Wigan recorded their second win at White Hart Lane in three seasons, defeating Tottenham with a second half goal scored by Ben Watson. At the kick-off Wigan were hoping for a repeat of their 2010 victory while Tottenham fans were looking for a repeat of the 2009 ‘goal-fest’ that had seen them record their record Premier League victory. The defeat for Spurs, their second at home in successive matches, was one that has been coming for some time as they have struggled to put together a convincing performance in many games this season.
Tottenham Hotspur 0 Wigan Athletic 1
Team: Friedel; Walker (Carroll), Gallas, Caulker, Vertonghen; Sandro (Sigurdsson), Huddlestone; Lennon, Dempsey, Bale; Defoe (Adebayor) Subs: (unused) Lloris, Naughton, Dawson, Falque
Andre Villas-Boas started with the team which won at Southampton last weekend, confining Hugo Lloris and Emmanuel Adebayor to the substitutes’ bench. Wigan played with three central defenders and five across midfield and it proved a very effective system which caused Tottenham problems throughout the game. They defended well, worked hard in midfield when necessary and got forward quickly to trouble the Spurs defence where Brad Friedel had to make two first half saves to keep the match goalless when Wigan got behind the Spurs defence with two good scoring opportunities.
Spurs had threatened first in the opening minute when Watson gave the ball away in midfield, allowing Clint Dempsey to get forward into the area but his shot was blocked for a corner. Tottenham tried to press Wigan as they played the ball out of defence but they usually managed to cope. Spurs started with good energy and Dempsey had another shot which went across goal and wide after eight minutes and then after a quarter of an hour Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale threatened in two separate moves. Sandro had to clear acrobatically as Wigan got forward for the first time.
Spurs early movement was quite precise as they probed the Wigan defence who had four and five players in front of their three defenders and coped adequately as Spurs failed to find a creative pass or any end product. On twenty minutes a corner was cleared to Jan Vertonghen on the edge of the area but his powerful shot was deflected for a corner. From the corner Wigan broke quickly in numbers but Spurs managed to get men back to defend and clear the ball. This was an early warning for Spurs of Wigan’s attacking capabilities.
Shortly after, Sandro went off with an injury and Gylfi Sigurdsson replaced him in midfield. The first clear cut chance for Wigan came with a quick one two on the edge of the area but Friedel saved well from Kone’s shot. Five minutes later, Wigan were through again but Friedel managed to save Maloney’s shot. For all Tottenham’s possession, Wigan were proving the more threatening as Spurs’ forward movement was often ponderous and lacked penetration with much of the passing going across the pitch or backwards.
Bale and Lennon were the only Tottenham players to really cause Wigan any problems but they were well marked and had little opportunity with the ball as they were frequently double-marked.
Half-time was greeted with boos from sections of the home crowd and while Tottenham had been expected to increase their effort after the interval it was Wigan who were the more composed and playing with belief. An early booking for Dempsey was followed by a shot from the edge of the area which was saved low by the goalkeeper.
After 55 minutes, Wigan took the lead from a corner. Friedel, under pressure, managed to clear the high cross from under the bar but it fell to Watson who was unmarked in the area and with no defender on the line he hammered it into the net. Friedel clawed the ball out again but there was no mistake from the officials.
Villas-Boas immediately made a change introducing Emmanuel Adebayor but much to the spectators disbelief, Jermain Defoe was taken off. Tottenham, finally, increased their endeavour and forced Wigan back but apart from a few occasions there was no real problems for the visitors’ goalkeeper and his defence. The nearest Spurs came to an equaliser was from a corner, Steven Caulker got a header on target but the defender on the line headed the ball away to safety. Spurs pressed forward but were always susceptible to a quick break from the visitors. Time passed and even with five minutes of added time, Spurs never looked like getting an equaliser as Wigan claimed their third win of the season. The final whistle brought more booing from the home crowd – disappointed and displeased with the result and performance.
Tottenham with two away games to come against Manchester City and Arsenal are in fifth place, below Everton on goal difference.
After the mid-week Cup exit at Norwich, Tottenham had been looking for a positive result in the League but now they approach Thursday’s crucial home game with Maribor in the Europa League with two consecutive home defeats. Villas-Boas has been very rigid with his team selection and formation since the beginning of the season – now is the time to consider ‘Plan B’.