Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton
White Hart Lane, Sunday 8th May 2016
> Brace of goals for Steven Davis
> Appalling refereeing decisions again from Jon Moss
> Up to 6th in the League. One game left.
Last Monday, in the Battle of Stamford Bridge (2016 not 1066), Spurs lost their chance to catch Leicester City bringing enormous joy to the East Midlands; and to most of the UK; and to pretty much the whole world if truth be told. The mantle of evil villains sits comfortably with Tottenham as they have all the characteristics of really nasty bad-guys.
So, not a great time to be facing the Saints who had rattled in 18 goals in their previous 8 games, winning 5 and losing just once – away at Champions Leicester City. Unsurprisingly Saints were unchanged. Spurs brought in Mason to replace the suspended Dembele. Had Monday’s referee, Clattenberg, shown greater diligence the other night, Spurs might have had to replace a few more suspended players for our match.
It was hot on Sunday. At times the pitch-side temperature reached 28C (that is 82F for imperialists). The game did not begin at a particularly high tempo. The early minutes had the feel of a boxing match where both fighters were careful not to walk onto a knock-out blow.
Spurs were getting forward more but with no end product. Saints were guilty of wasting possession by over-hitting forward passes – too long for Long, as it were. The game burst into life on 5 minutes when Rose found Eriksen on the edge of the box, and the Dane’s fierce shot was superbly turned away for a corner by Fraser. Saints cleared the corner but Spurs continued to boss possession with Eriksen clearly revelling in the “number 10” role vacated by Alli.
Saints first significant attack saw Tadić get behind Walker. With Davis unmarked in the middle, the Serb drove the ball beyond him – and beyond the far post. A better pass would have given Steve a tap-in.
Saints were happy to cede territory and seek opportunities to counterattack. They looked fairly comfortable until the 16th minute when it all went tits-up.
In recent seasons, Saints’ visits to WHL have seen us concede various comedy goals, but this one was a real cracker. Son picked up the ball in the inside right position and played a pass through the Saints defence. Harry Kane was off-side and knew it, so made no attempt to chase the ball. Virgil and Fraser could have easily dealt with the situation but both seemed to think the other would. In the meantime, Son burst into the box in pursuit of his own pass and, by the time Fraser had reacted, Son had reached the ball. Our keeper dared not go in feet first for fear of clattering Son, but his dive missed the ball entirely, leaving the Korean in possession. He cut in along the touchline, avoided the defenders and slotted the ball past them. 1-0 Spurs. The funny thing was – I wasn’t surprised.
Saints carried on sitting back and looking to break, when they won the ball. Long was repeatedly flagged when chasing forward passes and these offside decisions were looking increasingly dodgy. On 20 minutes Tadić had a long range shot which flew well wide. At the other end, Walker broke down the wing and looked for Kane at the near post - but his volley sailed high into the crowd.
On 24 minutes Mané tried to run through the whole Spurs defence. MOTD2 suggested that Dier’s challenge on him might be worth a penalty, but I couldn’t see it. The ball ended up on the left with Tadić whose cross was too near Lloris.
On 26m, Lamela and Eriksen worked an opening for the latter to shoot, but Fraser made a straightforward save. A minute later Saints lost the ball in a dangerous area, but Kane had not got his shooting boots on today and he fired wide again.
Then Long skinned Toby in the box but collected a whack in the face - which the referee chose to ignore. But Saints were beginning to push Spurs back and an enterprising run down the left by Bertie ended when Rose headed his cross behind for a corner. Bertie curled in the corner and Lloris punched it out for a throw. Saints worked an opening for Martina but the off-side flag went up.
On 31 minutes Saints were level. Tadić was having a spell on the right, when a long ball from mid-field found him breaking into the box. He controlled the dropping ball and quickly turned it inside for Davis to tuck it under the dive of Lloris. 1-1. Drew remarked that there were times when Saints would have fallen apart after conceding early at Spurs and it was so nice to see our more resilient side peg them back.
Walker had been hurt in a clash with Bertie before the goal. While he was treated both sets of players took a drinks break before the restart. Mané was hurt when he went he went down and Lamela fell on top of him. When he was OK to continue Saints fans took great delight in shouting “Hoof!” when one of Toby’s trade-mark cross field passes sailed into touch.
With half-time approaching the tempo visibly slowed – presumably the heat taking its toll. Lord help those who’ll be playing in France in the coming months.
Both Spurs full-backs then had long range shots – Walker’s deflected for a corner, but Rose’s sailed off into the crowd. On 41 minutes Saints won a free-kick, which Bertie lofted forwards. Rose headed away, but Saints recovered possession. As they broke into the box play was halted by the referee: free-kick Spurs – Lord alone knows why!
The referee made another dodgy call as Tadić was tripped on the edge of Spurs box. Play on? FFS! In the 3 added minutes, Saints again broke into the box. This time Tadić was thwarted by Mason at the expense of a corner. Steve Davis took it, the ball eventually reaching Martina: his cross was fielded by Lloris. Just before the whistle, Kane “shrugged off” Fonte and cut in along the bye-line from the left. This time Fraser was on guard at his near post and blocked his shot. Then it was half-time. 1-1.
Neither side made changes and it was Saints first on the front foot, as Mané reached the right-side bye-line. As Long drifted towards the near post, Mané ignored him and picked out an unmarked Spurs midfielder instead. On 50 minutes Mané was booked for a foul on Rose.
Spurs then enjoyed a sustained period of possession, but created nothing of note. Saints broke away on 56 minutes and Tadić sent over a lovely cross which Long met at the far post. He may have been unsighted by the defender jumping with him, but might easily have put Saints ahead. Instead his header went past the far post.
Romeu came on for Clasie on 57 minutes. It was very hot. Two minutes later Kane fired another shot wide of the target, but Saints then enjoyed a period of pressure. There was a lovely example of what Koeman’s Saints are all about just past the hour mark. A loose pass by Davis gave away possession and Walker broke away. The Northern Irish skipper chased him down, then put the ball into touch with a terrific sliding tackle, stopping Spurs from gaining further ground.
Spurs enjoyed more pressure winning further corners but Saints coped comfortably. Then, on 65m both sides made substitutions with Pellè on for Mané and N’Jie replacing Son. Moments later, Lamella threatened to breach Saints defence - until a superb tackle by Virgil halted his progress.
On 68 minutes Walker won a corner for Spurs. The ball reached Eriksen whose curled shot might have been heading inside the far post – until it struck Mason and bounced to safety. The referee then called an official drinks break and both sets of players took the opportunity to replace fluid.
The game resumed and on 72 minutes Romeu made a telling intervention to win possession, setting Saints on the front foot. The ball was delivered to Davis on the left corner of Spurs box. The midfielder turned inside, played a one-two with Tadić before setting himself to shoot. It was not a particularly hard strike but it was remarkably accurate. The ball went low, beyond the dive of Lloris and nestled in the bottom corner: 2-1 Saints!
Sometimes Tadić can be an infuriating player, but here were another pair of assists for the Serb. Only Fabregas and Ozil have provided more in the EPL. Romeu “took one for the team” on 74 minutes, upending Eriksen and getting a yellow card. Lamela was then awarded an extremely generous free kick in a decent position. We were worried that Kane might finally find his range but, to our delight, Lamela stepped up and fired it into the crowd behind the goal.
Spurs continued to keep the ball and Virgil was obliged to concede a corner. It was on 78 minutes and before the kick Spurs replaced Mason with Chadli. Lamela’s corner came to Eriksen who put the ball wide. On 80 minutes Victor sent Long away: as Shane rounded Toby the ball ran away from him and Lloris collected it.
At some point, Romeu became bloodied and the ref sent him away to be fixed. He returned with a head-bandage which made him look (even more) like a Mexican bandit. Then Long chased a ball into Spurs’ box. Realising Lloris would collect he attempted to stop, slipped over and slid under the keeper. The idiot Moss felt that warranted a yellow card.
Spurs kept passing sideways without disrupting our defence. As soon as Saints won the ball it was played up to Pellè whose header found Long, but the Irishman shot over. With 5 minutes left, Ron sent on JWP to replace Tadić.
Spurs won, and wasted, another corner, but when Saints went forward Pellè squandered possession. On 88m Long and Rose looked up for a fight, but no blows were landed. On 90 minutes Spurs won another mysterious free kick when Pellè competed for a header. There were 5 added minutes.
Mid-way through added time Long found JWP in space. He sized up the situation before unleashing a curling shot that somehow missed the far post. By now, Sky was tidying up by showing who was Man of the Match (Davis), the possession stats (Saints 30%) and goal attempts (Saints 2 on target). That is what I’d describe as “effective”.
In the final minutes Spurs were awarded another free-kick which Eriksen delivered into the box. It fell to Chadli whose first time shot was blocked by the huge frame of Forster. From the resulting corner Kane worked another shooting chance – but this too sailed wide.
Time was up. The whistle went and Saints celebrated a fine win. In (just) less than 2 seasons, Koeman’s Saints had beaten every other Premier League side: at least once.
MoM: Sky went for Steven Davis and that seems like a decent call to me.
8 Mason (Chadli 78')
7 Son Heung-min (N'Jie 65')
17 van Dijk
4 Clasie (Romeu 58' - Booked 74')
10 Mané - Booked 50' (Pellè 65')
11 Tadic (Ward-Prowse 86')
7 Long - Booked 83'
Tottenham Hotspur 1
- Son Heung-min - 16'
- Davis 31', 72'
Referee : Jonathan Moss
Attendance : 35,748
- Tottenham Hotspur 71%
- Southampton 29%
- Tottenham Hotspur 20
- Southampton 10
Shots on Target
- Tottenham Hotspur 6
- Southampton 2
- Tottenham Hotspur 10
- Southampton 2
- Tottenham Hotspur 8
- Southampton 15