Friday 19 January 2018

Tottenham's Wembley woes remain a thorny issue

Tottenham Hotspur 0 Swansea City 0

Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur reacts during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea City at Wembley. Photo: Getty Images
Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur reacts during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea City at Wembley. Photo: Getty Images

Gerry Cox

Mauricio Pochettino said on Wednesday he hoped Tottenham's thrilling 3-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League would end all talk of a Wembley hoodoo, but it was back to business as usual last night.

Tottenham could not recapture the spirit nor power that saw them past the Germans, who are top of the Bundesliga. Lowly Swansea presented a different challenge, but by parking the bus at Wembley, where traffic so often grinds to a halt, Paul Clement brought Tottenham's upwards momentum to a shuddering halt.

Hugo Lloris of Tottenham Hotspur makes a save. Photo: Getty Images
Hugo Lloris of Tottenham Hotspur makes a save. Photo: Getty Images

Lukasz Fabianski was the game's outstanding player. Swansea's goalkeeper was in inspired form, with a succession of top-class saves to deny Spurs and, the more the game wore on, the more it looked inevitable that the visitors would leave with something.

The situation must be worrying for Pochettino, who knows his side cannot maintain a serious title challenge for the third successive season if they cannot win at home, and this is the third game so far without success in the league at Wembley.

Pochettino made three changes from midweek, bringing back Dele Alli, who is serving a three-match suspension in Europe. Kieran Trippier replaced Serge Aurier at right-back, and Moussa Sissoko replaced Mousa Dembele.

Paul Clement's game-plan was clear, as he packed his defence and midfield in an attempt to deny Spurs the space they crave for their intricate passing movements. It worked to a large extent, as Tottenham were unable to convert their superior possession into goals. Alli volleyed wide early on and Harry Kane curled a free-kick towards the corner of goal, only to see Fabianski throw himself low to his left.

Dele Alli wins a header from Swansea City's Dutch midfielder Leroy Fer. Photo: Getty Images
Dele Alli wins a header from Swansea City's Dutch midfielder Leroy Fer. Photo: Getty Images

The Polish goalkeeper made another excellent save after Heung-Min Son wriggled his way in from the left and shot towards the near post. But Fabianski stuck out a glove to tip the ball away.

A flowing move with a succession of one-twos took the Korean to a good shooting position in the 18th minute, but his final effort was high and wide. All the time, Swansea's defence stood firm, none more so than captain Federico Fernandez, who made important interceptions to deny Son and Trippier. Swansea were content to try and hit on the break, with Tammy Abraham leading one swift counter-attack only for Jordan Ayew to hit a tame shot at goal.

Pochettino made changes at the break in an attempt to be more direct. Trippier was switched to left wing-back, Sissoko moved to the right and Son was pushed forward to support Kane.

Tottenham were immediately more direct, and Christian Eriksen had a low shot well saved by Fabianski. Spurs appealed in vain for a penalty when the ball struck Martin Olsson's arm, and then were denied twice in the space of a minute, when Son's shot was blocked at the near post, and Kane's shot thudded off the crossbar.

Spurs were piling on pressure, but Swansea stood firm. Kane looked to have scored his first league goal at Wembley when he met Eriksen's corner with a flicked near-post header, but the Polish goalkeeper again showed remarkable reflexes to tip the ball over the bar from point-blank range. Alli tried his luck with an overhead shot that Fabianski had to punch over the bar, and the England midfielder then headed back across goal tamely when he could have made the goalkeeper work.

Clement made the first substitution of the game when he replaced the ineffective Renato Sanches with Leroy Fer, and Pochettino responded with a change of his own, sending on former Swansea striker Fernando Llorente for Son. Aurier replaced Sissoko and thought he should have had a penalty when his cross struck Olsson's arm again, but referee Mike Dean ruled against it.

Kane went close again with a long-range effort, his shot skidding past the post from 25 yards in the 80th minute, as Spurs got more and more desperate. When the ball dropped from a corner to Vertonghen, the defender shot wildly and his half-volley disappeared into the crowd.

Aurier broke down the right chasing Eric Dier's lofted pass but Dean ruled he had controlled the ball with his arm before being bundled over by Ayew in the penalty area.

Wilfried Bony replaced Abraham for Swansea but it was still all Spurs, and Trippier went agonisingly close in the final minute of normal time with a piledriver from 30 yards.

Kyle Naughton then slipped to allow Aurier a sight of goal, but the Ivorian stabbed his close-range shot into the side-netting. That was the last chance, and as Swansea's supporters celebrated a point, Tottenham were left to rue another night of frustration at their temporary home.

Telegraph

Telegraph.co.uk

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport