A fortunate win after a dreadful first half and a cheap sending off that turned the game – this was a carbon copy of the trip to Villa. Except here, in the second half there was more promise, after Pochettino finally gave the team some width with the introduction of Aaron Lennon and, surprisingly, Vlad Chiriches.
Spurs started the game with a very different team to the eleven that were humbled by Stoke. Both the captain and one of the vice-captains were missing. It was a disapointment when it emerged that this wasn’t just a bold move by Pochettino – Adebayor had a back problem and Kaboul was unavailable through “personal reasons”. With Rose and Chadli also injured, there weren’t that many options open to the Argentine, so it’s difficult to tell how much the change of personnel was down to an attempt to reboot our season and how much was necessity.
Vertonghen was back, which had to be a good thing. Davies finally got a chance in the Premier League. Less pleasing was the sight of Dier at right back. He could become a great centre back but fullback is not his position. Without Naughton and Walker what was the alternative? We were to find out in the second half.
As so often of late, Spurs started slowly. Hull were first to every ball, quick to pressure their opponents and direct and incisive going forward. It was the kind of high energy approach and direct attacking game we were hoping to see from Tottenham.
As usual our defending was chaotic, with Fazio the worst offender. A succession of poor passes and bad positioning by the big centre half handed Hull possession high up the pitch. In truth the defence weren’t getting much help.
Dembele, notionally tasked with the holding role, was completely ineffectual. He wasn’t shielding the defence, neither was he hurting Hull in the final third. He only seemed to popup in the centre of the pitch and here he did his usual trick of slowing promising breaks down.
Hull opened the scoring as early as the eighth minute, with a goal from a former Spur. Fazio headed the ball out and Livermore drove forward, shooting diagonally and low into the bottom corner. The goalkeeper had no chance; Livermore wasn’t closed down quickly enough, giving him the time and space to pick his spot – symptomatic of our first half torpor.
Ben Arfa was very impressive, running at our defence and causing no end of problems. Hull had several great chances to score, particularly a guilt edged opportunity from 10 yards that the Frenchman blasted over the bar. Tottenham were very fortunate to go in at the break just one goal down.
At half-time, I was hoping for the introduction of Stambouli to give us some bite in midfield, and Lennon to give us some width. Instead, Pochettino surprised everyone by replacing Dier with Vlad Chiriches. On some levels it made perfect sense. Dier was contributing to our defensive problems, yet wasn’t providing us with the width needed to break down a Hull side who’s goal advantage gave them even more reason to sit back and defend.
Chiriches has lots of ability, especially when it comes to skill on the ball, but at times he can be a comical liability. Maybe fullback is a better position for his talents.
Whether it was this substitution or the half-time team talk, Spurs looked much better at the start of the second half. An even bigger change of fortune came our way just five minutes later.
Gaston Ramirez kicked out petulantly at Jan Vertonghen and the referee pulled a red card from his pocket. The Belgian took a lot of stick later for his reaction but under the circumstances it seemed fairly restrained. He fell over, as you well might having been kicked unexpectedly from behind, then just looked surprised. No rolling around, no grabbing his head, in fact no histrionics whatsoever. It was fairly innocuous but it was off the ball and very stupid.
The sending off gave Tottenham the advantage but it was the addition of Aaron Lennon on 59 minutes that forced it home. The diminutive winger has been surplus to requirements for much of this season, while we have been crying out for some pace and width. He linked up particularly well with Chiriches who also played a big part in stretching Hull’s defence and providing a succession of dangerous crosses.
The two goals were, however, the work of Christian Eriksen. I actually thought he had a poor first half, but with the extra space created by the sending off and the distraction of the new threat out wide, he thrived.
For the first, he was unlucky to see his exquisite free-kick come back off keeper and post, only for Harry Kane to show his recent knack of being in the right place at the right time, slotting home. For the next twenty minutes we pounded Hull and it seemed certain we would score the winner.
In the end it took another half an hour, after it had seemed we had wasted the opportunity Ramirez had handed to us. Receiving the ball from Lennon, Eriksen whipped it low into the corner, a finish reminiscent of Livermore’s opener that now seemed such a long time ago.
Were Spurs lucky to get the three points? How much was due to the sending off and how much due to the substitutions? Should Lennon start next time out? Let me know your opinions in the comments below.
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