Relegation-threatened Southampton welcomed top hopefuls Tottenham to St Mary’s Stadium for the big clash on Sunday in the Premier League. The Saints needed a win in order to haul themselves out of the drop zone, while Spurs knew that a win would allow them to snatch fourth spot from Liverpool ahead of the Reds’ Monday night game. With a lot at stake for both sides, this promised to be an intense fixture.
The Saints grab an early opener, but Spurs reply instantly
Amidst the heavy rain it was the home side that started quicker, with Manolo Gabbiadini striking an early shoot that looked to catch out Michel Vorm with a dangerous bounce in the slippery conditions. The Dutch shot stopper was equal to the effort, but Tottenham found themselves under the cosh somewhat in the opening five minutes. The Saints seemed keen to find an early opener, and the rain seemed to make the Spurs defenders look slightly tentative in their play. Dusan Tadic in particular was causing Serge Aurier down the left flank.
It took ten minutes for Tottenham to settle into the game, but once they did they unsurprisingly began to dominate the possession, and threaten from set pieces. Naturally it was Southampton who opened the scoring however, thanks mostly to a great overlapping run by Ryan Bertrand. The fullback thundered forward down the left, delivering a low cross that was cruelly deflected into his own net by Davinson Sanchez. In truth it was a deserved goal for the home side, who had looked the livelier. It didn’t take long for Tottenham to respond however, and Harry Kane out jumped everyone at a corner to head home his 99th Premier League goal, bringing Spurs level.
Both sides squander chances before the break
After early goals for both sides the game soon opened up to become an end-to-end affair, and it was Mauricio Pellegrino’s side that arguably looked the more likely to score again. Tadic, Bertrand and James Ward-Prowse all looked dangerous from the wide areas, and the trio delivered a number of dangerous crosses into the Tottenham box. When Spurs did go forward however they started to look threatening, and Moussa Sissoko had a great chance to hand his side the lead, but his volley from close range flashed wildly wide of the post. As Heung-min Son and Dele Alli saw more of the ball around the Southampton box it seemed only a matter of time until the visitors found a second goal.
It was actually the Saints who came closest after the hour mark however, with Jack Stephens connecting with a stunning cross by Ward-Prowse, but the header looped agonisingly past the post. Eric Dier was the next in line to unleash a shot, but the Tottenham man’s strike was straight at Alex McCarthy, who handled it well despite the conditions. Both sides had plenty off possession in dangerous areas as the half time whistle approached, but the killer pass or clinical finish was found lacking for the most part. It was a surprise that the score line remained 1-1 going into the break, but no surprise that the teams went in level.
It becomes a frustrating affair for both sides
The second period began in much the same manner as the first, with both sides having some early joy either on the break or down the flanks. A tactical change by Pochettino saw Son playing alongside Harry Kane up top, rather than out wide, and the additional threat through the middle seemed to cause problems for the Southampton centre backs. Tadic meanwhile continued to terrorise the right side of the Tottenham defence, while never quite managing to turn his great positioning into an effective cross to Gabbiadini. It quickly became a frustrating afternoon for the two sides, especially as both would have believed that they had the upper hand.
The tempo of the game seemed to slow around the hour mark, perhaps as the conditions started to take their toll on the players. Set pieces soon became the main threat for both teams, and Tottenham in particular looked threatening from corners. Kane probably should have grabbed his 100th Premier League goal after another good delivery by Ben Davies, but the in form striker uncharacteristically missed the ball completely with his attempted volley. Dele Alli came closest just a few moments later, but his driven shot bobbled a few inches wide of the far post.
Tottenham can’t find a late winner
The final 20 minutes represented the final push from Tottenham to find a winner in a game from which they needed three points, especially after wins for Chelsea and Arsenal earlier in the weekend. Despite the visitors’ determination Southampton still managed to maintain good amounts of possession, and looked to be largely in control of the game. Even when Spurs did find themselves in possession it was difficult for them to find a way through the Saints’ back line, and the home side looked as if they were content with a draw as the clock ticked down.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side began to push desperately for a winner in the final moments, and Erik Lamela had a brilliant chance to snatch it right at the death. The Argentine international found the ball at his feet five yards from goal, but he couldn’t quite scoop his shot high enough over the sliding Stephens, who managed to block the shot right at the last second.
Unbelievably the best chance of the game fell to the 17-year old Southampton forward Michael Obafemi, on as a substitute for Gabbiadini, in the dying moments of the game. Devastatingly the youngster fluffed his lines from eight yards out, squandering a golden opportunity to make St Mary’s erupt with joy and give his side a stunning victory. In the end it finished honours even on this rainy night on the south coast, and on the balance of play that was probably all that either side deserved.
Southampton looked highly impressive in this side, both going forward and defensively. The Saints managed to deal well with Harry Kane, a feat that not many teams have managed this season, and they really should have won this game late on. Despite a number of quality crosses however, Gabbiadini often looked isolated up top, and this looks like a side crying out for a reliable and experience goal scorer.
Tottenham will ultimately consider this to be two points dropped, but in truth they were outclassed for a lot of the game by the hosts. Harry Kane and Dele Alli had frustrating afternoons, and Mauricio Pochettino’s side seemed to miss the influence of Christian Eriksen. With Chelsea and Arsenal both winning this weekend, three points for Spurs seemed like a necessity, and their quest for a top four spot is becoming increasingly challenging.
Southampton: McCarthy; Soares, Stephens, Hoedt, Bertrand; Romeu, Hojbjerg (Boufal, 65’), Ward-Prowse, Lemina (Davis, 80’), Tadic, Gabbiadini (Obafemi, 83’)
Tottenham: Vorm; Aurier (Trippier, 72’), Sanchez, Vertonghen, Davies, Dier; Dembele (Wanyama, 85’), Sissoko, Alli, Son (Lamela, 70’), Kane
Goals: Sanchez OG (1-0, 15’), Kane (1-1, 18’)
Referee: Kevin Friend
Yellow Cards: Stephens (48’), Sissoko (57’), Romeu (60’), Dembele (75’), Trippier (79’)
Red Cards: None
Southampton: McCarthy 6; Soares 6, Stephens 6, Hoedt 6, Bertrand 7; Romeu 6, Hojbjerg 6 (Boufal n/a), Ward-Prowse 7.5, Lemina 6.5 (Davis n/a), Tadic 7.5, Gabbiadini 6 (Obafemi n/a)
Tottenham: Vorm 6; Aurier 6 (Trippier n/a), Sanchez 6, Vertonghen 7, Davies 7.5, Dier 6.5; Dembele 6.5 (Wanyama n/a), Sissoko 6, Alli 6, Son 6 (Lamela n/a), Kane 7
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