TUESDAY 2ND JANUARY, 2018
SWANSEA CITY 0(0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2(1)
Referee: Bobby Madley
Assistants: Marc Perry, Stephen Child
Fourth official: Lee Probert
Swansea (3-5-1-1):- Fabianski; Van der Hoorn, Fernandez, Mawson; Rangel (Capt.) (sub Narsingh, 53), Renato Sanches, Clucas, Carroll (sub Routledge, 78), Olsson; Ayew; Dyer (sub McBurnie, 70)
(Armband to Fernandez)
Subs not used:- Nordfeldt; Bartley; Fer, Mesa
Booked:- Olsson (foul on Trippier), Van der Hoorn (foul on Dele)
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Trippier, Sanchez (sub Wanyama, 59), Vertonghen, Davies; Eriksen, Dier; Lamela (sub Sissoko, 77), Dele, Son; Llorente (sub Kane, 68)
Subs not used; Vorm; Aurier, Walker-Peters; Winks
Booked:- Sanchez (foul on Olsson), Lamela (foul on Carroll)
Almost a “Swans’” Lake, so no ballet.
Those of a certain age may remember that back in the days of black and white television Christmas entertainment used to include the Blackpool Tower Circus, which always had a finale where the circus ring was filled with water. Those who approached The Liberty Stadium last night through the rivers of rain along the footpaths and roads entered with trepidation regarding the viability of seeing 90 minutes’ football. The drainage in the Swansea stadium must be good though because although conditions were difficult and windswept with driving rain falling for the first half, the ball did run fairly well, although as the game progressed more and more spray was evident, and the players were required to try and adjust their game and the strength of their passing accordingly. Hence the Blackpool Tower Circus analogy.
We did get a game , and for much of the first half, Spurs were in total control, with the game being played mostly in Swansea’s half. Former “Swan” Fernando Llorente made his first Premier League start for Spurs with Harry Kane present, but starting on the bench. Thus Harry’s chance of a Premier League record three consecutive hat-tricks were diminished, but with another game on Thursday night at home to West Ham, preservation of optimum fitness levels were the priority. Some of the Spurs players coped better with the conditions than others. I felt that wide men Erik Lamela and Son Heung-min struggled and were perhaps a bit lightweight for the circumstances. Davinson Sanchez was one of those flustered by the conditions, often under-hitting his passes; getting an early booking, and finally being lucky to escape a second booking with “words” from referee Bobby Madley before Pochettino rescued him with the entrance of Victor Wanyama, which allowed Eric Dier to move into the back four. Victor was making his first appearance since August, and made an immediate impact in the middle, thriving in the conditions and fitting in like a glove. Welcome back Victor. See you Thursday!
Neither Danny Rose or Mousa Dembele made the 18, nursing knee and hip injuries respectively, but hopefully available against West Ham. Swansea were missing ex-Spur Kyle Naughton, and had other key players missing, such as strikers Abraham and Bony. New manager Carlos Carvalhal had to play Nathan Dyer as his front man, supported by Jordan Ayew, with a five man midfield in front of the back three. As such, the home side simply packed their half in the face of Tottenham’s pressing play, which produced few goal scoring opportunities despite the pressure.
Martin Olsson got the first booking of the game, almost as an afterthought by the referee after it transpired that victim Kieran Trippier needed attention to recover from the tackle. Spurs took a deserved lead in the 12th minute, and it came courtesy of an offside goal (his first for Spurs in the Premier League) by Fernando Llorente. Son was fouled by Tom Carroll out on the left; Eriksen hit a powered free kick, similar to that which Kane had converted against Stoke, and this one was met by Llorente, whose header beat Fabianski at the near post. Graciously, Llorente did not celebrate at the home of the team for whom he had been top scorer last season. His team-mates and the travelling fans did!
I met a local fan before the game who criticised his club’s board, who had sold their best players in recent years, and thus “shafted” his team, who remain rooted at the bottom of the Premier League. The most recent departures have been those of Llorente, Cork (to Burnley) and of course Sigurdsson to Everton. Add the previous season’s departure of Ashley Williams to Everton and you have the spine of a team.
Despite the conditions, Spurs were playing some slick passing football at times, and at the end of a decent play Dele Alli hit a right footed shot wide, after Llorente’s final pass. In my view, Dele is right back in form, and got everywhere for Spurs making vital defensive interceptions as well as offering plenty of threat in attack, consummated of course by his late goal. Dele attracted the ire of the home fans with his theatrical falls under challenge, but he also took a lot of physical stick from the Swansea players. Dele was my personal man of the match, although Vertonghen was immense as always at the back, and Hugo Lloris had some decent saves to make too as the game progressed.
Just after I wrote in my note book that Spurs were in total control, and playing almost permanently in the Swansea half, the “Swans” started to break out more and offered more than a little threat to the Spurs defence, the home side made a break into the Spurs half with Sanchez pulled up and booked for a foul just outside the area. Carroll shaped up for the free kick, but Renato Sanches took it, firing well over the target. Soon after that Sanches provided the pass for “Swans”’ skipper Angel Rangel to cross with Dyer’s header cleared by the Spurs defence. Around this time, there appeared to be some “fake noise” from the home fans courtesy of the loudspeakers, perhaps to drown out the home fans’ criticism of the club chairman. A cross by Dyer from the right was allowed all the way across the spurs area and Olsson hit a shot from beyond the back post which was always wide. At the other end Llorente should have scored from Eriksen’s free kick but fired just over the target.
A corner after 43 minutes, taken by Tom Carroll was headed goalward by Mawson but parried by Lloris who also saved a follow-up effort on goal.
At half-time the ground staff were busily prodding the worst affected areas of the pitch with their forks and thankfully the rain eased up, even disappearing at times, allowing conditions to improve. Clean dry kits were the order of the day for the second half and after 47 minutes, following good play by Renato Sanchez in his own half, Nathan Dyer was sent away down the left, and he hit a shot wide across Lloris’s goal. Son and Lamela had switched flanks now with Son on the right. Son fed Dele with a good pass in midfield and Dele raced forward winning a corner with his deflected shot.
Rangel suffered a knock and was replaced by Luciano Narsingh who had scored his first goal for Swansea in their win at Watford on Saturday. Soon after this Sanchez made that second sliding tackle on the stretch which saw those “words” and the substitution. Wanyama was welcomed onto the pitch with great enthusiasm by the travelling fans. Lamela was fouled on the left outside the area, and Eriksen’s free kick was parried away by Fabianski. Lamela was again fouled within minutes and this time Eriksen’s free kick was tipped out of play for a corner by the Swansea goalkeeper. Lamela soon had a yellow card for his foul on Tom Carroll. After the free kick, Swansea attacked down the right, and Narsingh had a run into the Spurs area, bringing a good save from Lloris at his left post.
Llorente was replaced by Harry Kane in the 68th minute. The departing player was cheered by both home and away fans. The arriving player was cheered by Spurs and jeered by Swansea! Dele Alli made a great run for Dier’s long ball from the Spurs half, meeting the ball towards the left of goal with great determination, but heading just outside goal. There was desperate defending at the other end as Dyer sent Ayew away on the left of goal. Dier held him up a little; Lloris dived at his feet and managed to pit him off before Ben Davies made the final challenge to prevent a shot and concede a corner. From the corner, again taken by Carroll, van der Hoorn’s header rebounded off the near post. It was beginning to look like Swansea might grab an equaliser.
Sissoko replaced Lamela and moved into defensive midfield beside Wanyama. This allowed Eriksen to move forward and with Kane on the pitch we had our first choice “front four”. A good deep cross by Trippier reached Son at the back post and he fired back across goal, with Fabianski beaten but the ball rolling the wrong side of the post. A Spurs corner taken on the left by Eriksen was returned by Dier from the other side, and Eric Dier had an under-strength shot held by Fabianski. Swansea won a corner and Olsson had a shot, but that was always going wide. After this, I thought Mr Madley bottled a decision to give a penalty when Son was brought down by Fernandez just inside the Swansea area, but the win was sealed in the 89th minute with Spurs’ second goal. Harry Kane showed great strength and was probably fouled but allowed to continue by the referee as he made progress down the left flank, came inside before hitting a great ball to Dele. Dele’s first shot was saved by Fabianksi, but went back to Dele, who had the speed of thought and action under pressure to hit the rebound into the net! I note that Dele himself had made the pass to Harry from the spurs haf before making a great forward run to meet the return ball and score!
It was 2-0 and after “Swans’” fans had sung “You’re gonna win f*** all”, Spurs’ fans responded with “Again, we’ll never play you again!” That may be true but there is a long way to go in this Premier League relegation battle. We have now played Swansea in 14 Premier League games, and remain unbeaten, winning all but three of those games. As a result, we moved back up to fifth above Arsenal, who play tonight against Chelsea – Storm “Eleanor” permitting.
Of course, we are now all looking forward to tomorrow night’s clash with one of Swansea’s relegation rivals West Ham. They climbed out of the bottom three with a come-back against West Brom, but a win for Spurs would give the “Hammers” plenty to worry about, whilst it would put us right back in the mix for that top four chase! I can’t wait!
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