SATURDAY 18TH JANUARY, 2020
WATFORD 0(0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0(0)
Referee:- Michael Oliver
Assistants:- Simon Bennett, Stuart Burt
Fourth official:- Tim Robinson
VAR:- Kevin Friend
Assistant VAR:- Andy Halliday
Watford (4-2-3-1):- Foster; Mariappa, Dawson, Cathcart, Masina; Capoue, Chalobah (sub Pereyra, 79); Sarr (sub Pussetto, 89), Doucoure, Deulofeu; Deeney (Capt.)
Subs not used:- Gomes; Holebas, Kabasele; Quina; Gray
Booked:- Capoue (foul on Lo Celso), Doucoure (conduct after foul on Winks)
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Gazzaniga; Aurier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen (Capt.), Tanganga; Winks, Dele (sub Eriksen, 73); Lamela, Lo Celso (sub Gedson Fernandes, 80), Son, Lucas Moura
Subs not used:- Vorm; Sanchez, Dier; Sessegnon, Skipp
Booked:- Tanganga (foul on Sarr), Winks (unsporting conduct, after being fouled by Doucoure), Vertonghen (Deliberate handball)
An away clean sheet and a penalty save!
Our first clean sheet away from home in a Premier League game since New Year’s day last year (at Cardiff) and a penalty save by Paulo Gazzaniga were almost the only things to be pleased about regarding Spurs’ performance in this game. Yes, Watford were grateful to goal-line technology in added time when a Lamela shot was cleared off the line by Watford’s new signing Pussetto, but Spurs worked Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster so little that he hardly had the opportunity to waste his usual quote of time during the game. In fairness, this Watford side, now unbeaten in their last seven games are a different prospect to the one previously managed by Javi Gracia and Quique Sanchez Flores. Nigel Pearson has added more bite (in more ways than one) to his team, and they are inclined to play more direct attacking football. In all the circumstances a draw was probably the most that Spurs deserved.
Jose Mourinho’s selection looked a bit lightweight in front of the defence with Dele Alli chosen to assist Harry Winks. Japhet Tanganga got the nod for a third game in a week, but today started at left back where he had a challenging time against Watford’s Ismaila Sarr, who is powerfully built and fast too. Serge Aurier again played wing-back effectively with Alderweireld, Vertonghen and Tanganga in charge of defensive duties. There was plenty of flair in the front four with both Lo Celso and Lamela chosen to start again, but after a bright start (with little end product), Spurs’ attacking opportunities diminished to a degree except for occasional breaks, and a late surge in the closing phase of the game.
The game was played in ultra-bright sunshine, and I suspect that Jan Vertonghen won the toss, playing towards the Spurs fans, giving Paolo Gazzaniga the protection of first half shade. His goal was in shade by the time the second half started too. Watford kicked off but Spurs were soon on the attack with Son on the left passing inside to Dele who chipped a ball aimed for Lucas Moura. There were appeals for a Watford handball, but these were waved away. Watford broke forward from this situation and the pacey Deulofeu advanced upon goal but his effort was way off target. Lo Celso fed the ball to Son on the left, but “Sonny” dwelt on the ball too long and any chance to shoot disappeared. A subsequent shot by Son, from a similar position, was comfortably held by Foster.
Spurs had a corner, taken on the left by Lamela, following which Lamela himself went on a run across the area before hitting his shot wide of Foster’s left post. After 11 minutes, Aurier hit a long ball to Son beyond the back post and Son fed the ball to Tanganga. Tanganga’s shot was also easy meat for Foster. Watford forged a chance after Spurs failed to use their own throw, taken inside their half. Doucoure advanced down the left side and after he passed inside Sarr eventually hit a shot, but again this was well above the target. Tanganga took an early booking for fouling Sarr on the edge of the area, but the free kick taken by Chalobah was well over the target.
Spurs had a prolonged attack midway through the half, without forcing a save. Finally Son passed to Lucas Moura whose shot was blocked. After that ball was cleared, Tanganga was fouled by Capoue, but there was not even a card. It looked as if referee Michael Oliver was going to view the VAR monitor, but the delay was on because of a problem with the officials’ technological equipment. Once play did start again, Foster probably had his hardest save when he dived to his right and held a shot that had been hit by Son, but had also taken a deflection.
There was a degree of good play by Tanganga down his left side, but ultimately Sarr did get a cross in. Deeney tried a flick, but failed to connect properly. Deulofeu picked up the ball on the left and eventually hit the side netting well behind Gazzaniga’s right post. Gazzaniga had to flap away a dangerous cross soon after this move.
Capoue did get a yellow card for a cynical foul on Lo Celso, well inside the Spurs half. Spurs broke forward after the free kick and Dele sent a ball to Lucas Moura, but Foster came out well to block the shot. Another challenge by Doucoure on Lo Celso was given as a foul, but not further punished as the referee indicated the clash had been a “coming together”. Watford were getting away with a bit of extra physicality, but they did have more beef than Spurs anyway! Winks hit a long ball into the Watford area and Son tried a first time shot, but scooped it almost to Row Z. At the other end Deeney had a header on target after Doucoure’s ball, but Gazzaniga held the attempt on his goal.
For all the delay over the referee’s equipment, only two minutes were added on at the end of the half. We felt cheated.
After one minute of the second half, Sarr got the better of Tanganga again down the wing and passed inside. Deeney took a touch and Doucoure had a shot, but hit it wide. After another cross from that side, Deeney heded down, but Sarr failed with his attempt on the Spurs goal. Spurs had a good chance after 52 minutes when Winks passed to Son advancing down the right side. Son crossed and dele met the ball, but headed over in front of The Rookery Stand. Deeney received a high ball just inside the spurs area and after a couple of touches took a shot which had been deflected and passed wide of the Spurs goal for a corner.
There was a melee in the Spurs half after a challenge by Doucoure on Winks, and it looked as if hands had been raised on both sides of the argument, with a number of players involved. VAR had a look but the end result was yellow cards for both Winks and Doucoure. Spurs had a good break following passes by Lamela and Lucas Moura inside the Spurs half before Son raced away, hitting his final shot over the corner of Foster’s goal. Lamela had a shot on goal after a pass by Lucas Moura. It wasn’t a strong shot, but went for a corner with Lamela asking for a handball, but getting no positive response. VAR also said “No!” again.
Watford were awarded a penalty after 68 minutes. I must admit that I thought Deulofeu’s shot had hit Vertonghen’s arm at close range, but referee Michael Oliver saw it as deliberate handball, and he was a) supported by VAR and he b) issued Vertonghen a yellow card. Troy Deeney stepped up, and whilst his penalty wasn’t the greatest he has ever hit, Gazzaniga anticipated well, diving the right way (to his right) and saving firmly.
Dele Alli was replaced by Eriksen, who played in a similar position. Eriksen hit a shot which won a corner, but that came to nought, taken by the substitute. We also saw the debut of Gedson Fernandes when he replaced Lo Celso. Fernandes operated down the right side and did have a bright cameo. Erik Lamela was fouled in his own half, but Mr Oliver waved play-on and Spurs advanced through Eriksen and Lucas Moura, before Fernandes did have an opportunity, hit weakly towards goal and easily cleared. Fernandes was then seen operating well on the right side of defence before Spurs attacked through Lucas Moura, who fed the ball to Lamela, but his shot was above the target. Fernandes was then involved (along with Son, Eriksen and Lamela)0 before Aurier hit a low cross that was saved by Foster before the ball was cleared. Eriksen hit a long ball to the right where Fernandes passed inside to Lamela, who again hit the ball too high. There was too much profligacy today!
The goal-line clearance came in added time with Eriksen involved in the build-up along with Fernandes again. Aurier hit a cross and Lamela hit the ball goalward (without real power) enabling the clearance. I saw Mr. Oliver check his watch (for the goal/no goal indication) and wave play-on. The margin was as small as it could have been.
Spurs remain in 8th place and as I write this report, Chelsea have lost to an added time goal by Newcastle. Arsenal were held by Sheffield United and our rivals stay below us, but Spurs desperately need to put together some results to make any realistic challenge upon the top four. We are missing Harry Kane badly. I did see Lucas Moura successfully field one ball but he is not a line-leader, and we don’t have any player of that nature available. Will we dip into the January transfer market again? Who knows?
In our FA Cup meetings with Middlesbrough we faced the last man to score a cup-winning goal for Spurs – Jonathan Woodgate. Today at Vicarage Road the half-time interviewee was the penultimate man to score a cup-winning goal for Spurs – Allan Nielsen. Funnily enough Nielsen was asked about his goal for Spurs against Leicester. Nielsen was roundly applauded by Spurs fans as he walked around the pitch in front of them after his interview. I wonder if we have today seen the next man to score a cup-winning goal for Spurs? Let’s hope so!
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