Thursday 5 December 2019

Superior Spurs pegged back by late own goal

Sunderland 2 Tottenham 2

Sunderland's Connor Wickham (front) and Tottenham Hotspur's Erik Lamela battle for the ball
Sunderland's Connor Wickham (front) and Tottenham Hotspur's Erik Lamela battle for the ball
Sunderland's Adam Johnson celebrates scoring an equalising goal to make it 1-1 during the Barclays Premier League match at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland
Sunderland's Adam Johnson (L) celebrates after scoring a goal against Tottenham Hotspur
Sunderland's Connor Wickham is crowded off the ball by Tottenham Hotspur's Danny Rose (left) and Vlad Chiriches (right)
Sunderland's Adam Johnson celebrates after scoring a goal against Tottenham Hotspur
Sunderland's Adam Johnson (R) scores a goal against Tottenham Hotspur
Sunderland's Connor Wickham (L) challenges Tottenham Hotspur's Younes Kaboul
Tottenham Hotspur's Christian Eriksen (R) celebrates with teammate Eric Lamela after scoring a goal against Sunderland
Tottenham Hotspur Mauricio Pochettino (left) and Sunderland manager Gustavo Poyet during the Barclays Premier League match at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday September 13, 2014. See PA story SOCCER Sunderland. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. Maximum 45 images during a match. No video emulation or promotion as 'live'. No use in games, competitions, merchandise, betting or single club/player services. No use with unofficial audio, video, data, fixtures or club/league logos.

Louise Taylor

Gus Poyet and Mauricio Pochettino both believe that, in football, possession is king.

This shared conviction left Sunderland's manager looking on disconsolate as Pochettino's Tottenham monopolised the ball, but the Uruguayan somehow ended the afternoon smiling as his side's sheer bloody-minded determination - aided by an own goal from Harry Kane - secured a point.

The reality that the Wearsiders had looked sunk until Emanuele Giaccherini's liberation from the bench is unlikely to be lost on Poyet, whose team are still seeking their first league win of the season and were outclassed for long periods here.

A fortnight ago, Tottenham lost 3-0 at home to Liverpool and their determination to exorcise memories of that defeat probably explain their high-octane start.

The game had barely kicked off when Christian Eriksen slipped a sublime pass to Danny Rose, who saw his shot parried to safety by a somewhat startled Vito Mannone. A minute later, though, Sunderland's goalkeeper was picking the ball out of his net. After failing to hold an Emmanuel Adebayor shot, Mannone watched Nacer Chadli collect the rebound and direct it beyond his reach, leaving the home defence to appeal, forlornly, for offside. The visiting fans hardly had time to celebrate before they were reminded that their defence remains very much a work in progress. That unit seemed to momentarily stand back and admire Adam Johnson as the winger sashayed in from the left and unleashed a right-foot shot which was deflected beyond Hugo Lloris.

Shortly afterwards, Mannone did extremely well to block Adebayor's volley following the striker's cute one-two with Eriksen, but gradually things turned more sedate.

There were some lovely little passing triangles from a pleasingly easy-on-the eye Spurs as Pochettino's team emphasised just how far Sunderland have to travel if they are to become similarly assured in the arts of pass and move and positional interchanging. Poyet is keen to turn his team into a possession-hogging, controlled, passing outfit and, under this tutelage, Sunderland have made big strides away from the deep defending, counter-attacking strategy which was their hallmark under Martin O'Neill.

Here, though, Tottenham's superiority on the ball forced them to regress to the old days of spending long periods without it, defending in numbers and hoping to snatch something on the break. It made life tough for Ricardo Alvarez, the Argentine making his debut wide on the right of Poyet's midfield after arriving on a season-long loan from Internazionale. On a rare first-half occasion when Alvarez made his presence felt, his excellent through pass to Connor Wickham came to nothing.

At the other end, Sunderland had their fortunate moments - most notably when Mousa Dembele's 30-yard shot rebounded off a post with Mannone well beaten and when Erik Lamela's attempted pass to Adebayor inside the area was diverted by Santiago Vergini's outstretched arm only for the referee to dismiss visiting penalty appeals - but remained sufficiently resilient to frustrate Spurs.

Not for the first time, Lee Cattermole's deployment just in front of his defence offered Poyet a certain reassurance, highlighted when the defensive midfielder intercepted and smartly swept up the danger when Chadli had looked well placed to score his second goal of the afternoon.

The second half featured more possession-hogging on Tottenham's part. So much so that even the most one-eyed Sunderland fan must have secretly struggled to begrudge Eriksen restoring their lead.

Untypically from such a delicately subtle player, the goal itself was somewhat untidy. The result of Sunderland's failure to clear a Chadli cross, it featured Eriksen extending a boot and bundling the ball across the line from close range. With Sunderland not really fast enough to undo Spurs on the counter-attack, Poyet required an alternative strategy. On came Italy's Giaccherini and Will Buckley in place of Sebastian Larsson and Alvarez.

Although Pochettino was unhappy when Lamela got nowhere with a penalty appeal after complaining he had been impeded by John O'Shea just inside the box, the newcomers improved Sunderland.

Pochettino's side might have extended their lead had Lamela's clever chip shot not rebounded back off the bar, but Sunderland stole an unlikely point.

It featured two substitutes fresh from the bench, Jordi Gomez's curving free-kick being inadvertently diverted past his own goalkeeper by the unfortunate Kane.

Observer

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