Friday 28 April 2017

Tottenham's late, late show keeps title dreams alive

Swansea 1 Tottenham 3

Tottenham’s Son Heung-Min scores to put them into the lead against Swansea during last night’s comeback. Photo: REUTERS
Tottenham’s Son Heung-Min scores to put them into the lead against Swansea during last night’s comeback. Photo: REUTERS

Ian Herbert

They left it late, very late, but Tottenham are still in the title race.

After showing every sign of conducting a second seasonal choke, they scored three times in the last few moments through Dele Alli, Son Heung-Min and the magnificent Christian Eriksen to secure three points and keep their pursuit of Chelsea still mathematically alive.

The noise emanating from the Spurs supporters at the end was the collective sigh of relief.

As the game began, both sets of supporters had eyes cast elsewhere: Spurs to Chelsea, Swansea nervously attentive to what was happening at Hull. The home fans were only too aware that defeat here combined with a Hull victory would push them back into the relegation maw.

What has compounded the recent decline has been the loss to injury of Fernando Llorente, who likes to score his goals in pairs. And likes to score headers.

In his place has come Jordan Ayew. And the Swansea crowd were given immediate indication here of what they were missing when Gylfi Sigurdsson, one of a quartet of former Spurs in the home line-up, swung a gilt-edged invitation of a free-kick into the penalty area after 10 minutes.

Dele Alli celebrates with his teammates during Tottenham's dramatic late win at the Liberty Stadium. Photo: PA
Dele Alli celebrates with his teammates during Tottenham's dramatic late win at the Liberty Stadium. Photo: PA

Ayew barely got off the ground as Toby Alderweireld almost contemptuously beat him to the header. Therein appeared to lie the problem.

Alderweireld's clearance, however, went behind. And from the ensuing corner, the ball broke to Martin Olsson on the edge of the area. To a chorus of alarm from the stands, the full-back was chased back into his own territory and passed the ball all the way to his goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.

Yet as the groans echoed round the Liberty Stadium, it turned out to be a masterpiece of attacking football. The keeper's huge kick soared beyond the halfway line and evaded the out-rushing Tottenham defence to land at Ayew's feet.

Ayew may not be Llorente's peer in the air, but on the ground he is turbo-charged. He sped forward into the box, checked and, essaying a couple of extravagant step-overs, dummied Ben Davies, giving himself room to pick out Wayne Routledge. The former Spurs player tapped home past the former Swan Michel Vorm.

Tottenham's Christian Eriksen celebrates scoring their third goal in front of the travelling Spurs fans. Photo: REUTERS
Tottenham's Christian Eriksen celebrates scoring their third goal in front of the travelling Spurs fans. Photo: REUTERS

Spurs, disinclined to panic, eased their way back into things. Crafting moves mainly involving Eriksen, they were soon pressing the Swansea defence.

Meanwhile, Swansea sensed the menace Ayew could pose and twice he was sent away by shrewd passes, causing Mauricio Pochettino on the touchline to spread his arms in frustration that Moussa Sissoko and Eric Dier were allowing Tom Carroll and Jack Cork so much room to feed their colleague.

The forward had a penalty shout early in the second half after falling extravagantly in the area under Alderweireld's attention. Referee Jon Moss was not interested. Spurs then had an appeal of their own when Son's shot hit Federico Fernandez, standing directly in front of him, on the arm. Again Moss was unmoved.

His refusal seemed to prompt Spurs into action. They won a series of corners and kept pressing but they were finding good chances hard to craft.

After an hour, Pochettino sent on Vincent Janssen, who is not necessarily the answer to the question, where is the next Spurs goal going to come from?

Vincent Janssen has an attempt at goal blocked Swansea City goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski. Photo: PA
Vincent Janssen has an attempt at goal blocked Swansea City goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski. Photo: PA

The Swansea supporters, meanwhile, were poised on the edge between delight and misery. The score from Hull was shown on the big screen; they knew if they could hang on for a win it would be a huge boost to morale. But Spurs were pressing.

Alderweireld hammered a shot wide, Eriksen kept finding space, Janssen was played through and collided with Lukasz Fabianski, temporarily discomforting him.

And then came the inevitable. Finally, the ball broke kindly for a man in yellow, Alli found himself alone and unguarded at the far post, able to steer home the most vital of equalisers.

Spurs were not finished there. After Janssen deftly back-heeled the ball into his path, the fizzing Son scooped the ball into the net.

Swansea's Leroy Fer clears a dangerous ball in the box. Photo: GETTY
Swansea's Leroy Fer clears a dangerous ball in the box. Photo: GETTY

And before as injury time reached its conclusion, the brilliant Eriksen jinked and dummied and placed his shot with characteristic precision into the corner. The Spurs go marching on. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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