Monday 14 October 2019

Ten-man Tottenham take heat off Pochettino

Tottenham Hotspur 2 Southampton 1

Southampton’s Oriol Romeu tackles Erik Lamela during yesterday’s clash with Tottenham Hotspur. Photo: Henry Browne/Getty
Southampton’s Oriol Romeu tackles Erik Lamela during yesterday’s clash with Tottenham Hotspur. Photo: Henry Browne/Getty

With the heat on, the last thing that Mauricio Pochettino needed was a daft sending-off for the loose cannon that is Serge Aurier after 31 minutes and a goalkeeping howler from Hugo Lloris that presented Danny Ings and Southampton with an equaliser.

At that point, it was easy to fear for Tottenham, who had won only two of their previous eight matches in all competitions this season. It has been a slog and it has been impossible to ignore the impression that the problems have piled up for the club since the summer.

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The challenge for them was to get over this latest bump; to show their determination to fashion a springboard for better things.

Thanks to Harry Kane - who else? - and a battling performance, they did so. Kane was excellent and he scored what proved to be the winner just before half-time, rounding off a flowing move with trademark ruthlessness, while there would be redemption of sorts for Lloris, who made two high-class saves in the second half.

Everybody at the club could breathe a little easier after the victory but for Southampton, there were only regrets. Their Achilles heel remains their lack of cutting edge. They created the chances to have come away with something but they have scored only seven times in seven Premier League games this season.

Spurs were desperate to impose themselves and Tanguy Ndombele was in the mood at the outset, driving past opponents and getting his team moving with sharp flicks and passes. It was Ndombele who broke the deadlock.

Moments earlier, he had not quite been able to get a low pull-back from Son Heung-min out of his feet quickly enough and, when a Southampton boot came in, his shot deflected high. He had no such trouble when Son teed him up again, after Maya Yoshida had half-cleared a Christian Eriksen cross.

Ndombele's shot was cleanly struck and his second goal in a Spurs shirt flicked off Jan Bednarek to beat Angus Gunn. He celebrated with Aurier, the pair pretending to perform a VAR check before signalling the goal - a reference to how Aurier had been denied by the technology at Leicester last Saturday.

It had felt as though Aurier's afternoon was shaping up positively but the right-back is a person who likes to live on the edge and he jumped over it with a pair of foolish bookings in the space of three minutes. Only Aurier knows what he was thinking about when he went through the back of Sofiane Boufal in a non-dangerous area.

And, when he was caught on the wrong side of Ryan Bertrand and fouled him, the referee, Graham Scott, had no other option. Spurs argued that Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg had allowed the ball to go out of play before he set Bertrand away. That did not excuse Aurier.

Worse was to follow for Spurs and, specifically, Lloris. Taking a back-pass from Toby Alderweireld, he tried to trick past Ings when under pressure from the striker with a Cruyff turn only to get it all wrong. Ings robbed him and forced the ball home from two yards.

Spurs stormed back to lead at the interval and what a lovely counter-attacking goal it was, featuring instinctive combinations on the move between Kane, Son and Eriksen. The final ball came from the Dane. Kane took a touch and banged low into the bottom corner.

Southampton pushed and they asked questions of Lloris. This time, he had the answers. Lloris saved at full stretch from James Ward Prowse's free-kick and a Maya Yoshida header and when Ings stretched but could not convert a cross, Southampton knew it was not their day.

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