Thursday 23 May 2019

Eriksen finds way through Brighton's ring of steel

Tottenham 1 Brighton 0

Tottenham's Christian Eriksen celebrates scoring their first goal. Photo: Reuters/Dylan Martinez
Tottenham's Christian Eriksen celebrates scoring their first goal. Photo: Reuters/Dylan Martinez

Jason Burt

To overcome the defensive shackles of Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy Tottenham Hotspur needed a locksmith, someone who could provide the key, someone with a little craft and guile and Christian Eriksen proved that late on as he scored the only goal to secure a win that opens the door to Champions League qualification.

For Brighton, it was a tough result even if they pushed their luck by relying so heavily on the ability of their resolute central defenders to head, block and clear everything that was thrown at them. They did that, though, for 88 minutes of rising frustration for Spurs.

The result leaves Brighton just three points ahead of Cardiff with three matches to go and their Premier League status still in severe jeopardy. For Spurs, at the other end of the table, there is a little more daylight as they moved four points clear of fifth-placed Arsenal having played a game more.

A predictable pattern was set. Brighton defended deep, Spurs pushed on and chances were at a premium. Within the first quarter of an hour there were whistles at perceived time-wasting by Brighton goalkeeper Mat Ryan while, after the visitors won corners in quick succession - the ball volleyed over his own crossbar by Victor Wanyama and then coming off Jan Vertonghen's shoulder - there were howls of encouragement from the wedge of their fans. It was summed up when Spurs won a free-kick which was deflected out to Vertonghen, who drove the ball goalwards. It was set to beat Ryan, it may have beaten Duffy on the line, but it struck Wanyama who was lying on the ground having attempted to head the original cross by Eriksen.

Tottenham's Christian Eriksen scores their first goal. Photo: Reuters/Dylan Martinez
Tottenham's Christian Eriksen scores their first goal. Photo: Reuters/Dylan Martinez

Mauricio Pochettino, the Spurs manager, had not spared his attacking weapons, with only Vincent Janssen of his available forward line on the bench. Pochettino knew what kind of contest it would be and that it would have to be up to his team to make the running.

And so Eriksen and Lucas Moura combined, with the latter side-footing a cross-shot which was set to be met by Dele Alli at the far post, only for Dunk to stretch and hook clear.

Commitment

There was no doubting Brighton's commitment, although soon after Florin Andone was booked for a foul on Danny Rose. Referee Chris Kavanagh called over Dunk, the captain, to warn him that the Romanian was in danger of being sent off after he then brought down Kieran Trippier.

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In fairness, Brighton were showing a little more ambition than they had done in the goalless draw at Wolves - which marked their sixth game without scoring - but Spurs were also playing into their hands, or the heads of Dunk and Duffy, by standing up crosses for them to clear.

Brighton's Lewis Dunk in action with Tottenham's Vincent Janssen. Photo: Reuters/Dylan Martinez
Brighton's Lewis Dunk in action with Tottenham's Vincent Janssen. Photo: Reuters/Dylan Martinez

Just before half-time, Duffy did so again, with a leg, after Alli had superbly brought down Eriksen's ball and poked a shot goalwards. Ryan got a hand to it, but it was still going in before Duffy intervened, as Dunk punched the air. Early in the second-half Duffy was involved in the same goal-mouth - only to spurn a rare chance to put Brighton in front as he planted a free header from Pascal Gross's cross straight at Hugo Lloris.

The frustration for Spurs grew. The ball was heading towards the Brighton goal ever quicker. It was a little too frantic as Spurs picked up the tempo, winning possession back time and time again but were reduced to long-range shots from Son Heung-min, from Eriksen, from Wanyama.

Duffy and Dunk continued to thwart Spurs and Pochettino turned to Janssen.

It was getting desperate and, finally, Spurs made the breakthrough. Alli rolled the ball to Eriksen and, for once, Brighton's defensive wall failed them as Dale Stephens turned his back and the midfielder struck a powerful low shot that left Ryan unsighted and arrowed into the corner of the net. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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