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Spurs v Newcastle, 09.05.18

(8pm – at Wembley)

Kane, 50

Attendance:- 54,923

Referee:- Neil Swarbrick
Assistants:- Scott Ledger, Richard West
Fourth official:- Martin Atkinson

Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Trippier (sub Alderweireld, 83), Sanchez, Vertonghen, Davies; Sissoko, Wanyama (sub Rose, 88); Eriksen, Dele, Son (sub Lamela, 77); Kane

Subs not used:- Vorm; Foyth; Lucas Moura; Llorente

Booked:- Dele (Dissent after foul by Davies), Lamela (foul on Joselu)

Newcastle (4-3-3):- Dubravka; Yedlin, Lascelles (Capt.), Lejeune, Dummett; Diame, Shelvey, Kenedy (sub Murphy, 71); Ritchie, Perez, Gayle (sub Joselu, 76)

Subs not used:- Darlow; Manquillo, Haidara; Merino, Hayden

Booked:- Ritchie (foul on Davies), Diame (foul on Trippier), Yedlin (foul on Lamela)

Champions League secured with a game to spare!

It wasn’t pretty and Spurs’ poor end of season form continued, but a fine instinctive goal by Harry Kane early in the second half, coupled with Huddersfield’s heroic draw at Stamford Bridge, secured a third consecutive Champions League season for Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs. Newcastle were certainly not “on the beach” and were clearly determined to give a good account of themselves. The visitors had the best chances, and more of them over the course of the game, not least Shelvey’s first half free kick which hit Lloris’s left post, and a header by Lascelles which required one of Hugo’s finest saves. The fact that at the time of writing Hugo has been voted our man of the match says it all.

Pochettino was without Dier, Dembele and Aurier, and reverted to his 4-2-3-1 with Wanyama and Sissoko the defensive midfield pairing. The selection of Sissoko continues to astound most Spurs fans, but Pochettino has put his faith in this player more than almost any other member of the squad in terms of starts and substitute appearances. Only Vertonghen and Kane exceed him, whilst Dier and Eriksen have the same number of appearances. Sissoko has the least starts (25) of all those players. Son replaced Lamela up top. The Newcastle side included former Spur Deandre Yedlin.

Newcastle kicked off, playing towards the West goal, and they had a full contingent of fans, which is more than can be said for Spurs. Despite an attendance of over 50,000, many of our fans cannot be bothered to make what is viewed as an arduous trip across London to our temporary home. Sunday will be our last game at this venue until we reach a Cup semi-final or final!

Harry Kane tried unsuccessfully to get onto an early Trippier ball, and Newcastle threatened as they broke down the right channel. After 4 minutes Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka could only parry a cross from Son Heung-min, but his defence cleared. Sissoko, playing towards the right side, passed to Trippier who passed inside where Wanyama was fouled towards the edge of the box on the right. Eriksen took the free kick and Dubravka saved diving to his right. After 10 minutes, Vertonghen was disappointed not to be awarded a free kick by referee Neil Swarbrick and Perez had a shot which Lloris held comfortably.

In the early stages neither Dele Alli, or Harry Kane were seeing much of the ball, and this was partly due to lack of service and penetration by their supporting players. In fact, a general trend for Spurs was lack of invention, creativity, and speed of thought and action. At half-time I wrote we were not looking like a Champions League team.

The first half continued with Sissoko committing a foul on Gayle on the edge of the Spurs box. Shelvey took the free kick, and although I thought Lloris had the shot covered (and indeed, I thought he had saved the shot), the ball ran out off the outside of the goalkeeper’s left post. It was a long time before Spurs offered any threat, and this came midway through the half after Trippier and Eriksen combined on the right. Wanyama had a shot on goal, but this passed wide. Lloris’s fine save, diving to his right , came from a close range header by Newcastle captain Jamaal Lascelles following a corner. Gayle headed over when he had an excellent opportunity following Perez’s cross from the right. Somehow, Spurs were being successfully closed down and harried wherever they tried to take the ball, whilst the Newcastle players (wearing a light blue strip) always seemed to have space, and often found their men in the Spurs half. The answer is more direct play, and this is an area I want to see Pochettino and his team improve in future.

Harry Kane had a chance when he met a deep cross by Eriksen from the right, beyond the far post, but the striker fired the ball wide back across the goal. Jan Vertonghen got forward after some Spurs play on the right, and had a go from 22 yards, but the goalkeeper held the attempt. Eriksen was fouled 22 yards out and Kane took this free kick putting the ball out to Trippier on the right. Trippier crossed, and Sissoko’s header was comfortably held. Gayle had a shot held after a cross from the right and Ritchie fired wide. In the closing period Kane had another opportunity but mishit his attempt.

Ryan Mason received warm applause at half-time when he was interviewed by Paul Coyte.

Spurs took that precious lead five minutes into the second half, and it was good quick play which led to the chance. Vertonghen brought the ball out to Dele Alli towards the left. Dele crossed to Son, who was right of the area. Son hit a first time cross which was met beautifully by Kane for a right footed shot into the corner of the net with Dubravka well beaten to his left. It was Kane’s 28th Premier League goal of the season, and his 39th in all competitions this season. The records continue, even if his form has waned since injury.

Vertonghen was still up a few minutes later after another spurs corner Wanyama and Eriksen combined and passed to Vertonghen towards the left, but his cross was cleared. Wanyama headed over from another corner. Eyes were also on the score at Stamford Bridge, where they were level, before Huddersfield even took a lead. As long as Chelsea didn’t win, and Spurs could hold their lead they would be through to the Champions League. Newcastle would have quite happily have been party poopers though. Dele got booked for arguing with the referee over his decision to award a foul against Ben Davies. After a cross from the right Dummett had a shot from close range blocked. Both Perez and Kenedy had shots either saved or go wide as Newcastle tried to get back on terms.

Son raced onto a clearance down the right and Sissoko was with him, crossing to Dele whose shot was easily held by Dubravka. Chelsea loanee Kenedy was replaced by Murphy who immediately had a chance as he left both Trippier and Sanchez standing as he raced down the left flank, headed for goal before firing wide from a narrow angle.

Kieran Trippier suffered an injury and had to be replaced by Toby Alderweireld, who got one of the biggest cheers of the night. By this time, the Chelsea score (confirmed as a 1-1 draw) had filtered through to the fans, and suddenly their support reached the levels that would have been helpful earlier in the game. Danny Rose replaced Wanyama, who also took a knock, and the left back had the best chance in the late stages. Dele had passed low from the left. Lamela might have shot on goal, but fed the ball to Rose on his right and Danny’s shot was saved.

There was a full five minutes of added time to be endured before we could cheer a victory and that qualification for the 2018-19 Champions League! The result also takes us third – two points above Liverpool - where we will stay, as long as we match their result on Sunday. That would be fantastic, especially in a season where all our games have been played away from our true home, but I will having a chill out Sunday when Leicester come to Wembley! The dream of having Champions League decorations on display in our fantastic new stadium has been achieved. We are also the top team in London this season!


PS - This was referee Neil Swarbrick's last game as match referee before retirement.

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