Tottenham saw off ten-man Watford 2-1 Monday night thanks to a last-minute goal from Heung-Min Son. An engaging game at Vicarage Road featuring two of the more energetic teams in the Premier League, this was a wide-open contest that combusted late with the sending off of Nathan Ake for a vicious tackle on Erik Lamela.
Son’s winner came after Watford thought they had seized the lead at the other end only to have a goal correctly not awarded by the goal decision system. Back came Spurs, and with Watford’s keeper, Heurelho Gomes, on the ground, Son flicked a simple backheel through the keeper and into the back of the net with the Hornets standing and watching. It was heartbreak for the home side, who lost their first game in six matches, but sweet for Spurs, who leapt up to third in the table ahead of the late games with the win.
Watford had seen their four-game winning streak halted by Chelsea 48 hours prior, but hardly settled for a share of the points at Stamford Bridge: while Oscar fluffed a late penalty the Hornets were hardly second best in an end to end encounter. Spurs, on the other hand, had steamrolled a woeful Norwich side to move into the top four, and were starting to look like a team that could spring a surprise or two.
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Right from the start, Spurs looked to seize control of the match, deploying Harry Kane at the tip of a 4-2-3-1; as the game evolved, Kane and Lamela would frequently switch and slide, with the young English star being given freedom to move side to side, with Lamela storming through the middle.
And that combination paid dividends 16 minutes in after an unremarkable opening. Craig Cathcart was caught in possession at midfield, allowing Lamela to play a cute one-two with Kane before storming down the gut. With Kane running off him wide right as a dummy, Lamela juked Miguel Angel Britos and then rolled the ball coolly to the far post past Gomes. It was a strike that Lamela made look easier than it truly was.
That goal energized the home side, and as Spurs shifted to what was effectively a back three, Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo started to carve in. With the Hornets spreading the game sideline to sideline to create gaps between Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, Deeney started to use his size and strength to knock down balls for Ighalo to run onto.
That paid dividends five minutes before the first half interval with a suprising display of strength from the young Nigerian. Deeney headed a ball hopefully over and back to Ighalo, waiting at the penalty spot with Eric Dier marking him. Taking a touch, Ighalo turned and simply blew through Dier like so much tissue paper, and was in on Hugo Lloris’ goal before the keeper could react. Lloris was on the ground, but to no avail: the ball was already ruffling the back of the net.
The second half was a scrappier affair, with Spurs tightening up what had been a very leaky central channel at the expense of a more flowing attack. But the match turned on an ugly sequence in the 63rd minute when Ake, the Chelsea loanee, was shown a straight red by Anthony Taylor for a studs-up tackle to Lamela’s groin right in front of both teams on the sideline.
Watford forcefully protested the ejection but there was no doubt over the call: Ake’s tackle was willful and high, and seemed the culmination of twenty minutes of chippiness and frustration between these two young teams. Ighalo was lucky not to see an early bath three minutes later when he looked to deliberately throw an elbow at Thomas Carroll, and then remonstrated wildly with the assistant.
The sending-off forced Watford into a rearguard action for the final twenty-five minutes, but Spurs were unable to make their numerical advantage count. Instead, Watford were presented with the better of the chances thanks to some nervous defending. Lloris badly misplayed a searching ball from Deeney to force Alderweireld to make a tactical foul. That set up a wild goalmouth scramble and Deeney was unlucky to see his shot blocked away after Lloris came for the ball but failed to collect it.
Spurs’ nerves continued, and Ben Watson nearly had the ball snuck over the goalline off a corner kick. The GDS replay showed just how close the Hornets had come — the ball was just an inch on the line — but that was enough to deny Watford. And, with Watson and the Hornets in disbelief, Spurs took advantage and broke to set up Hon’s winner.
The advantage — and issue — for both these squads is their youth. Both Watford and Tottenham can play at full-tilt; both teams however frequently look sloppy in possession, with misplayed passes and poor decision-making a hallmark of both teams’ games. While Spurs clearly look the better of the two sides, their current position is a bit of an illusion. Tottenham have a lot of heart, to be sure, but they also lack the poise and depth to make a serious run at the title — or do they? Count nothing out in this wildly unpredictable Premier League race.