SATURDAY 19th OCTOBER, 2019
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1(0) WATFORD 1(1)
Referee:- Chris Kavanagh
Assistants:- Daniel Cook, Sian Massey-Ellis
Fourth official:- Gavin Ward
VAR:- John Brooks
Assistant VAR:- Lee Betts
Spurs (3-4-3):- Gazzaniga; Alderweireld, Sanchez (sub Son, 46), Vertonghen; Aurier, Sissoko, Winks (sub Ndombele, 70), Rose; Lucas Moura (sub Lamela, 63), Kane (Capt.), Dele
Subs not used:- Austin; Foyth, Davies; Dier
Booked:- Sanchez (foul on Pereyra), Sissoko (foul on Deulofeu), Rose (foul on Hughes), Dele (unsporting conduct)
Watford (5-3-2):- Foster; Janmaat (sub Femenia, 71), Kabasele, Dawson, Cathcart (Capt.), Holebas; Cleverley, Chalobah, Doucoure; Welbeck (sub Deulofeu, 4), Pereyra (sub Hughes, 84)
Subs not used:- Gomes; Masina; Sarr; Gray
Booked:- Pereyra (Time wasting when substituted), Femenia (foul on Rose), Holebas (unsporting conduct)
Spurs comply with Watford’s game plan
This was yet another bad day at the office for Mauricio Pochettino and his team. Watford effectively played five at the back and were allowed their dream of an early goal. Spurs showed a distinct lack of invention, and hardly bothered persistent time-waster Ben Foster in the Watford goal, despite their domination possession-wise. Possession means nothing if you pass sideways or backwards, and offer no penetration. On the other hand whenever Watford did advance, they somehow looked more potent against a Spurs defence.
Watford lost Danny Welbeck early to a hamstring injury, and I have to say that Pochettino’s weird back three strategy were often struggling to match the pace of substitute Deulofeu. It pains me to say it, but Jan Vertonghen looked slow on at least two occasions. Mind you, he was often exposed because Danny Rose was too far forward. Davinson Sanchez was like a rabbit in the headlights and his half-time replacement by Son came as no surprise.
For so much of the game, we were behind, and when we did score, we were not granted a proper celebration because of the confusion over VAR and an incorrect display of the decision on the big screen. I was resigning myself not to a challenge for a top four place, but to a place in the wrong half of the table. Pochettino’s “nearly men” (nearly won a Champions League Final; nearly offered a genuine title challenge) might nearly get relegated on their current form. How we sit in seventh place with half the number of points of league leaders Liverpool (and that’s before they play today) I do not know.
Harry Kane was captain, of course, in the prolonged absence of Hugo Lloris, and the substitute goalkeeper was not the recently re-signed Michel Vorm (no doubt needing some fitness tuning), nor Alfie Whiteman, but 20 year old Brandon Austin, given his first exposure to first team football at a competitive level. Both Lucas Moura and Dele were given starts, whilst Son was held on the bench.
Spurs kicked off (backwards, of course, as is the modern trend) and in no time at all Welbeck was down injured. Spurs fans jeered. Watford fans sang “He’s won more than you”, as he limped off to be replaced by Deulofeu, once on Barcelona’s books, and previously loaned to Everton before Watford. In the sixth minute, Watford were granted their wish of an early goal to sit on, and it was all too easy as Janmaat crossed from the right and Doucoure was allowed to score at the back post. The South Stand was stunned (for the goal was scored in front of them), and it took them a while to find their voices, realising as the game progressed that the team urgently needed their support.
Dele made his mistakes, but I maintain he showed more invention than any of his colleagues. Kane was bereft of supply. Dele was given a run down the left channel and he chose to feed the ball to the advancing Sissoko. That was the wrong choice, as inevitably Sissoko fired over from 25 yards. Sanchez was shown an early yellow card when he desperately fouled Pereyra just outside the Spurs area, but on this occasion Davinson had been left in the lurch following a poor clearing pass by the normally reliable Toby Alderweireld. Deulofeu’s free kick was blocked.
Lucas Moura won a corner with a deflected shot, following which Danny Rose went down in the box, but no foul was given. For some reason, Rose was on the right side of the box, but he might have been our corner kicker. Lucas tried to find a way through on the left of the Watford area, but the ball did reach Dele who had probably the one shot on Foster’s goal in the first half. The ball was easily held by the keeper, and then of course held, rolled and generally delayed for as long as he wanted – because Spurs didn’t harry him until the second half. Sissoko put a ball out to Alderweireld, but his cross was too long. These are the highlights folks!
So, Son came on for Sanchez and Spurs reverted to a back four, which is how they should have started against a team at the bottom of the table. Three minutes into the half, Dele fed Son on his right with a short diagonal ball and “Sonny” hit a right foot shot which rebounded off the bar back into play. Watford countered and the Spurs defence looked fragile, conceding a corner. Winks hit a ball forward to Son, again advancing down the right, but this time he was challenged and Watford cleared. Watford countered again with Doucoure feeding Janmaat. His shot was blocked and Watford wanted a handball, but nothing was given.
Son was in possession again, following Aurier’s pass, but eventually the ball was collected by Foster with no real shot on goal. Pereyra advanced down the right channel for Watford and fed Deulofeu, whose shot passed wide of Gazzaniga’s left post. Lucas Moura, who after all was having little influence upon the game, was replaced by Lamela.
An intended pass by Dele to Winks was intercepted by Doucoure who advanced upon goal but fired wide. Winks lifted a ball over the Watford defence intended for Kane, but all we got was a corner. Lamela, Dele and Kane did advance with meaning down the left side, but the final ball to Lamela was cleared. At the other end, Spurs managed to defend against Janmaat who had been put in by Pereyra. Harry Winks was replaced by Ndombele, who did offer some forward diagonal passes.
Dele was in possession in the area following a cross from the right, but couldn’t manage enough contact on the ball, allowing Cathcart to clear. Sissoko was booked for a foul on Deulofeu, but he had been put in the lurch by a poor Gazzaniga clearance. Deulofeu’s free kick was held by the Spurs keeper. Danny Rose advanced into the Watford area and wanted a foul, but got nothing. Spurs were now putting the pressure on and won plenty of corners, but nothing came of them.
The Spurs equaliser when it came led to VAR farce. Foster flapped at a high ball into the Watford area. It ran to Dele, who fired home with his left foot. Watford claim that dele had controlled the ball with his arm, but ultimately the referee and VAR decreed that it had hit the top of his shoulder and was a legitimate goal. We were denied immediate celebration because referee Chris Kavanagh stood still and immediately indicated there would be a review. The screen indicated that the VAR decision was “No goal”, but the referee signalled goal and the players went to the centre circle. Only after the re-start did the big screen indicate that it had been a goal! That was Dele’s first goal since January.
Watford had earlier been aggrieved by a failure by the referee and VAR to award a penalty over a Vertonghen challenge upon Deulofeu, but I don’t even recall any indication that a VAR review was taking place.
In the closing stages there was a melee after the award of a free kick for a foul on Dele with both Dele and Holebas booked for their exchanges as Watford tried to delay the free kick. Spurs put more pressure on without truly threatening Foster’s goal, and it even seemed we were served short of the allotted four minutes of added time.
All in all, it was yet another unsatisfactory day for a Tottenham fan. Thank heavens for the fellowship of friends at the game, which included Matt Carr – all the way from the USA.
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