SATURDAY 23RD APRIL, 2022
BRENTFORD 0(0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0(0)
Referee:- Martin Atkinson (not Andre Marriner, as published)
Assistants:- Simon Long, Scott Ledger
Fourth official:- Tony Harrington
VAR:- Paul Tierney
Assistant VAR:- Simon Bennett.
Brentford (5-3-2):- Raya; Ghoddos (sub Wissa, 78), Roerslev, Jansson (Capt.), Bech Sorensen, Henry; Jensen (sub Dasilva, 78), Janelt, Eriksen; Mbeumo, Toney
Subs not used:- Lossl; Jeanvier, Fin Stevens; Fosu-Henry, Peart-Harris, Young-Coombes, Baptiste
Booked:- Jansson (foul on Son), Bech Sorensen (foul on Lucas Moura)
Spurs (3-4-3):- Lloris (Capt.); Romero, Dier, Davies; Emerson Royal (sub Lucas Moura, 86), Hojbjerg, Bentancur, Sessegnon (sub Sanchez, 74); Kulusevski, Kane, Son
Subs not used:- Gollini; Reguilon, Rodon; Winks, White; Bergwijn, Scarlett
Booked:- Bentancur (foul on Mbeumo)
Eriksen steals the show, but not all the points
At the time of writing, Antonio Conte’s Premier League career at Tottenham has been bookended by goalless draws. In both matches, despite the presence of England’s number one striker Harry Kane and his trusty sidekick Heung-min Son, Spurs failed to hit one shot on target. Indeed, this was the fourth time this season Spurs have failed to both the opposition goalkeeper. That’s twice as many as any other side. It is a scathing statistic for a side chasing a Champions League place, and as a result of dropping two more points today, Arsenal are clear of us in fourth place. I’ll say now, I don’t think we will pip them, and we are not worthy of Champions League football.
The star of the show today was former Spur Christian Eriksen, who was warmly applauded around the ground when his name was announced. The highlight of the day for me was when Christian approached the away section to take his first corner kick. The away section stood and applauded and sang “He’s our number 23”. Eriksen’s corner kicking seems to have improved too, as he often got the ball past the first man. He was generally busy in a Brentford side which has yet to lose when he starts a game. He was very much the type of player Spurs needed to link the defensive line (which includes Hojbjerg and Bentancur) and the attack. There has been a creative gap ever since Eriksen left for Italy.
This was our first visit to Brentford’s recently built Community Stadium. The approach to the ground (situated beside the M4) reminded me of Monaco to some extent with the stadium surrounded by high-rise buildings. Bathed in cool evening sunshine, Spurs kicked off playing away from their fans and Hugo Lloris was under the spotlight of that sun. Although he was on the bench, Sergio Reguilon had apparently suffered a knock and was replaced by Ryan Sessegnon.
Spurs patient (boring?) approach with plenty of sideways and backward passing, along with their formation and personnel is far too well known to any opposition team. “The Bees” were busy and harried us in numbers everywhere. Spurs struggled to find a way or even plot a route towards the Brentford goal. Referee Martin Atkinson had been a late replacement for Andre Marriner, and he seemed to let a lot of strong challenges go. Either that or Spurs are just too lightweight on the ball.
After an attack down the right, Mbeumo hit a shot which took a deflection off Dier and won Brentford their first corner. It wasn’t just a single corner either after Toney and Mbeumo combined and threatened in the Spurs box. In fairness, neither goalkeeper was being tested in this half and the game lacked entertainment value.
Spurs did win a corner after 11 minutes when an advanced Romero lifted a ball to Kane, who was challenged by Jansson at the expense of a corner which was cleared. Brentford did better with a corner at the other end won after Ghoddos’ s cross from the right. Taken by Eriksen from the right, the ball was met by Toney, whose header hit the bar and ultimately the home side had another corner. This one was taken short, and Toney’s shot was blocked.
Bentancur tried a shot from distance, but this was way off target high and to the left of Raya’s goal. Son was the liveliest of our players, but he was getting no joy out of the referee and too easily being forced off the ball. A Sessegnon cross passed through the danger zone without any attacking touch. At the other end Sessegnon cleared from Mbeumo and Brentford had a throw. Their usual long throw merchant Pinnock was out, but they had a replacement, and this was a part of their attacking strategy.
Son did make a pass to Kane who hit what was effectively a pass to the goalkeeper and off target. The game was not setting the pulses racing. Spurs knew that Arsenal had beaten Manchester United earlier in the day and should have been showing more urgency. However, Conte’s style is for patience in the first half, and we hoped for more aggression after the break.
Brentford kicked off and Spurs soon attacked down the left side, but this move fizzled out when Hojbjerg hit a cross/shot way too wide. In a moment of either panic or great anticipation, Lloris raced well outside his area to tackle and clear from the feet of Toney. Brentford were soon on the attack again with Toney and Henry combining before Mbeumo fired over the target in the middle.
After a Spurs free kick and a pass by Romero towards Kane on the left of the area, Harry turned and tried to shoot past Jansson, but the defender blocked, and Spurs had a corner. Spurs actually managed a spell of pressure with several corners and after a cross from Emerson both Kane and Bentancur had shots blocked. Brentford were working so hard and thwarting Spurs everywhere.
Now Brentford applied a little pressure winning corners and free kicks, all taken by Eriksen, of course. On one occasion Spurs were struggling when playing out from the back and failing to pass to feet. Lloris managed to get down and pushed an Eriksen shot wide. From the corner Lloris made a partial clearance from a Janelt header. Kane cleared a Jansson header and then Lloris had to save again from Eriksen. Spurs broke forward in numbers and Jansson “took one for the team” by stopping Hojbjerg’s advance. Bentancur headed over from a subsequent corner taken by Son. A Son cross from the left, intended for Kane, went straight into Raya’s hands.
Sessegnon was replaced by Davinson Sanchez, whose last Spurs appearance had been to come off the bench against Everton in early March. Davies moved to the left. Spurs again enjoyed a period of pressure but offered no shot on goal. Brentford made a double substitution and Lucas Moura entered too late in the game. Conte only used two subs. Bech Sorensen was booked for a cynical foul on Lucas, who would otherwise have advanced deep into the Brentford half. Emerson had gone off for Lucas and Kulusevski reverted to right wing-back. Son took the free kick and basically passed it to the keeper.
In added time, after an Eriksen free kick Toney’s shot hit the foot of the post and when following-up Mbeumo hit the side netting. After a Kulusevski cross to the left of the Brentford area, Kane demonstrated his best piece of skill in the game with an attempted overhead shot which passed wide across the goal. Harry hasn’t scored in five games now, and that’s the second time this season that has happened.
Next week we play Leicester who we must hope are focused upon their Europa Conference League semi-final. On the same day (Sunday), Arsenal are at West Ham. We must hope there will yet be twists and turns in the five remaining games of the season, and that they go in our favour.
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