Tottenhamn scored their first goals at Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium in the first half through Gareth Bale and Clint Dempsey. They achieved the win which takes them into the top four of the Premier League but had to hold on in the final quarter after Southampton had pulled a goal back. Again, Spurs had failed to put together two halves of football and having dominated the first half they allowed Southampton increased possession and pressure after the interval. This encouraged the home side and their supporters making it an extremely uncomfortable end to the match for Tottenham
Southampton 1 Tottenham Hotspur 2
Scorers: Rodriguez Bale, Dempsey
Team: Friedel; Walker, Gallas, Caulker, Vertonghem; Sandro, Huddlestone (Livermore); Lennon, Dempsey (Dawson), Bale; Defoe (Sigurdsson) Subs: (unused) Lloris, Naughton, Falque, Townsend
Brad Friedel, William Gallas, Clint Dempsey and Gareth Bale returned to the starting line-up but with Emmanuel Adebayor again absent, it meant that there was no striker among the substitutes. The match started brightly from both sides but Spurs had the first opening when a Jan Vertonghen cross was headed up by a defender and in the confusion between the goalkeeper, a defender and Aaron Lennon, the winger was only able to touch the ball past the post.
Southampton had good passing and movement early on but didn’t really threaten Spurs. After nine minutes a free-kick by Tom Huddlestone caused further confusion in the home defence but they cleared only for Huddlestone to play the ball through towards Jermain Defoe but it was too heavy and gathered by the goalkeeper.
On 14 minutes a good, quick movement by Spurs involving Lennon and Kyle Walker ended with Defoe hitting the full-back’s cross wide. A minute later, Defoe retained the ball on the right and cut infield. He passed to Huddlestone who chipped a cross for Bale coming in from the far side of the area to head powerfully past the goalkeeper. It was Tottenham’s first ever goal at St Mary’s Stadium, in their sixth visit, scored by Bale against his former club. Out of respect, his celebrations were muted.
Spurs took control and played almost at will with the majority of possession as Southampton lost confidence, frequently giving the ball away. Defoe had a number of opportunities to strike at goal but failed to get them on target. The second goal came with six minutes to go to the interval. It started with a run by Lennon who played Defoe in. His shot beat the goalkeeper and defender but the defender recovered to hook the ball away before it crossed the line only for Dempsey to knock it into the net from close range. At this point Spurs were strolling and looking set for a good win but after half-time the match turned as Southampton got greater possession and put the Spurs defence under increasing pressure.
Defoe had an early chance but then Southampton’s self-belief increased as did their work rate, hemming Tottenham back inside their own half. On 48 minutes they had their first attempt on goal and the pressure continued with Spurs having only the occasional break. From one, a run by Lennon enabled Walker to shoot powerfully but he hit it past. As the hour approached, Friedel had to punch clear a Southampton cross but the home side were retaining possession and building up the pressure. Sandro was booked for a foul after 64 minutes and from the free-kick which Friedel came for but didn’t get near, Southampton should have equalised but Maya Yoshida missed from a yard as Spurs conceded a corner.
From that kick, their first, the ball was flicked on but when Friedel saved with difficulty, Rodriguez hooked in the rebound. Suddenly, Southampton’s self-belief increased dramatically while Tottenham’s evaporated. The only team looking to score was Southampton while Spurs were content to hold on at all costs.
Tottenham held on, Defoe went off with Dempsey playing as striker and in the final moments Sandro stood strong to clear a powerful shot which hit him on the head. Michael Dawson came on for the final seconds but for all Southampton’s effort they couldn’t get that second goal.
Tottenham earned their first points from St Mary’s and the three points lifts them into fourth position, a point ahead of Everton in sixth. Next for Spurs is Wigan Athletic at home after their Capital One Cup tie at Norwich City on Wednesday evening.
The worry for Spurs is their inability to maintain their form through ninety minutes. It was so comfortable in the first half, in fact, as I said earlier, it was a stroll but the problem was that they continued to stroll when Southampton put them under pressure and they were unable to get out of second gear. The win was important but the nature of it raises questions for future more difficult encounters. Does Andre Villas-Boas have a Plan B?