Tottenham moved up to second in the Premier League with a 1-0 victory over Watford on Saturday that was more convincing than the scoreline suggests.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men leapfrog Manchester City, who lost to leaders Leicester City earlier in the day, thanks to defender Kieran Trippier’s goal midway through the second half.
Trippier netted from close range – his first in the top flight – after substitute Dele Alli had impressively created the opportunity within minutes of coming on in a game that saw Tottenham dominate possession and chances.
Spurs have now won four consecutive league matches and are Leicester’s closest challengers as they sit five points adrift at the top.
Watford slip down to 10th in the table and have only won once in their last eight league games, failing to score in four of their last five after a poor performance that did not see them register a shot on target at White Hart Lane.
In-form Spurs changed four of the team that defeated Norwich City 3-0, with Alli and Son Heung-min among the players to drop to the substitutes’ bench. Watford made five alterations from the goalless draw with Chelsea, with captain Troy Deeney left out of the starting XI for the first time in the league this season as Odion Ighalo was deployed as a lone striker.
The home side were on top in the first half and it was defender Ben Davies, one of the players to come into the side, who surprisingly proved the most effective attacking threat.
The left-back’s first effort deflected just wide off Allan Nyom after he had been set up by Christian Eriksen, before he forced a good low save from Heurelho Gomes following a neat one-two with Nacer Chadli.
Davies forced his way through the Watford defence and tested Gomes again before the end of the half, while Erik Lamela was also denied by the ex-Spurs goalkeeper and Harry Kane volleyed just over from Eric Dier’s cross.
A cautious Watford side only mustered one attempt in the opening 45 minutes, although that was a close shave for Hugo Lloris, as Almen Abdi’s chip drifted just over with the France international caught off his line.
Quique Sanchez Flores brought on Deeney and Valon Behrami in a double half-time change and an injury to Miguel Britos meant he had used all three of his changes by the 54th minute.
Despite his tweaks, the pressure kept coming from Spurs after the break. Kane was unhappy not to be awarded a penalty in two separate claims after going down under Gomes’ challenge and then under pressure from Sebastian Prodl a few moments later.
Pochettino turned to Alli just after the hour mark and the England midfielder made an instant impact with his involvement in the opening goal, which arrived after 64 minutes.
Alli directed a perfect delivery across the face of goal with the outside of his foot from the left and Trippier made no mistake with a simple finish at the back post.
Lamela fired wide from a decent opening created by Eriksen and substitute Son was kept out by another Gomes save as in-form Spurs settled for a narrow, but comfortable triumph.
Key Opta stats:
– Spurs have had a league-high 72 shots (incl. blocked) in the first half of games in 2016 so far but they have scored with just four of those.
– Kieran Trippier scored his first Premier League goal in his 43rd appearance in the competition and his first competitive goal since New Years’ Day 2014 for Burnley against Huddersfield Town.
– Dele Alli assisted Trippier’s goal just 176 seconds after entering the field of play.
– Alli has had a hand in 11 goals in his last 14 Premier League games for Spurs (six goals, five assists).