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Middlesbrough v Spurs, 24.09.16

(3 PM)

Middlesbrough scorer:-
Gibson, 65

Spurs scorer:-
Son, 7, 23

Attendance:- 32,703

Referee: Graham Scott
Assistants: R West, D Bryan
Fourth official: M Jones

Middlesbrough (4-2-3-1):- Valdes; Barragan, Gibson, Chambers, Friend (Capt.); De Roon, Clayton (sub Forshaw, 82); Stuani, Ramirez (sub Traore, 59), Downing; Negredo (sub Rhodes, 59)

Subs not used:- Guzan; Ayala; Nsue; Fischer

Booked:- Traore (foul on Lamela), Friend (foul)

Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies; Alli, Wanyama; Sissoko (sub Lamela, 70), Eriksen (sub Nkoudou, 90), Son; Janssen (sub Winks, 86)

Subs not used:- Vorm; Trippier, Wimmer, Carter-Vickers

Booked:- Walker (Handball)

Bracing Son shines again!

Who needs Harry Kane when for the second time this season Son Heung-min popped up with a smashing brace. His second goal was a real cracker, and confirmed Spurs’ utter domination of the first half at The Riverside Stadium where we were playing for the first time in 8 years. Things have changed around the stadium in the intervening period with some development on what used to be waste land where I believe once upon a time Margaret Thatcher walked. In nearby North Ormesby, where our party spent the pre-match, there has also been some development, although as a whole, Middlesbrough still doesn’t look too bright. Spurs certainly shone brightly, and over the course of the game had nearly 60% of the possession. When Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanaka switched Jordan Rhodes for Negredo and the pacy Adama Traore for Ramirez, Spurs were put under more pressure. The home side scored, and we fans were made to sweat out the last quarter of a game we should have won by a street.

There was no sign of Danny Rose, Eric Dier, or Mousa Dembele, all of whom have been recovering from injury or knocks. Hopefully, Mauricio Pochettino is “managing the minutes” and all three will appear in Moscow on Tuesday night, with a full five days before next Sunday’s already mouth-watering game against Manchester City Spurs should be able to choose from virtually all the squad, with the exception of Kane.

It was a bright and sunny day on Teeside, and another change for the away fans is being placed in The East Stand along the side of the pitch, and not behind a goal. It’s a similar position to that at Goodison Park, and the view suited this spectator. Pochettino played Dele Alli beside Wanyama in front of the back four, but Dele was often in an attacking position. At times in the second half, he actually switched roles with Christian Eriksen, once again playing in his favoured central attacking midfield position. That gave Son the left wing, and Sissoko the right, with Vincent Janssen up top. Sissoko was the less impactive of our attacking players, and had to withdraw with injury before the end of the game.

Middlesbrough kicked off and played towards their vocal fans in the South Stand. After only one minute, Sissoko had a shot go just over the bar after receiving from Kyle Walker. Three minutes later Wanyama won a battle with Ramirez and won a corner too. After the corner, the ball was played to Son and Sissoko with Dele Alli having a shot pushed over by Valdes for another corner. In the seventh minute, Spurs took the lead with a delightful goal, slotted home by Son, who fooled the defence and picked his spot after Janssen had fed him Eriksen’s pass. Kyle Walker had started the move from the right. Five minutes later, Son delighted Spurs fans with a mazy dribble from the left into the Middlesbrough box, but just over-hit his final touch.

Toby Alderweireld was as masterful as usual throughout the game, and with little cause for defending, at least in the first half, he was able to focus on his excellent delivery skills. One such ball found an advancing Dele Alli, but the offside flag was raised. Son’s second goal was his best of the day, and he hit a real right footed cracker after good football by Spurs and another final pass by the industrious Janssen. Valdes was beaten all ends up! Once again, for all their possession and domination, Spurs were not hitting the target enough, and not testing the home goalkeeper sufficiently. Janssen got great vocal support from the travelling fans in the second half, as they tried their best to urge him on to score.

Eriksen was just offside for Alli’s pass, after more feeding play by Janssen. Eriksen had a shot blocked after a move started with a long ball by Alderweireld to Son; his low cross and Janssen’s feed. Spurs had what I thought was a good penalty shout after 35 minutes, when Dele Alli went down in the box. There was some great football by Spurs after 40 minutes culminating in Kyle Walker passing inside to Wanyama, and a pass to Sissoko who had a shot blocked. Dele Alli was as big a villain as any Spurs player with the number of attempts spurned. He hit another shot over after 42 minutes, and a pass by Eriksen.

Spurs started the second half brightly. Vertonghen carried the ball out of defence, and passed to Alli, who gave Janssen a shot with his left foot, which went over the target. Spurs were still well on top, and when Son went down in the box, I thought it was a certain penalty. The referee said “No”, but this is the man who has rarely refereed at this level, and who caused controversy at Swansea early this year when he denied penalty shouts and good goals that were called offside. In fairness, other than the penalty shouts (and of course I am biased), I think the referee had a decent game. Those two substitutions came in the 59th minute, and 20 year old midfielder Adama Traore – signed in the summer from relegated Aston Villa – worried Spurs with his pace, but not so much with his inaccuracy!

Dele Alli had yet another shot go over the target after a Sissoko cross, and an Eriksen pass. Kyle Walker was shown the first yellow card of the game for a handball offence, I believe near the touchline as Middlesbrough sought to get forward. From a free kick taken by Stewart Downing on the left which was sent deep into the box, defender Ben Gibson headed home to the right of Lloris. Now the home crowd were roused, and their team pressed hard for another goal. Sissoko went down injured and had to be replaced by Erik Lamela. Wanyama and Alli tried to turn a ball to Lamela, but he was blocked, before a shot by Son was deflected for a corner.

At the other end, Hugo Lloris came right to the very edge of his area and ended up having to push the ball away, rather than seek to take hold. Of course, the home fans wanted a free kick. Lloris saved a Rhodes header after the ball had been crossed from the left. Spurs started to make heavy weather of things, struggling to clear the ball from their own half, as they insisted on short passes at the back. However, one Lloris throw did reach Lamela, who passed forward to Janssen, whose shot was comfortable for Valdes. Middlesbrough substitute Adam Forshaw had their best remaining chance when he received the ball at the back of the box, on the right, but fired well wide. Spurs had to see out five added minutes, but they did this comfortably, with Son doing well near both corner flags towards the end.

I’ve seen this described as Spurs’ best 6-game start for 51 years. The win takes us to second place with 14 points, above Arsenal, who beat Chelsea 3-0. We are still 4 points behind leaders Man City, who have won all 6 league games, and all 10 competitive games under Pep Guardiola’s management. Next week’s game promises to be a humdinger! Also in the early chase and very close are Liverpool, Everton and Man Utd. Everton suffered a surprise defeat at Bournemouth, hence our rise to second. Add the fact that we are still the top team in London and above Arsenal, and it’s enough to make any Spurs fan happy!

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