy system from previously recorded material! Let’s hope this was a one off and doesn’t catch on.

On the pitch from another excellent Eriksen left wing free kick, Llorente elected to go with his foot and a good chance was spurned. From the opposite end of the stadium, could he have propelled himself to dive forward and go with his head? Minutes before half time, two fine punched interventions by Lloris kept the Spurs lead intact. The first time preventing a goal and the second clearing imminent danger. So Spurs went in at half time a goal to the good but the second half of the first half was a lot less comfortable than the first...

After the resumption, the rain thankfully finally relented! The first ten minutes passed by without incident and then our hearts were in our mouths as Sanchez lost possession and clumsily committed a foul in a threatening position down the left wing. Having already been booked, he looked to be heading to the dressing room for another early bath.

Fortunately, referee Madley chose to give Sanchez a long talking to rather than a second yellow card. In controversially overruling his linesman to award Bournemouth a last minute equaliser against West Ham on Boxing Day, it made me wonder whether the subsequent media furore played on Madley’s mind a little. In any event Pochettino was taking no further chances and did as many Spurs fans around me implored him to do by replacing Sanchez with Wanyama and Dier dropped into the back four.

Wanyama who had been out injured for four months was very warmly welcomed back by the travelling faithful. Wanyama will surely have a big positive impact in the second half of the season.

With half an hour to go Lamela embarked on a driving run towards the Swansea goal which was halted by a foul on the left hand edge of the penalty area. Without Kane to fight with for the ball, Eriksen lined up his shot. His last free kick goals were at Swansea two seasons ago - might he? Could he end his free kick goal drought? Alas his shot was on target but brought a good diving save from Fabianski. Shortly after, Lamela won another free kick on the left but this time much closer to the bye-line. Eriksen surprised us by going for goal and his fierce drive was touched over by the keeper.

In the 65th minute from a free kick deep inside their own half on the left hand side, through an excellent passing move, Swansea carved Spurs open and broke on the right wing with a one on one which brought a good diving save from Lloris. A couple of minutes later and the Swansea fans showed great sportsmanship in their applause for Llorente as he walked off the pitch to be replaced by Harry Kane. Could Kane get his third hat-trick in as many games with just 23 minutes remaining - if anyone can, Harry can!

A great long ball from Dier reminiscent of Toby Alderweireld at his best, created a chance for Dele who dived full length to head wide complaining of a push in the back. Just moments later, after the game could have been put to bed, Ayew went on a great run, cutting in from the left and once he had skipped by Lloris, it seemed a certain equaliser but Davies did remarkably well to intervene and Wanyama cleared the immediate danger by putting the ball out for a corner. The respite was however short lived as from the corner, Swansea hit the post and Spurs were living dangerously.

One goal leads never feel enough and anxiety was building in the away end as two points dropped here would be very costly given the seven point gap to the top four at the start of play. In the 78th minute a pinpoint cross from Trippier found Son whose controlled volley went just agonisingly wide of the far post.

With Swansea pushing men forward in search of an equaliser, Spurs were finding more space. First Dele down the right and then Son on the left who went down far too easily in the box when a pass to Kane or a dribble round the defender could have brought that elusive second goal.

In the 89th minute, Spurs showed just how clinical they are on the break. A defensive header cleared their lines and the ball fell to Dele deep in his own half who ran with the ball before passing to Kane on the left wing. Whilst Kane marauded down the wing, Dele continued his run towards the Swansea box and Kane played a beautiful across pitch lofted ball to put Dele clean through on goal. The keeper saved his first effort but Dele gleefully followed through to make it 2-0 and wrap up the points for the long journey back across the border!

In difficult conditions, there were a number of good performances notably from Lloris, Dier, Vertonghen, Davies and Dele with Eriksen also getting through a lot of good work across the pitch. Sanchez had played well whilst on the pitch and will hopefully learn from his indiscretions.

Other than the three points, the biggest plus though was the return of Wanyama and with Kane also getting 20 minutes, we are well set for Thursday night when West Ham will be our visitors to Wembley - just 46 hours or so after the final whistle blew at tonight’s game.

Much is made of how unfair it is on the players and match officials. Never mind the players and officials, two midweek evening games in 48 hours is hard work for the fans. For me alone it constitutes 700 miles of driving at the worst time of the year with half of those miles being late at night and into the early hours of the next day.

Surely the TV companies, clubs, Premier and Football Leagues can get together and give just a little consideration to those who create the atmosphere inside football grounds up and down the country at all levels of the game?

The good news though is that Spurs have started 2018 in the same way as they finished 2017 and are beginning to build some momentum with five wins in the last six Premier League games. Long may it continue and long will it need to continue if Spurs are to again claim a Champions League spot. The competition is fierce and six into four just doesn’t go - two very good sides are going to miss out...

Let’s cheer Spurs on to claiming one of those top four places to enter our fantastic new stadium with the platform of Champions League which it so costly deserves.

Happy New Year!


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El Gringo's Once in a Lifetime

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El Gringo's Once in a Lifetime - John Ellis's account of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

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