SUNDAY 25TH FEBRUARY, 2018
CRYSTAL PALACE 0(0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1(0)
Referee: Kevin Friend
Assistants: Harry Lennard, Matthew Wilkes
Fourth official: Chris Kavanagh
Crystal Palace (4-3-3):- Hennessey; Wan-Bissaka, Fosu-Mensah, Tomkins (sub Delaney, 85), Van Aanholt; Milivojevic (Capt.), Riedewald, McArthur; Townsend (sub Lee Chung-Yong, 87), Benteke, Sorloth
Subs not used:- Henry; Soare; Lokilo, Rakip, Kirby
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Aurier, Sanchez, Dier, Davies; Wanyama, Dembele (sub Son, 80); Eriksen, Dele, Lamela (sub Lucas Moura, 66); Kane
Subs not used:- Vorm; Trippier, Rose, Foyth; Sissoko
Booked:- Dembele (foul on Townsend)
Harry Kane! Yo the man!
The minutes had ticked by and only two were left of the allotted 90 minutes play. Spurs had dominated play and possession but had not managed enough in the way of testing shots. It was probably Harry Kane alone who had the best opportunities – one near the start of each half, and more towards the end of the game. Kane was the leader on the pitch. It was he who embodied the true spirit of a desire to win this game as it drew to a seemingly neutral and disappointing conclusion. A corner was won on the left. As it had all game, the sun shone brightly down as Spurs’ white shirts gathered in front of the goal at The Whitehorse Lane End.
That sun dazzled not least because the pitch sparkled, having been heavily watered before the game and at half-time, to such an extent that rolled passes drew fine spray up from the grass. The ball was floated by Eriksen across the 6-yard box to Kane who lurked beyond the goal. Our hero rose majestically, to meet the ball with perfection and to loop a header over the goalkeeper and his defence. The ball arched beneath the crossbar, over the line and the massed Spurs army in the Arthur Wait Stand rose as one. For the 134th time in his senior Spurs career, Harry Kane ran towards them, arms aloft to celebrate with gusto. His 102nd Premier League goal had won the game, and lifted Spurs into the top four. Harry Kane! Yo the man!
Mauricio Pochettino sprung a couple of surprises in his selection with Jan Vertonghen omitted, apparently due to an ankle injury sustained in training yesterday. Hopefully this is not serious enough to keep “Super Jan” out for long. Jan had been a Premier League ever-present this season. Eric Dier stepped into his shoes, and Victor Wanyama took up station next to Dembele. Erik Lamela was chosen to start ahead of Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura, both of whom did come off the bench in the second half. Palace have been decimated by injuries, and their squad included some unfamiliar names including debutant at right back Aaron Wan-Bissaka. January signing Alexander Sorloth made his home debut in a front three which included former Spur Andros Townsend, and Christian Benteke, who has only two goals to his name this season.
Palace nominally lined up in a 4-3-3, and in fairness, when they did break forward they did give Spurs one or two problems. However, most of the time, Palace played like an away team at home, and got their men behind the ball, successfully frustrating Spurs, who struggled to play penetrating football.
Spurs kicked off in the noon sunshine, playing towards The Holmesdale Road Stand. After 7 minutes, Dele was fouled by Fosu-Mensah. Eriksen floated in a free kick which was reached by Ben Davies, whose short pass across the goalmouth was cleared for a corner by Tomkins. Two minutes later a ball by Dele Alli was fed into Kane’s path in error by Van Aanholt. Kane fired, but Hennessey somehow saved, conceding another corner.
Hennessey also held another Eriksen free kick taken in the 13th minute. After 15 minutes, Kane was surely fouled near the halfway line, but ignored by referee Kevin Friend, as Palace broke forward with Lloris out to collect a challenging cross by Van Aanholt. Wanyama hit a long ball forward which nearly found the advancing Dele Alli, but the goalkeeper reached the ball first.
A poor clearance by Dier gave Palace an opportunity to attack. Townsend took the chance and passed inside to McArthur, whose shot was blocked by Davinson Sanchez, who had an excellent game today at the heart of our defence. After 29 minutes, it looked like Mr. Friend was pointing to the spot when Kane was brought down in the box when reaching Dele’s ball. The referee quickly changed his signal to an offside against Kane in response to the assistant’s flag.
Towards the end of the half, Serge Aurier was called twice for foul throws, and this happened again once in the second half. I believe it was for a foot or feet raised of the ground, but whatever the case, it was very unprofessional. As half time approached, Andros Townsend had a half-hit shot at goal, but it was an easy pick-up for Hugo. Mousa Dembele picked up the only booking of the game for a foul on Townsend as he threatened to break forward.
Two minutes into the second half, Dele was foiled, but Mr. Friend waved “play-on” and the ball reached the feet of Kane, whose shot was recklessly off target. Spurs were well on top during this spell. Davies crossed after 50 minutes, and Eriksen latched onto the ball hitting a rising shot over the bar. After 53 minutes, Aurier flicked the ball to Eriksen, who also hit a first-time lofted flick to the back post where Kane had the goal at his mercy. Harry fired wide across the goal. It was a great chance spurned.
After 58 minutes Dele fed the ball to Aurier who had a little space inside the right of the area. Aurier shot, and Hennessey saved. The ball ran to Eriksen who tried to place a shot to the right of the keeper, but Palace cleared this attempt.
Sorloth looked a danger when getting onto a long forward pass, but Spurs cleared the threat. Erik Lamela, who had looked keen, but had little positive effect, was replaced by Lucas Moura, who once again offered some bright moments.
Dele was attracting the attention of Palace players and fans for alleged dives, and the referee had words with Dele and Van Aanholt after Dele had gone over in the box as a result of a challenge where I felt there was definite contact, if not a foul. Similarly, later Dele went to the ground when colliding with the goalkeeper, but I don’t think he was seeking a reward here.
Dele had won a corner after that incident with Van Aanholt and the second corner reached Wanyama who got it to the feet of Ben Davies. Davies hit a shot just inside Hennessey’s right post, but the goalkeeper stretched and saved brilliantly with his right hand.
Dembele was replaced by Son, and now Spurs were going all out for the win – down both flanks. After a Spurs corner on the left, taken by Eriksen, Kane had the ball just inside the right side of the Palace area, he tricked one defender, went around another before hitting a shot which took an involuntary defensive touch which Hennessey had to save with a reaction save at his left post. Aurier then had a brilliant chance to score from Davies’ cross. The Spurs right back was in front of an open goal, but somehow managed to lose control of the ball in his feet, thus failing to shoot, and score. James Tomkins had been injured at the start of this passage of domineering Spurs play and he was replaced by Delaney.
Lucas Moura passed inside the b ox to Kane who had a shot pass just the wrong side of the keeper’s right post. Then came the breakthrough, courtesy of a corner won by Aurier’s deflected cross, taken from the left by Eriksen, met by one Harry Kane. Hennessey did actually get a touch to the ball, but he could not prevent the goal!
Spurs ran down the remaining time professionally and even managed one more chance when Lucas was fouled and Eriksen’s free kick went for another corner.
Harry’s goal was his 35th Spurs goal of the season, already matching his total for last season. He still tops the Premier League score chart (24), and Spurs remained in the top four with Chelsea losing at Old Trafford. Next week Chelsea play Man City away, so hopefully Spurs can improve their hold on a top four place. The other good news today was Arsenal losing the Carabao Cup Final to Man City 3-0, so without doubt it was a great day to be a Spur!
P.S. – This was Spurs’ fourth consecutive 1-0 win against Palace.
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