MONDAY 30TH APRIL, 2018
(8pm – at Wembley)
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2(1) WATFORD 0(0)
Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistants: Stuart Burt, Daniel Cook
Fourth official: Stuart Attwell
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Trippier, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Davies; Dier, Dembele (sub Wanyama, 63); Eriksen, Dele (sub Lamela, 82), Son (sub Sissoko, 74); Kane
Subs not used:- Vorm; Aurier, Alderweireld; Lucas Moura
Booked:- Wanyama (foul on Richarlison)
Watford (4-2-3-1):- Karnezis; Mariappa (Capt.), Cathcart, Kabasele, Holebas; Doucoure, Capoue; Femenia (sub Deulofeu, 64), Hughes (sub Carrillo, 83), Richarlison; Gray (sub Deeney, 64)
Subs not used:- Gomes; Janmaat, Britos; Sinclair
Spurs underwhelming, but on course for Champions League
On an unseasonably cold late April Monday night less than 53,000 people made the effort to travel to Wembley to see a game which lacked intensity, but more importantly lacked the necessary skills and desire by a Tottenham side that did not look desperate enough to get back to winning ways. They did win, with a start given thanks to an error by Watford goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis, who is preferred by Watford manager Javi Gracia to former Spurs favourite Heurelho Gomes. Dele Alli’s opener was followed by Harry Kane’s 27th Premier League goal of the season, but Hugo Lloris had preserved his side’s lead with three crucial first half saves.
Hugo Lloris returned to an otherwise unchanged Spurs team which had lost their FA Cup semi-final 9 days ago. He illustrated all too clearly his shot stopping powers which should have given him a place in that semi-final team. Spurs fans haven’t got over their disappointment yet and struggled to create an atmosphere in their temporary home. Hopefully, we have just two more Premier league games here now before the move to “New White Hart Lane” next season.
Watford are not yet mathematically over the line to ensure their presence in the Premier League next season, and although they have failed to win for the seventh successive game, I suspect they did apply themselves and play better than in most of their recent games. Their fans, who did turn out in force, will know better of course, and towards the end of the game they chose to deride Spurs for their failure to win a trophy and also chanted “It’s happened again”. Presumably that means (the likelihood of) winning Champions League football for a third successive season, but with no silverware. Er – when did you last win anything Hornets?
Watford kicked off, playing towards the West goal, and former Derby midfielder, the blonde haired Will Hughes hit an early shot which passed Lloris’s right post. A shot by Harry Kane after three minutes was easy for the Watford keeper after a final ball from Son Heung-min, who looked lively early on without much success with his application. Vertonghen sent a good long ball to Kieran Trippier who was one of Spurs’ best attacking foils all night. Trippier crossed and Eriksen won a corner. Another Trippier cross won a Spurs corner on the left after which Dembele crossed and Dier met the ball at the near post, heading high across the goalmouth. Dele chased a header into the Watford area on the left side and his pass reached Kane in a position where he would be lethal at his best, but Harry lost control of the ball. This was an illustration of how out of sorts Harry has been since his return from injury, despite one or two additions to his goal tally.
Spurs took the lead thanks to Karnezis’s error. After some standard low-key Spurs possession play just inside the Watford half, Dier sent the ball to Trippier whose over-hit cross was spilt by the keeper to the feet of Eriksen, who passed short to Dele, who made no mistake with a right foot shot from 12 yards for his ninth Premier League goal of the season and his fifth club goal in his last seven games. If ever he was away in the first place, Dele is back in form for Spurs!
Both Dier and Dembele, the men in front of our defence, were failing to find Spurs feet at times, sometimes to great potential cost, but Dier had another effort on goal, this one from distance after 20 minutes. The shot was well over the target. An error by Dier led to a Watford ball to Gray, who was just ahead of Jan Vertonghen forcing an important and effective Lloris save after 25 minutes. Ironically, I spotted that on a couple of occasions when Lloris was pressured by Watford into hitting long balls, Harry Kane won the headers and Spurs had a decent attack. Otherwise there was too much of the slow ponderous play by Spurs which can lead to apathy in the crowd.
After a Watford throw in their own half, the loose ball ran to Eriksen on the left and he ran forward hitting a right footed shot from 25 yards which just curled away from the keeper’s left post. Watford had a free kick on the right, taken by former Spur Etienne Capoue. After skill by Richarlison on the left the ball reached Doucoure inside the Spurs area, who squeezed a shot which was saved by the alert Lloris. Lloris had to be alert again before the break after an error by Dembele and a shot by Richarlison which Hugo saved well.
Within three minutes of the re-start Spurs’ lead was doubled. After winning the ball in the middle the ball was passed forward to Son on the left. He crossed for Kane, but Harry slipped. The ball ran to Trippier on the right who returned it by which time Harry had got to his feet and was able to re-direct the cross into the net across the keeper. It is Harry’s 105th Premier League goal, and puts him four behind Salah In the quest for the Golden Boot with a game in hand?
Victor Wanyama replaced Dembele after 63 minutes, and in no time at all he became the only entrant into referee Michael Oliver’s book, although Victor will claim that was the victim and not the offender in the challenge with Richarlison. Spurs had been happy to settle on their two goal lead, and Watford were making no headway
After 67 minutes, Spurs had a free kick on the right after a foul on Kane. Trippier floated the ball in and Jan Vertonghen’s header rebounded off the post. Harry tried to follow up, but missed the ball which ran clear. It should have been three. Watford club captain Troy Deeney had come on for Watford and when he challenged for a cross from the left the ball ran to Richarlison who fired over from 10 yards. After 73 minutes, Dele Alli made a run in the Watford half and passed to Son wo fed Kane. Kane had the ball in the net but had been flagged offside. Son was replaced by Sissoko, which meant more consolidation, not adventure by Spurs. Harry Kane started to work towards the left of Dele.
There was a nasty accidental clash of heads between Kieran Trippier and Richarlison, who had been battling throughout the game. After a delay for treatment (more for Richarlison), both players recovered and sportingly shook hands. Dele was replaced by Erik Lamela, who did add some spark to Spurs game. Spurs’ best chance in the latter stages fell to Sissoko after Kane’s pass, but the hapless Spurs midfielder fired over with the goal at his mercy. There was 6 minutes of added time and the best chance fell to Deeney after a defensive header by Trippier across goal. Deeney fired over. By this time, most Spurs fans had filed out for their trains, having been underwhelmed by their team’s performance.
The win does put Spurs five points ahead of fifth-placed Chelsea and only a point behind Liverpool in third place with a game in hand over "The Reds". Chelsea and Liverpool meet on Sunday, by which time Spurs ought to be in third place after a win at West Brom. That win will not be easy against a side being inspired by caretaker manager Darren Moore.
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