WEDNESDAY 13th DECEMBER, 2017
(8pm - at Wembley)
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2(1) BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION 0(0)
Referee:- Bobby Madley
Assistants:- Simon Bennett & Marc Perry
Fourth official:- Kevin Friend
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Aurier, Dier, Vertonghen, Rose; Sissoko, Winks (sub Dembele, 67); Lamela (sub Dele, 74), Eriksen, Son (sub Davies, 90); Kane
Subs not used:- Vorm; Trippier, Foyth; Llorente
Booked:- Rose (foul on Schelotto)
Brighton (4-5-1):- Ryan; Schelotto, Duffy, Dunk (Capt.), Bong; Knockaert, Kayal (sub Gross, 78), Stephens, Propper, Izquierdo (sub March, 62); Hemed (sub Murray, 72)
Subs not used:- Krul; Bruno, Brown, Goldson
Spurs pierce Brighton's defensive dome
It wasn't the dome of the Brighton Pavilion, and I wouldn't go so far as to refer to it as "Brighton Rock", but Chris Hughton had his team well drilled in a 10-man defensive dome which presented Spurs with the same condundrum as several other teams have found this season. How do you deal with a flock of "Seagulls"?
It was a surprise to me that familiar Brighton names such as Glenn Murray and Bruno (both veteran players mind) did not feature the starting line-up. Indeed one or two of the names are mysteries to me such as "Bong", Schelotto and Izquierdo to name just three. Never mind that. With Hemed playing the lone front runner, supported by the pace of Knockaert and Izquierdo when opportunities arose to countr-attack, the visitors presented Spurs with the usual problem of trying to find a way through such a determined defence.
It took Serge Aurier's fortuitous 40th minute goal (it was intended as a cross) to break the deadlock, and a late near post header by Son Heung-min made the score respectable - and my prediction correct!
The Spurs full backs were rotated, as expected, and Dele Alli was rested on the bench, making way for Erik Lamela to make his first Premier League start since October last year. The pace of Lamela and innovation from the likes of Son and Kane were perhaps Spurs' best chances of breaking down Brighton. Unfortunately, Harry Winks was well below par and he was replaced mid-way through the second half by Dembele. I thought it was Winks' most disappointing game for us, and great improvement will be required if he starts at The Etihad on Saturday.
The Wembley crowd was somewhat threadbare last night. Brighton sent a full contingent of enthusiastic supporters, but the Spurs atmosphere rarely surfaced. Clearly many season ticket holders opted to stay at home. I have two whose seats are next to me who I have only seen twice all season! They live in Essex. I live 150 miles away. What is it about Wembley that deters so many people from travelling across London?
The game rarely excited, truth be told. There was just a job to be done. After two minutes, it looked as if an Eriksen pass down the line on the left would come to nothing, but Son managed to retrieve the situation, and the ball, coming inside and winning a corner with his shot. After the corner, a Harry Kane cross from the right was cleared.
Brighton did attack on occasions and after four minutes clever play by Knockaert saw him advance well into the Spurs half, hitting a pass to Izquierdo, whose shot was too high.
At the other end, both Son and Lamela had efforts blocked after Sissoko's short cross from the right. Erik Lamela was fouled on the right and took the free kick himself, but this was cleared.
Jan Vertonghen hit a delightful diagonal ball to Aurier on the right, and his cross/shot won a corner. After the corner, both Eriksen and Kane had shots blocked. Son had a better chance following another corner, taken from the left. Kane fed the ball on, but Son fired over the bar from short range, when he really should have scored.
The tables were turned with Son feeding Kane from the left. Harry cut inside and hit a right foot shot which was easy for keeper Matthew Ryan.
Spurs were dominating possession and chances, but it was very much a case of the killer pass or final touch just not coming. Kane had another shot blocked, and Lamela fired too high after good work by Son. Sissoko had a shot held by Ryan, having been teed up by Kane.
Then came the breakthrough, as Aurier penetrated deep on the right flank, and hit an intended cross, which caught Ryan too far from the back post, with the ball floating over his head hitting the net in the right corner. It was Aurier's first goal for the club, and one he celebrated with gusto, whatever the circumstances. We cheered too!
Five minutes into the second half, with Spurs playing towards the West stand (as per tradition this season), Harry Kane pushed the ball out to Danny Rose, who crossed with Kane the recipient hitting a shot that was blocked, before trying to set up Son whose effort was saved, and who was offside anyway.
Erik Lamela was on the left channel and got a left foot shot in under pressure which was always going outside the post, but did hit the post, having been deflected for a corner. Danny Rose took the kick, and Eric Dier met it with a header at the near post but too high across the goal.
After a mistake by Eriksen in the middle, Brighton countered through Knockaert, passing to Hemed, whose shot was held by Lloris. Spurs responded quickly and Kane tried to send Lamela away, but he was offside too.
After 64 minutes Lamela passed to Son who hit a powerful shot deflected out for a corner by a good block by Brighton skipper Lewis Dunk.
Lloris had to make another save from Hemed, and it was looking as if Brighton might even snatch a point in front of their enthusing fans. Lamela's last action was to tee up Kane, whose shot was blocked, before Lamela was replaced by Dele Alli. Kane hit a snatched shot with his right foot which Ryan saved to his left.
Spurs were pressing again, through Dier, Son, and Dele, before Danny Rose moved into the box with a shuffle and a shot which went out for a corner. Soon after that Harry Kane took a free kick from 22 yards, beating the wall, and looking goalward to the left of Ryan. Ryan saved and pushed the ball onto the post. The ball ran out in Brighton's favour.
A more emphatic win was deserved by Spurs, and it came with minutes left. Aurier was fouled on the right only about 4 yards out from the bye-line. Eriksen hit a powered free kick and Son stopped to glance a header which went into the net, getting a deflection on the way. It was Son's goal though, and his fourth in consecutive games.
The win put Spurs back into the top four, after goalless draws for Liverpool (at home to West Brom) and Arsenal (away to West Ham). We have a tough task to retain that place with our trip to Man City on Saturday, but as Pochettino says, we will play to win!
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