My thanks go to Declan Mulcahy for his match report.
Saturday 1 January 2022, 3:00pm
Watford (0) 0 Tottenham Hotspur (0) 1
SŠnchez 90 +6
Watford (4-4-2): Claudio Ranieri
26 D Bachmann; 15 C Cathcart 5 W Troost-Ekong, 31 F Sierralta, 11 A Masina; 33 J Kucka, 6 I Louza (8 T Cleverley 90+1), 19 M Sissoko (c), 12 K Sema (29 C Hernandez 90+10); 7 J King, 25 E Dennis (10 J Pedro 45)
Subs not Used: 41 V Angelini, 2 J Ngakia, 42 J Morris, 16 D Gosling, 18 O Tufan, 17 A Fletcher
Tottenham Hotspur (3-4-3):
1 H Lloris (c); 6 D Sanchez, 15 E Dier, 33 B Davies; 12 Emerson Royal,
5 P-E Hojbjerg, 29 O Skipp (8 H Winks 70), 3 S Reguilon (18 G Lo Celso 83); 27 Lucas Moura (11 B Gil 90+1), 10 H Kane, 7 H-M Son
Subs not Used: 22 P Gollini, 2 M Doherty, 14 J Rodon, 25 J Tanganga,20 D Alli, 28 T Ndombele
Booked: Skipp (61 foul on Pedro)
Vicarage Road, Attendance: 20,391
Referee: Robert Jones.
Assistant Referees: Richard West, Nick Hopton.
Fourth Official: Craig Pawson.
VAR: Lee Mason.
Assistant VAR: Darren Cann.
A New Yearís Day Hangover - but Sanchez the hero
This was a low-key game with little excitement and few goal-scoring opportunities. Both teams played as though they spent too much time celebrating on New Yearís Eve which they probably hadnít. The result was satisfactory for Spurs but the means by which it was achieved wasnít.
Spurs made two changes from the team which drew with Southampton with Skipp and Lucas Moura predictably replacing Winks and Dele Alli. Watford made three changes after the home defeat to West Ham with Troost-Ekong, Sema and Louza returning.
The first half was in many ways a continuation of the second half against Southampton. Watford appeared to be ready to settle for a 0-0 draw from the kick off. They were happy to let Spurs have the ball. While Spurs dominated possession they couldnít translate it into goal-scoring opportunities.
They were a number of attacks down the right flank. Emerson Royal either attempted to cross the ball or did so but there wasnít a glimmer of an opportunity from any of his efforts which were fairly ineffective.
Spurs first attempt came from Hojbjerg on the edge of the box following a Watford clearance but his shot was too high. Shortly afterward Kane tried a shot but it went directly to the goalkeeper.
Spurs best opportunity came after 26 minutes. Reguilon unleashed a shot from the edge of the box which was on target and the Watford goalkeeper Bachmann had to move quickly to his left to make the save. Then Kane had the ball in the box and fell to ground after an awkward challenge by Troost-Ekong but it wasnít a clear and obvious penalty.
Watfordís efforts in the first half could be summed up by a free kick they were awarded in their own half with about four minutes left in the half. Goalkeeper Bachmann took the kick. It cleared all of the Watford players and landed in Llorisís hands; in effect a pass from one goalkeeper to the other.
The teams showed a little more urgency in the second half with Watford finally showing some attacking intent.
Spurs had the first couple of opportunities. Bachmann saved a shot from Moura and then tipped a shot from Kane on the edge of the box over the bar.
King then found himself in a good position on the edge of the Spurs box on target which required a diving save by Lloris. Shortly afterward Skipp received the only booking of the game pulling back Joao Pedro just as he was about to run into the Spurs box.
Around the midway point of the half Emerson Royal finally produced a nice cross towards Kane and Son who were directly in front of the Watford goal. The former couldnít reach the ball. The latter did but was unable to score from what was the most promising opportunity to date.
Then Lucas Moura lofted a ball to Son in the box. He produced a nice goalward shot which Bachmann tipped over.
With about nine minutes remaining Joao Pedro burst clear of the Spurs defenders and entered the box with only Lloris to beat. Lloris went down for the ball and the two players collided. Referee Jones decided there was no case to answer and waved play on. Watford felt hard done by but VAR didnít intervene.
With four minutes remaining the medics came charging across the pitch to attend a spectator in distress in the Graham Taylor Stand. Play was halted for about eight minutes.
By the time the game resumed the ninety minutes were up. Initially it looked as though Spurs wouldnít benefit from the time added on. Then Kucka fouled Son on the left of the Watford box. Son took the free-kick and sent the ball into the box. Sanchez rose above everyone to direct the ball into the net with a header. There were another six minutes of time added on after the goal. At one point the Watford striker King set off on a run but was stopped by a well-timed tackle by Winks.
Watford probably felt hard done by given the lateness of the goal and the penalty appeal which was turn down.
For Spurs it was a welcome three points but raised significant questions. This was a game between a team who aspire to qualify for the Champions League and another team one place above the relegation zone who havenít kept a clean sheet in their last 28 Premier League games dating back to February 2000. Under the circumstances having to wait until the sixth minute of time added on the end of the game for the only goal wasnít acceptable.
Antonio Conte extended his unbeaten run to eight Premier League matches, the best ever start by a Tottenham manager. While that should please him he will be cognisant that the squad he has inherited wonít be able to achieve his goals for the season as things stand.
The transfer window opened today and based on what he has seen to date in the time he has been in charge Conte will be hoping to recruit at least a midfielder who can create regular goal scoring opportunities for Kane and Son something which has been lacking since the departure of Christian Eriksen two years ago. Based on todayís substitutions it would appear that Conte thinks that Winks still has a future at the club whereas the fate of Dele Alli and Ndombele is uncertain.
It is clear that Conte is a very good appointment as manager. However the squad needs a player or two to make a strong push for a Champions League qualifying position at the end of the season. Hopefully the January transfer window can remedy the principal weaknesses that Conte has identified. The outcome could determine whether or not Conte and the club have a long future together.
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