“It’s happening again” sang the West Ham fans as their team went 2-0 up at White Hart Lane, a ground where they were victorious twice last season. In a way they were right, as for the second time this campaign, Tottenham scored an injury time goal to break Hammers’ hearts.
As I took my seat, the teams were being announced and there was one big surprise. No Eriksen, replaced by Townsend. Presumably this was to give him a rest – until this game the Dane was the only outfield player to start all 25 league games.
Spurs began the game well, pressurising West Ham from the off and creating a number of opportunities. Nabil Bentaleb saw a fierce drive turned away by the fingertips of the West Ham goalkeeper. Harry Kane grazed the post after a wonderful ball over the top by the excellent Danny Rose. Later the left back headed the ball just over when Kane returned the complement.
Despite the promising start, it was the visitors who opened the scoring. Dembele gave the ball away cheaply in a dangerous area. West Ham worked the ball to Cresswell who popped up an inviting cross. Boyate got between Dier and Vertonghen to head home.
The goal seemed to knock the wind out of Spurs sails. Now their opponents were creating the better opportunities while Tottenham struggled to make headway. We had plenty of possession but there was no cutting edge. The passing and movement wasn’t quite clicking.
To be fair, this was partly due to the efforts of the visitors. West Ham were pressing high up the pitch to stop Spurs from building from the back, forcing plenty of long clearances from Lloris. Once past the initial press, they set up just in front of the penalty area and Tottenham found themselves bogged down around the box.
A lot of the West Ham play centred on their left hand side. The statistics show that 51% of their attacks came down this side, versus 29% down the right and just 20% through the middle.
Townsend was ineffective both going forward and giving protection to his fullback. Walker was being overrun and appeared to harangue Mason for not covering. Dembele was worst of all, taking too much time on the ball and giving it away in dangerous areas. It was no surprise he was replaced at half-time.
On the positive side, Danny Rose gave another good performance and received a lot of cheers from the area I was sitting in. He was great against Arsenal, poor against Liverpool and now great again here. He just needs to add consistency to his game and he will have completed a remarkable turn around from last year.
Dier had a good game too, commanding in the air as the predictable crosses rained in but also quick and composed when forced to track back. He made a couple of key last man tackles.
Lamela deserves a mention. Not everything came off for him but he worked hard, made some nice passes and was often the ball carrier for our counter attacks.
The second West Ham goal was another poor one to concede. Mark Noble crossed the ball over almost everyone but Sakho stole in at the back post to force home from the tightest of angles.
Moments later Mark Noble got very lucky after scything down Bentaleb in midfield. The West Ham captain was on a yellow, surely this was the only reason the referee didn’t caution him again.
Nothing seemed to be going right for Spurs. Passes weren’t coming off, the sharpness wasn’t there. Then as has so often happened under Pochettino, the team finally clicked in the last 15 minutes of the match.
West Ham had spent the whole game harrying Tottenham, now they looked out of energy and dropped further and further back to defend. At last we had some room to build our attacks.
First Harry Kane bundled the ball home after an Eriksen free kick, only to see the linesman raise his flag. It was very tight but the correct decision.
Then came the moment that changed the complexion of the game. Adrian punched out a dangerous cross from Lamela but only as far as Rose. The fullback drove the ball towards the goal but also down into the turf, causing it to bounce over the flapping West Ham keeper.
The change in atmosphere in the ground was dramatic. In an instant the West Ham fans stopped singing. The Spurs support, who had all but given up, found their voice. After resignation and despondency mere seconds before, now it felt that we had to equalise.
Tottenham so poor for 60 minutes were now dominant. The pressure was relentless but frustratingly the goal wouldn’t come. Soldado had a shot palmed away by Adrian, Vertonghen headed over from a corner.
The five minutes of added time were almost over. Supporters had began to head for the exits. Lloris pumped a last hopeful clearance forward. The ball pinged around the edge of the box and somehow ended up at the feet of Kane, who was sent tumbling by a crazy push from the otherwise excellent Alex Song.
Song lay prone, head in hands as Kane picked the ball up to take the resulting penalty.
After the initial celebrations at the award of the spot kick, now came the nerves. The tension inside the ground was almost unbearable. After such an improbable come back, surely Kane – so often our saviour – had to score?
Adrian saved it!
For one horrible second I thought we’d blown it. Time stood still as the ball sat invitingly in front of the unguarded net. Then Kane poked it home – queue an outpouring of joy and relief in the stands.
When the dust had settled, where does this leave us? A draw is a setback for our top four ambitions and if you’d told me before the game that it was going to end 2-2, I’d have been disappointed. But to come back like we did and rescue the game in the last minute, silencing the travelling West Ham support, felt like victory.
Spurs scoring a key goal in injury time, it’s happened again!
Are you happy with the result? Which players played well and who do you think disappointed? Let me know your opinions in the comments below.