The London derby which ended Saturday’s Premier League action was not pretty. It wasn’t particularly well played. But it was wildly exciting.
Harry Kane scored in the 89th and 91st minutes to give Tottenham a barely deserved, 3-2, home victory over West Ham. He is the man for the big occasion.
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Yet Spurs fans might have to start chanting “two of our own” after another local lad Harry Winks, who looks like an 11-year-old schoolboy, scored Tottenham’s opening goal in his first Premier League start.
At the other end, Michail Antonio again showed his uncanny ability to anticipate the flight of the ball as he scored with yet another close-range header to give West Ham a first-half lead.
The game pivoted twice on penalties awarded by referee Mike Dean. The first came when Vincent Janssen grabbed Winston Reid as a West Ham corner flew into the area. Manuel Lanzini converted to give West Ham the lead. The second came after Havard Nordtveit upended Son Heung-Min, who had transformed the game after coming on with 15 minutes left, in added time. Kane converted to give Spurs the victory.
Dean has now given nine penalties in 10 matches this season, more than a third of all those awarded in the Premier League. Both calls were correct. He could easily have given a couple more as West Ham defenders repeatedly grappled Kane.
Neither manager complained after the game. Both might reflect that they could have handled their substitutions differently. Mauricio Pochettino had Dele Alli waiting to replace Janssen but opted to follow an old soccer superstition and not make a change when defending a corner. Janssen’s last act was conceding the penalty.
Although West Ham then threatened to kill off Spurs on the counter-attack, Slaven Bilic opted to shore up his defense with five minutes left by taking off Dimitri Payet and bring on Nordtveit. Nordtveit then conceded a penalty.
The victory ended Tottenham’s seven-match winless run. Even though it has remained unbeaten in the Premier League it is only fifth because it has drawn half its matches.
“It wasn’t our best performance,” Pochettino told Sky. “It’s a fantastic three points because it was important for us to recover that feeling you feel only when you win games.”
Tottenham played in fits and starts but won. West Ham played well but looked like a team struggling in 17th place as it lost its composure in the dying minutes. Reid, who had an excellent game, elbowed Kane in the head to earn a second yellow card and will be banned.
The lucky one – The encounter between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford offered the prospect of two grudge matches in one. The clubs have been bitter Premier League rivals for two decades, their enmity born in an era when no one needed to take Chelsea or Manchester City seriously. Saturday’s encounter was also the first on the Old Trafford touchline between those old enemies Arsène Wenger and the new United boss, José Mourinho.
Neither won on Saturday as the game ended 1-1. But who got the better of the encounter depends on your point of view.
United outplayed Arsenal and stopped the Gunners from taking first place. On the other hand, Arsenal scored with its only shot on target in the 89th minute. United remains a distant sixth.
Both managers sought some positive spin.
“We were phenomenal by the defensive point of view,” Mourinho told Sky TV. “When we had the ball we were very comfortable. We played quality football. We scored a fantastic goal.”
Allowing for forgivable hyperbole, that is all pretty much true. Juan Mata’s goal was very pretty. United dominated.
Mourinho could not resist the habitual swipe at Wenger’s team.
“I don't want to say they didn't want to win. I prefer to say they had no chances to win,” he said.
Meanwhile, Arsenal was punchless. Mesut Özil was invisible.
“We didn't manage enough to get them out of position our game was not quick enough in that our passing and our penetration was not there,” Wenger told Sky. “The players feel in the dressing room ‘yes we lacked a bit sharpness today’.”
Arsenal has not won at Old Trafford for a decade. Wenger was asked if there is a mental block?
“It’s funny you tell me that,” he said. “I wondered during the game about that. You never know.”
Yet Arsenal salvaged a point when one substitute, Olivier Giroud, leapt to meet a cross from another, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, with a crunching header.
So despite a lackluster display, Wenger could smile.
“It's always the same when you are 1-0 down come back to 1-1, it feels like you're happy,” he said. “Last year we would have lost maybe this game.”
Mourinho was less happy. “They were the lucky ones,” he said.
Cold shower – Jürgen Klopp was a picture of misery in the dying seconds of a goalless draw at Southampton. His hood pulled tight against the pouring rain, his glasses spattered with droplets, his teeth were bared in a grimace as he bounced up and town in futile frustration as Liverpool squandered a chance to increase its lead in the Premier League.
Yet Liverpool had not played badly. Southampton, the home team, appeared to have set out to defend, although that could be the impression created by Liverpool’s stranglehold on possession. The Saints rarely escaped their own half or kept the ball for more than a few seconds.
Against a determined defense, Liverpool carved out several clear-cut chances in the second half. But the highest-scoring attack in the Premier League could not take any. Emre Can and Roberto Firmino both shot wide when free in front of goal. Nathaniel Clyne headed over from close range.
By the time he faced the interviews, Klopp seemed to have had time to clean his glasses, rub a towel across his head and rediscover his smile.
“We could have won, maybe we should have won,” he told Sky.
“There are two things I have to think about,” he said. “The one thing is the result and the other thing is the performance and the performance was absolutely good.”
Klopp said the international break had complicated preparation for a meeting with “one of the best organized sides in the league.”
“We had no session because the Brazilian guys came too late to prepare them so we used the first half to prepare ourselves for the second half.”
He did not need to mention the “one thing”, the result. His snarling expression on the touchline had made clear what he thought about that.
Apology accepted – Pep Guardiola can be a sensitive man. He is also a smart one. After Yaya Touré’s agent, Dimitri Seluk, accused Guardiola of humiliating his player, Guardiola said Touré would not play for City again until Seluk apologized. At the time, it seemed an absurdly thin-skinned reaction. On Saturday, it appeared a stroke of genius.
Seluk said sorry at the start of November. Guardiola and Touré had peace talks. On Saturday, Touré made his first start of the season.
“I hoped to help my team out,” Touré said after the game.
He did, scoring twice as City won a difficult, uncompromising game, 2-1, at Crystal Palace.
Guardiola made no mention of the dispute when he praised Touré after the match. Instead he said that Touré had not been fit anyway, which, if it’s true, suggests the insult was a pretext.
“Nobody has doubts about his quality,” Guardiola told Sky. “His physical condition, his weight now are perfect. When he arrived it was not like this.”
“We have a new player now,” Guardiola said. “For me it’s a gift to have another player to compete.”
It’s a gift Guardiola gave to himself.
The stadium of puns – Just when Sunderland could see light at the end of the tunnel it went out. Yes, the floodlights at the Stadium of Light failed in the second half. Play was delayed for nine minutes while fans amused themselves by illuminating the flashlights on their cell phones and pointing them at the field.
At the time, Sunderland, which had won only one league game this season, at Bournemouth two weeks ago, was leading Hull 1-0.
All David Moyes could think when it all went dark, was oh no.
“The last thing I needed was for this game to be abandoned and had to be played again.” the Sunderland manager told Sky. “Because to get the first goal in the Premier League is so important.”
He needn’t have worried. If there’s one team that has less luck than the Black Cats, it’s Hull. Hull outshot Sunderland 17-11 and had seven shots on target to Sunderland’s four. Sunderland won, 3-0. It remains in 19th place, below Hull and above only Bob Bradley’s Swansea which conceded an 89th minute goal to draw 1-1 away to Everton.
“It could have been five each,” Moyes said.
It wasn’t because Sunderland had the players to give it the edge in the two key areas.
Jordan Pickford again looked like a future England goalie as he protected his clean sheet with some brilliant saves. At the other end, Sunderland took the chances it did create. Jermain Defoe scored his 150th Premier League goal. Victor Anichebe, who seemed a desperation pickup when Moyes signed him, hit two and looked, his manager said, “like a young Didier Drogba.” About time, too, given that Anichebe is 28 and has played 190 Premier League games. Maybe he’s seen the light.