Match: Saturday 17th January 2015.
Competition: Premier League.
Venue: White Hart Lane.
Result: Tottenham 2-1 Sunderland.
Tottenham goal scorers: Jan Vertonghen 3’, Christian Eriksen 88’.
Sunderland goal scorer: Sebastian Larsson 31’.
It’s becoming a habit now, winning late on in games, and one that brings a lot of pleasure to the fans, players, and Mauricio Pochettino. There are a lot of factors which have been shouted about as to why we have the ability to go the extra mile in the final stages of games, with some saying it’s character and will power, and others seeking technical improvements, such as fitness, and the sheer quality of Christian Eriksen. Whatever it is, it’s a pleasure to win in such fashion, even if it does make games a little more ‘nervy’; but that’s Tottenham, and it is entertaining! Our style of play hasn’t been very obvious this season under Pochettino, but it has been effective, and the manner we have won games that have looked certain draws or losses, is very impressive and a testament to Pochettino, who is certainly instilling belief into his players, and that is being broadcasted on the pitch. 2-1 has been a popular scoreline so far this season, and it does illustrate how difficult games have been for us, particularly against teams of lowly positioning in the League, who play scrappy football, but are successful in their attempt to disrupt our flow and rhythm, making us rely on our quality to thrust us through matches with three points. As the archaic saying goes, the sign of a good side is one that can win when playing badly. I think it is exciting to see us not play to our full potential, but still come out on top, as we all know there is more to come, when Pochettino has further implanted his philosophy into the team. This win keeps us right in the hunt for top four, and personally, although I told myself to keep expectations to a minimum this season, I have a sneaking belief that we could creep into the top four unexpectedly if we are to continue improving, and win our games against lower opposition. It’s definitely possible.
In the first half, we started very brightly, and got the goal almost immediately, when the ball in from Christian Eriksen rebounded around, before falling to the feet of Jan Vertonghen, who curled the ball into the crowd of players and acquired a deflection to lead the ball into the back of the net on 3 minutes, and showed off his ‘Super-Jan’ celebration once again, which had been missed sorely. A good start, and one that you think should lead us on to killing off the game and getting the three points, but unfortunately that is something that has lacked in our games this season, and we seem to become comfortable when going ahead, instead of improving our intensity, which is something a side like Real Madrid, Chelsea or Manchester City would do when going ahead so early in the game; and I think that’s the difference between our level and there’s, taking away the amount of World Class players they have compared to us! We pass the ball well, and we do create a good amount of chances, but I thought we lacked width in the first half, and Harry Kane was dropping too deep, leaving Roberto Soldado fairly isolated up top, which is never good. You have to query the decision of Pochettino to play in form Harry Kane out of position, to accommodate for the out of form Roberto Soldado. Christian Eriksen looked very lively in the first half, and was our key player once again, for creating openings in tight spaces for others and for himself – he is a breath-taking player, who we are privileged to have at Tottenham. Despite having most of the ball, and Sunderland not threatening us too much, despite having a claim for a penalty as Jermain Defoe went down after contact from goalscorer Jan Vertonghen, they did get the equaliser, as Jan Vertonghen took down Defoe again, and the referee did give the foul, and in a dangerous position the dangerous dead ball specialist Sebastian Larsson stepped up and perfectly slotted the ball into the top corner, out of the reach of Hugo Lloris who truly had no chance, and it needed to be special to beat him in the form he is in between the sticks. Frustratingly, we didn’t capitalise on our goal advantage and produce more goals, but instead we were right back at square one and had work to do in a crucial second half, with a second loss on the bounce to relegation threatened sides possibly on the cards, we had to deliver.
And in the second half, we did look a little better, you could identify our pressing game more, and we passed the ball more crisply. Christian Eriksen was creating chances again, and almost bagged his goal early on in the half, juggling the ball on his head, chest, knee, and then finally striking the ball just past the post; he was in scintillating form and it was a joy to watch; when Eriksen plays well, Tottenham play well. Although we were creating decent opportunities, not enough were clear cut and a point wasn’t enough for us at home to a struggling side, who weren’t exactly putting on a show, and to be honest were fairly ordinary all game, and it would have definitely been two frustrating points dropped if the game had ended all square. But there was time left, and we were patient in our build up play, brought on a few substitutes, including Andros Townsend, Emmanuel Adebayor and Paulinho, who all added something to our play, especially Townsend who added width and pace down the right hand side, where we didn’t have a natural wide player. Emmauel Adebayor, who hadn’t played since November 9th of last year, was also fairly effective, and added a runner and a spearhead to our attack, which was good to see of a player who has been heavily criticised in recent times. After chances for Nacer Chadli, Harry Kane and Emmanuel Adebayor which didn’t find the back of the net, Andros Townsend drove down the right hand side from his own half to the edge of Sunderland’s 18 yard box, before lifting his head, and rolling a ball behind Harry Kane, but fortuitously into the path of the composed Christian Eriksen who slid the ball through the swarm of defenders to find the inside of the post and the inside of the net on 88 minutes to surely give us the win. But, that wasn’t the last talking point of the game, and probably not the biggest talking point, as Sunderland goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon went forward for the corner, but the corner was collected by Harry Kane who played in Paulinho in a lightening pace counter attack, with Jan Vertonghen racing forward and he was perfectly put in by Paulinho, and the already goalscorer expertly placed the ball into the back of the net for what seemed like 3-1 and a great win, only for the linesman to call for offside, even though the Belgian was inside his own half, and so immune from the offside rule, but it seems the linesman and Chris Foy are unaware of the rules they enforce! There would have been riots if that goal had been important to the result, but thankfully it only affects our goal difference. Thankfully, the result stayed the same and we gained the three points to put us 5th in the Premier League table.
We performed fairly well, but we certainly weren’t on top form, with Harry Kane and Nacer Chadli not at their brilliant best, it was Christian Eriksen who drove us forward, created chances, the joint highest of any player in Saturday’s games, and he made us collectively better, with his spreading of the play and ability on the ball; I couldn’t be anymore complimentary to the Dane, and his goal scoring rate is sensational so far this season, and he has been scoring winning goals for us all season long, spectacularly! He’s definitely my man of the match for this game. Our substitutes were effective, especially Andros Townsend and Emmanuel Adebayor, who added pace and energy to our side, and helped us stretch the Sunderland defence. I don’t think anyone can deny that Adebayor’s form hasn’t been great, and he’s become something of a scapegoat for Tottenham fans, but when he came on he almost scored, he ran the channels well and almost provided a wonderful assist for Harry Kane – which isn’t bad for a cameo appearance for the Togolese striker linked with various different clubs throughout Europe and America. It’s unsure whether he has a long-term future at Spurs, but he’s a good outlet to have, with different attributes to our other strikers, possibly he does still hold a place in the squad, as he says he doesn’t want to leave. Jan Vertonghen has been very consistent at the back, and he provided a long awaited goal, but it’s not just his goal that makes his performance so good, he was a leader, who guided Eric Dier through his first Premier League start at centre back, and they did well to contain Steven Fletcher and Jermain Defoe. We did well to get the three points, and now we have to turn focus to an incredibly important game against Sheffield United in the semi-final of the Capital One Cup.
A good win, even though our performance wasn’t top draw the result was crucial and we move to 5th in the Premier League and return to winning ways in the League after slipping up against Palace last week, now we need to get a run of results again and start it off with a good win in midweek in the Capital One Cup semi-final first leg against Sheffield United at the Lane, and then we return to Premier League action against Tony Pulis’ West Brom at the Hawthorns on the 31st of January, but prior to that we have cup duties to attend to with both legs of the Capital One Cup semi final, as well as the 4th round of the FA Cup up against Leicester. Hopefully January 2015 can be a very successful one in both the cups and the Premier League. Follow @AddictedToSpurs for it all. COYS!!
My player ratings for the side that faced Sunderland at the Lane:
Lloris – 9
Walker – 6
Dier – 7.5
Vertonghen – 8.5
Rose – 7
Stambouli – 7
Dembele – 7 (Townsend 75’ – 7.5)
Eriksen – 9
Chadli – 6.5 (Paulinho 86’ N/A)
Kane – 7.5
Soldado – 6 (Adebayor 61’ 7)
Mauricio Pochettino’s post match press conference: