SATURDAY 29TH DECEMBER, 2018
(3pm- at Wembley)
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1(1) WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 3(0)
Helder Costa, 87
Referee:- Stuart Attwell
Assistants:- Stephen Child, Neil Davies
Fourth official:- Lee Probert
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Trippier, Sanchez, Alderweireld, Davies; Sissoko, Winks; Son, Dele (sub Lucas Moura, 68), Eriksen; Kane
Subs not used:- Gazzaniga; Rose, Walker-Peters, Foyth; Nkoudou, Skipp
Booked:- Davies (foul on Doherty), Eriksen (foul on Traore), Kane (simulation)
Wolves (3-4-3):- Rui Patricio; Bennett, Coady (Capt.), Boly; Doherty, Neves, Dendoncker (sub Moutinho, 68), Jonny Otto; Traore (sub Helder Costa, 59), Jimenez, Cavaleiro (sub Gibbs-White, 85)
Subs not used:- Ruddy; Vinagre, Bonatini, Saiss
Booked:- Jonny (foul), Jimenez (over-celebrating)
We were contenders
Spurs were real contenders for the Premier League title for less than 72 hours then. When beating Bournemouth 5-0 on Boxing Day while Man City lost at Leicester, we took over second place six points behind Liverpool. I had warned in my preview that this game was a potential banana skin, and so it proved as Wolves ran out worthy winners in front of a full contingent of away fans who had a hell of a day at Wembley. Spurs had a hell of a day too, but in the worse sense, despite Harry Kane (MBE) scoring one of his finest goals to give Spurs a 1-0 half-time lead. Liverpool thrashed Arsenal 5-1 to stretch their lead over us to 9 points and City play today. These two other top three sides play each other next Thursday after Spurs go to Cardiff on New Year’s Day. Cardiff beat City’s conquerors Leicester away . It certainly is a funny old game as another great (the greatest) Spurs goal scorer would say.
Mauricio Pochettino chose a stronger team than I expected with Toby Alderweireld playing an eighth game without rest, and both the full backs rotated. With Dier, Dembele and Wanyama still injured there is little alternative for Sissoko and Winks in front of the defence, and perhaps this was one game too many for the Spurs team which had won their last five Premier League games, the last two very convincingly. Dele Alli returned, but was he at his best? Mauricio Pochettino described his team as “mentally tired”. Well they need to dust themselves down and be prepared for Cardiff, because there is a top four place to secure. I thought we gave a physically tired performance in the second half, giving the Wolves goalkeeper little, if any work, and failing to resist Wolves’ high energy, high pressing surge.
Wembley’s lower tiers looked refreshingly full. This was another game with a “capped” attendance. Sissoko and Jonny Otto were down after a challenge after four minutes, and Spurs had a free kick which came to nought. Spurs had a spell with plenty of possession and passing before Son hit a right footed shot which passed wide of the post. Eriksen passed inside from the right to Kane who was fouled about 20 yards out after 11 minutes. Trippier took the free kick, which he hit into the arms of Rui Patricio.
Ben Davies took an early booking for a foul on the advancing Doherty, and obviously had to be careful after that. Cavaleiro took the Wolves free kick which was headed over by Dendoncker. Spurs made a break out after 17 minutes, with Trippier feeding Kane, and the move continuing through Son. It was Dele who had the shot, but it was off target. Next up was Eriksen after Son’s move down the right and a ball to Dele who teed up Christian, whose shot was tipped over by the Wolves keeper.
Rui Patricio had no answer minutes later when Kane hit a truly sensational left foot curler just inside the keeper’s right post. Son had created the opportunity after picking up a loose midfield ball. Spurs had the lead, and the signs were good. Sanchez defended well against Jimenez, blocking the Wolves striker’s shot as he entered his right side of the Spurs area. Son had another shot on goal, assisted by Winks’ pass, but hitting the shot wide on the wrong side of the post. Son was blocked after receiving another pass from Dele on the edge of the area. Wolves had another corner after another Sanchez v Jimenez moment, taken by Cavaleiro and met by Neves who fired wide. The goalkeepers were not being tested enough.
Eriksen also took a first half booking for a foul on the speedy Traore.
Trippier needed treatment after being fouled in the Spurs area early in the second half. Trippier made passing errors in the second half. Spurs were being pressured by a packed Wolves midfield, and were struggling to play their free moving and passing game. One pass inside, meant for Alderweireld was picked up by wolves and fed to Jimenez by Cavaleiro. Jimenez fired wide, but Spurs had had a warning. More good defence was required by Sanchez, this time to stop Cavaleiro’s advance.
Dele was replaced by Lucas Moura after 68 minutes and this would be Pochettino’s only substitution, although there was a time when he was preparing to put Skipp on, but Wolves scored and changed the outlook of the game. Nuno Esperito Santo put on Moutinho for Dendoncker at the same time as the Spurs substitution. Spurs were not getting their passing right and they were also being pinned down quite a lot in their own half. Wolves equalised in the 72nd minute after a corner and a cross by Moutinho and a header by Boly in front of the delighted Wolves fans.
Harry Kane even got booked by referee Stuart Attwell for diving. That’s how desperate we had become. It was 2-1 in the 83rd minute, and perhaps Jimenez was a little fortuitous in firing his shot through Toby Alderweireld’s legs but his shot crept into the net off the inside of Lloris’s right post. Spurs tried to respond through Lucas Moura and Eriksen down near the right corner flag, but Eriksen got no change out of the referee when he felt he had been fouled. Defeat was complete in the 87th minute after another poor ball by Trippier and a run by Helder Costa who beat Lloris with a left footed shot across the keeper’s right hand.
What had looked like being an excellent December ended up being bookended by poor defeats away to Arsenal and at home to Wolves. This observer went home in a very unhappy frame of mind, and from a footballing point of view it is not a happy new year. Maybe the players already have their eyes on the Chelsea Carabao Cup semi-final, but there is another important league game and an FA Cup tie to play before that.
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