Wednesday 21 August 2019

Travers' dream debut thwarts Spurs

Bournemouth 1-0 Tottenham

Tottenham Hotspur defender Eric Dier (second from left) pushes team-mate Son Heung-min towards the player’s tunnel after he was shown a red card for pushing Bournemouth midfielder Jefferson Lerma (lying on pitch). Photo: Ben Stansall
Tottenham Hotspur defender Eric Dier (second from left) pushes team-mate Son Heung-min towards the player’s tunnel after he was shown a red card for pushing Bournemouth midfielder Jefferson Lerma (lying on pitch). Photo: Ben Stansall

Jim White

In a self-destructive whirl of red cards, Tottenham lost their heads on the south coast. Reduced to nine men with half the game still to play, Mauricio Pochettino's side succumbed to an injury-time goal to register their sixth away defeat on the bounce.

And with their 13th loss of a topsy-turvy season, their hopes of securing Champions League football for another season were further put on hold. Worse, this was as calamitous a warm-up ahead of the European semi-final second leg against Ajax on Wednesday as you could imagine. No wonder after the final whistle Pochettino bore the look of a man who had just seen his life savings disappear.

"Everyone saw the game, everyone will have an opinion. I don't need to explain too much," he said. "It is impossible to manage everything. But to fight for the second half with nine players, then to concede in the last minute is cruel."

For Bournemouth, this represented the first victory they have ever recorded against Tottenham. And the way it started, before the red mist descended on Spurs, it had looked as if the man who would seize the headlines would be the teenage Irishman making his debut in the home goal.

Young goalkeeper Mark Travers, the 19-year-old from Maynooth in Co Kildare who had last played first-team football for Weymouth on loan, where he once scored from his own half with a free-kick, was magnificent.

And he needed to be. For much of the first half, right up until the point Tottenham imploded, he had kept Eddie Howe's side in the game. He saved athletically from Son Heung-min, Dele Alli and twice from Lucas Moura. Tall, agile, photogenic in his diving, he more than looked the part.

Mark Travers speaks with Hugo Lloris of Tottenham Hotspur after the match. Photo: Getty
Mark Travers speaks with Hugo Lloris of Tottenham Hotspur after the match. Photo: Getty

And as the game began, that he was the busiest man on the pitch was indicative: for most of the first half Tottenham were entirely in the ascendancy. With Son back leading the line and Moussa Sissoko restored to midfield, they looked briefly - very briefly - much more like a Spurs side that might cause Ajax problems. Son was at his threatening best, forcing the Bournemouth defenders to back off, forever looking to sprint forward.

Mind, with Tottenham dominating possession, Bournemouth had opportunity on the break. Their quick front-line left Eric Dier, in particular, looking in trouble. He brought down Ryan Fraser to receive a yellow card and was fortunate not to see red when referee Craig Pawson reckoned he had got a touch on the ball as he ended Joshua King's counter-attacking charge with a scything intervention.

"It's difficult for me on a day when two reds were shown to complain that there should have been another," said Howe. "But I think Dier was lucky."

Without question the player was blessed not to concede a penalty when he took a chunk out of Callum Wilson's ankles as the Bournemouth striker attempted to turn.

Eddie Howe, Manager of AFC Bournemouth applauds fans following victory. Photo: Getty
Eddie Howe, Manager of AFC Bournemouth applauds fans following victory. Photo: Getty

As half-time loomed, Son made yet another incursion into Bournemouth territory, which he felt had been wrongly brought to a conclusion by Adam Smith. Incensed he had not earned a free-kick, he charged after the ball and hacked at Smith's ankles. As the referee gave the home team a foul, Jefferson Lerma charged in to grab the ball. Son pushed the Colombian in the face and was shown an immediate red card.

If that was ludicrously ill-disciplined, it was nothing compared to what followed. In order to ensure his team remained at 10 men, at half-time Pochettino took off Dier and Toby Alderweireld, both red cards waiting to happen.

"I try to avoid some more yellow cards," the manager said. "After two minutes the plan did not work anymore."

But immediately after coming on, collecting a pass in his own half, the overeager substitute Juan Foyth ran forward, lost full control of the ball, and in the attempt to regain possession, slid in on Jack Simpson, a horrible straight leg challenge with studs raking into the Bournemouth player's knee. No more than 120 seconds after arriving, Foyth was no longer with us.

The game now resembled one in which a couple of pros take on 100 school kids: Bournemouth outnumbered their opponents everywhere. But, playing a 4-3-1 formation, with Moura running himself into the ground in an attempt to provide distraction, Tottenham somehow managed to remain in contention.

That was partly because the home side could not find a way through: Wilson fired wide, Jordon Ibe had a shot saved by Hugo Lloris, the substitute Lys Mousset headed straight into the goalkeeper's hands.

With the fourth official's board announcing four minutes of additional time, a corner was won, Fraser pushed the ball into a crowded box and Nathan Ake barrelled through to head the ball down past Lloris. Cue riotous celebrations.

Meanwhile, Pochettino looked as if all the air had been expunged from his body. And no wonder. Now, after giving Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United wholly undeserved hope, Spurs go limping on to Amsterdam.

Telegraph.co.uk

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