THURSDAY 4TH JANUARY, 2018
(8PM – at Wembley)
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1(0) WEST HAM UNITED 1(0)
West Ham scorer:-
Attendance:- 50, 034
Referee: Mike Dean
Assistants: Simon Long, Daniel Cook
Fourth official: Roger East
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Aurier, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Davies (sub Llorente, 82); Sissoko (sub Lamela, 74), Dier (sub Wanyama, 74); Eriksen, Dele, Son; Kane
Subs not used:- Vorm; Trippier; Dembele, Winks
West Ham (5-3-1-1):- Adrian; Zabaleta, Reid, Ogbonna, Rice, Masuaku; Kouyate, Obiang, Noble (Capt.); Lanzini (sub Carroll, 85); Hernandez (sub Ayew, 65)
Subs not used:- Hart; Haksabanovic, Quina, Makasi; Toni
Booked:- Carroll (kicked ball away), Noble (foul on Llorente)
I knew the white horse was a bad omen!
At the bottom of the steps outside Wembley Park tube station and as I started the march up Wembley Way, I saw a white police horse amongst the massive police presence. I said to its rider “There was no need to bring a white horse”, and I felt it was bad omen, despite the fact that West Ham actually lost that famous “White Horse” Cup Final in 1923. So it proved as West Ham not only deprived us of two points, but actually took a 70th minute lead with their first (and only) shot on target. It was a stunning goal by Obiang from at least 25 yards, but thankfully it was more than matched by Son Heung-min’s incredible strike from a longer distance six minutes from the end.
David Moyes set up his decimated team in a defensive 5-3-1-1 formation and clearly came for a point, but did not expect to get it this way. Club captain Mark (“You’ll never play for England”) Noble was one of three men in a midfield three in front of a back five forced to include 18 year old Declan Rice. Marko Arnautovic was added to the list of absent players, and Andy Carroll, who had scored two goals on Tuesday was clearly not fit to start a second game in this time. The West Ham bench included four young outfield players without a league start amongst their numbers. They didn’t get on the pitch. Noble must have won the toss and turned Spurs round, so they were kicking towards the West goal, and in theory “The Hammers” were playing towards their own fans, whose numbers had been reduced to 2,700 for security reasons. Not that West Ham got into the Spurs half much at all in the first half, and very little throughout the game in truth.
Those security reasons must have included the absence of the Spurs stalls along Wembley way, and the usual pedestrian programme sellers. Perhaps the fact that the game was on TV, and priced at Category A by THFC kept so many home fans away, as we only managed a 50,000 crowd for this London Derby.
Spurs kicked off and within two minutes, Eriksen tried to thread a ball through the defence to Harry Kane, but goalkeeper Adrian reached the ball first. Son’s attempted cross from the left was diverted and Harry Kane had a shot at the near post, which went past Adrian but was cleared by Rice for a corner. After the corner taken by Eriksen, and a defensive header, Adrian couldn’t hold the ball which ran to Sanchez, and his shot was blocked for another corner. Sissoko was working well with Aurier up and down the right flank, but leaving the creativity to the right back. There was one woeful attempted pass by Sissoko out to the flank which went out for a West Ham throw and I said to my son then that would cost Sissoko at least 2 points in the Spurs Odyssey survey, and so it has proved! After 14 minutes a concerted Spurs attacking move ended with Son passing back to Aurier, whose cross was met by Harry Kane, who had a shot blocked, and Eriksen’s attempted follow-up was also blocked.
A minute later, Spurs had the ball in the net, or at least a West Ham defender did, off Harry Kane’s shot, but Kane had been called offside. This came after a Sissoko- Aurier – Eriksen combined move. Mid-way through the half, after Ben Davies’ floated ball down the line was not properly defended, Dele Alli got into the box and tried to reach Eriksen, but the cross was cleared. Son, Kane and Dele worked together to create an opening for Kane, whose right foot shot was saved and cleared as far as Aurier, who passed inside to Dier, whose shot was way over the target. A Spurs goal had to come, didn’t it? However, it didn’t work out that way. Son had a shot saved then cleared, after Eriksen’s pass, and then Harry Kane passed to Eriksen from the left and Eriksen’s shot went just the wrong side of Adrian’s left post.
Vertonghen hit a good ball from deep for the advancing Aurier who crossed into the box for Harry Kane but he just couldn’t get a proper shot on the ball, pushing it out for a goal kick. An Eriksen shot, hit with power, was headed clear by Winston Reid. Just before the break Aurier crossed for Eriksen, who had an exchange with Dele which was deflected out for a corner, from which Dele headed wide. West Ham had managed a couple of free kicks in our half, but nothing had come of those.
Spurs were putting more pressure on after 51 minutes in the West Ham half, before Kane tried a right foot shot from distance, which was well wide of the mark. Aurier crossed for Dele, who was always being marked by two players, and much as he tried, he just could not get in a decent effort on goal. Dele himself got into the box on the right hand side and passed for Son, whose effort took a big deflection enabling Adrian to save with ease.
West Ham were always set up for breakaways by the likes of Ayew, Lanzini and Hernandez, but the latter was assisted by a Sanchez error before Vertonghen came to the rescue. Ben Davies hit a cross for Dele, who just over-hit the ball, so it ran to Adrian. Aurier and Son combined on the right and crossed for Eriksen to shoot. His effort was blocked and returned by Davies, but Dele again headed wide. Jan Vertonghen got forward and hit a shot which was blocked and ran to Kane, whose effort was saved, but he had been called offside again anyway.
West Ham replaced Hernandez with Andre Ayew. Eriksen had a shot held by Adrian, and then Harry Kane’s attempted shot looped up for Dele to have a headed attempt, which was over the goal.
After all their domination; loads of possession and shots on goal (not many of which were on target), Spurs were hit by a goal of massive quality, Ayew made a run for a long ball and started a chain of short passes ended by Lanzini’s touch to Obiang, who moved inside and beat Lloris with a rasping shot into his top right corner. The shot was unstoppable and from a full 25 yards. West Ham fans chanted “We only had one shot”.
Now “The Hammers” just had to defend that lead. After all, they had managed so far. Harry Kane had a shot parried and there was no-one there to follow up. Pochettino made a double substitution of Lamela for Sissoko and Wanyama for Dier. I thought that an earlier introduction of Llorente would have been more advantageous. Son passed inside from the left for Eriksen, whose shot was held. West Ham got forward again and Kouyate should at least have hit the target with his header beyond the back post after a cross from their left.
Son, who frustrated me on plenty of occasions last night, because he rarely made best use of the ball, hit a low cross straight at the keeper, before Llorente did come on – for Ben Davies. Having vented my spleen earlier in the game at Son, all was forgiven as he hit simply glorious right footed shot from fully 30 yards, which curled and hit Adrian’s net in the top left corner. We had seen two stunning goals, both of which are goal of the season contenders. Son has scored 6 goals in his last 9 games.
In the closing stages referee Mike Dean finally got his yellow card out. Firstly it was waved at Andy Carroll after a free kick was given to Spurs deep in their own half. Then Noble was pulled up for a foul on Llorente. Spurs’ best chance to score came from an Aurier cross which was just too high for Llorente at the back post.
Obviously it was highly frustrating to drop two points against “The Hammers”, when a win would have put us just one point behind Liverpool, and closer to the top four. We are fifth though, two points above Arsenal. Once again, Spurs have been unbeaten over Christmas under Pochettino’s management, and over the four games which started with the 3-0 win at Burnley, Spurs have actually finished top of the mini-league with a better goal difference than even Man City.
Perhaps the conditions at Swansea took more out of our team than they did at The London Stadium for West Ham. We will have to wait for the visit of Everton a week on Saturday for another opportunity of a first league “double” of the season, but first we face AFC Wimbledon in Sunday’s FA Cup Third Round. A lot of Spurs fans won’t bother to go to that one either. Will we really fill our new stadium every week?
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