Tottenham: Lo Celso, strong defense lead to win over West Ham

Tottenham Hotspur finally broke their winless run

After an at times tight performance against Manchester United from the weekend, Tottenham Hotspur put in a solid display in the 2-0 defeat of West Ham. In a much more open and flowing game of football, Spurs found a way through with an own goal and then iced it late with a Heung-Min Son to Harry Kane counter. So, what were the highlights in this much-needed Spurs victory?

First-Half, Offsides, and VAR

The first half ultimately had two good chances that both never technically occurred thanks to the offside rule and VAR. Before those events, the first real intrigue came less than two minutes into the match. Antonio had held a ball into the box well on his chest and laid an excellent ball off to Noble running into the box.

As Noble came to take a touch Moussa Sissoko came up to his shoulder and provide a challenge. As the touch moved forward Eric Dier came in from the other side and cut between Noble and the ball allowing Hugo Lloris to slide in and gobble up the ball. Had Dier not been there to provide that defense, I could have seen Sissoko being called for the foul, but given Dier prevented the opportunity, it was disaster saved and a terrific defensive display.

While the game was more training match than blood and guts derby, there were some tough fouls in the first half. One of the first was when Aurier beat Fornals with the ball off the dribble coming out of the back only to be stomped for a yellow card on Fornals. Not nearly as brutal of a foul, but almost more devastating in the game, Davies was called for a kind of soft foul on Bowen near midfield.

On the ensuing free kick, Noble lofted the ball over Spurs’ defense allowing a touch on the ball, which then fell to Antonio who blasted toward the target. Cat-like, Lloris moved to block the shot, only for the rebound to fall to West Ham for another blast at target, which was blocked by a sprawling Eric Dier. As the ball cleared, in came a late whistle the flag was up, Antonio was offside on the initial part of the play. Since I do not trust VAR, it is good the defense held, more importantly, I have no doubt both Dier and Lloris gained some confidence in the fact that today, might be their day.

Following the water break, Harry Kane just missed connecting with Dele Alli on a through ball, but a sliding Diop was able to toe the ball back to Fabianski’s chest, where the keeper collected and booted out of harm. Spurs were starting to connect with some good teams moves as the pressure on West Ham began to mount.

At 31 minutes, a hustling Lucas Moura kept the ball in play, to then pass it up to Kane, who got it over to Son and then back to Kane. Kane’s cross was blocked for a corner that ended up going over everyone, but the passing movement was positive.

Just like when Lo Celso found Dele at the top of the box at 35, only for Dele to rush his effort and blast high and wide. It was a good movement, just missing that finishing bit.

Hugo Lloris was not done for the half, as he did a good job gathering former Spur youth player Ryan Fredericks cross in, without dropping the ball or completely leveling Davinson Sanchez. Following that effort Spurs really got a head of steam going at one point earning three straight corners, then the breakthrough came, or so it seemed.

Again, Lo Celso – who pulled strings all day – found Son wide of Fredericks, Son who did get to the end line earlier on Fredricks cut in toward goal then blasted hard and low beating Fabianski near post. Just as West Ham was set to kickoff VAR popped on the screen, up came the lines and we Son we know what that means. I know VAR has value and is meant for something, but this is not it.

Maybe it is how the rule is written or interpreted, but a player is not a pixel and many of these calls do not feel right. Anyway, barring a Lucas fluff of a great opportunity two minutes into stoppage time, the half ended, and it was 0-0.

Second Half Spurs Surge

The second half of the match started with much of the same as the first half ended, with Spurs dominating in possession – 69% in first half – and West Ham very compact making it difficult to do much in the center of the park, particularly the closer one got to the West Ham goal. From the kickoff it was clear, Spurs were going to keep pounding the ball in until it went over the line.

At 49 minutes Kane almost made it happen. Making one of dozens of runs back behind the left back for West Ham, Serge Aurier got the ball past the defense and put the ball into the box. This time Kane was running on near post. Given the angle, it was going to take something special as Kane tried to pull the ball behind his left leg with his right and deflect it past Fabianski. The ball pinged off the defense and Kane again and then out of bounds, goal kick.

After a little Dele-Son give and go combo that ended in an off target shot for Dele and Kane just missing wide of the right post following a full field move, Mourinho made his first substitute bringing on Erik Lamela for Dele Alli. While not a classic effort from Dele, he made a couple of nice passes and had a couple of efforts at goal, if not on goal, a decent first game back for Tottenham Hotspur.

Tottenham

Tottenham (Photo by JULIAN FINNEY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Lamela came on bringing his energy and a sharp passing eye on the day, going an astounding 19 for 19 on the match. He nearly scored at 62 minutes as he held off a challenge in the box but found the side netting – note: Pogba would have fallen like a felled tree.

Shortly after Lamela’s insertion Aurier earned another corner for Lo Celso and Spurs. This one may or may not have deflected as both the attackers and defense missed the ball and it hit the ground in the penalty area. Unfortunately for West Ham and fortunately for Spurs, the spot where the ball landed was right were Tomas Soucek’s back leg stood deflecting the ball into the net. 1-0 Spurs.

Again, as it seemed kickoff was about to happen VAR popped on the screen. Then it went off and the goal was confirmed. Not sure what VAR was having a go at this time, but apparently like the NFL, every score is under scrutiny.

The goal changed the complexion of the game in many ways as West Ham was forced to come out of their shell and start to attack more. This stretching of the game is ultimately what Spurs wanted, as it created the potential for a counterattack.

As Bergwijn came on for Lucas Moura at about 70 minutes, the game shifted into an even higher gear. While Moura had a few moments in the game, he wasted a couple of nice chances and struggled a bit with his passing. Bergwijn on the other hand seems to be on top form, immediately playing Aurier in for a cross and putting the Hammers on their heels.

Aurier and Bergwijn continued to harass West Ham up the west side, but the Hammers had some fight left. At 77 minutes, a deep West Ham corner was corralled by the Hammers and played back to Bowen who wrapped his left boot around the ball.

Hugo Lloris, like the rest of Spurs’ defense was beaten, fortunately for Spurs, the post was not, and the ball bounced off the post out of bounds for a goal kick. It was a close as West Ham would come as only a couple minutes later the moment Spurs have been waiting for came.

The move started with an interception by Moussa Sissoko near Spurs penalty box, who played the ball up to Erik Lamela. Lamela played the ball up to Son who then hit the key pass splitting the West Ham defense right in the path of the on-rushing Harry Kane.

After not completing the move at 59 minutes, this breakaway was a moment the Tottenham talisman was not going to let pass by.

As Fabianski started to come out to cut the ankle, Kane blasted a few yards outside the penalty box past the Polish international and into the net. As the fake on-air crowd went wild the monkey clearly fell off Kane’s back and he slid face-first into the manicured grass.

VAR never showed up here, it was 2-0 Spurs the question was is it would be more. Steven Bergwijn seemed the most likely to score during the remaining time, showing off his fresh legs. But he shot wide in the first minute of extra time and then Kane cannot quite get to the cross from Aurier after Bergwijn had played him in yet again.

In the end a very professional win for Tottenham and one that was much needed. After two games in five days, Spurs are off for the next nine days returning to action again Thursday, July 2, at Sheffield United, in a big battle for position in the top half.