Let’s be honest here. Spurs were second best throughout and this time did not have a Son or a Kane to lift the team.
Of course, it’s only a goal deficit and the tie is not over. However, it would require a miracle similar to that conjured up in Amsterdam last season in order for Spurs to progress to the quarter-finals.
What was worrying was the sight of Dele Alli, angry and sulking after being substituted for a subdued performance. Where was the fight Mourinho talked about in the press conference?
Realistically, Spurs are more or less out and will have nothing to lose in Leipzig except pride. What solutions are available to Mourinho in the interim period with crucial Premier League and FA Cup matches ahead.
It really boils down to negligence on the part of Daniel Levy as I have said before. His failure to buy strikers in January will definitely cost us dearly in the final analysis. Poor job.
Do Spurs fans still believe in miracles? We shall see!
Spurs’ defensive woes are well documented in the last year or so and we have managed to paper over the cracks perhaps due to the goals from Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min. But now that it’s confirmed that both are out for the rest of the season, does this mean, season over for Spurs?
Hard not to draw that conclusion. First up to test this proposition is RB Leipzig who are flying at the moment in the Bundesliga. Irony is that while Spurs have no recognised strikers for the game, Leipzig will have no recognised centre backs available!
Does that even things out as far as the match prospects go? I believe in this instance it’s going to be down to home ‘advantage’ – the Spurs fans have got to make the atmosphere unbearable for Leipzig and spur (pun intended) the team on to victory.
So, what does Mourinho do in Sonny’s absence? Who steps up to the plate? Steven Bergwijn and Lucas Moura have the speed and power to threaten most defences and Dele Alli and Giovani Lo Celso – on their day – have the guile. Surely these four players will have to carry the weight in the absence of Kane and Sonny.
Many have shouted out for Troy Parrott. But surely, he’s not ready. And it’s wishful naive thinking to believe that he is. C’mon, let’s be real. Therefore, I suspect that the line-up might be something like – Lloris, Aurier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies, Winks, Lo Celso, Dele, Moura, Bergwijn.
Winning is everything! An ugly, even lucky, performance is relevant as long as the match finishes with three points for Spurs, however it is achieved.
Increasingly, this is slowly becoming the Spurs way under Mourinho. For the first 15 minutes of this game, Spurs were barely in it as Villa were allowed to stroke the ball around like they were Barcelona. Spurs even gifted the home team with an opening goal courtesy of a mix-up between Alderweireld and Lloris, two seasoned international professionals.
However, despite this wake up call, Spurs proceeded to waste a host of chances – the main culprits being Dele Alli and Son Heung-Min – but managed to get their noses in front with Alderwiereld making amends with a sumptous half-volley and Son following up decisively after Pepe Reina saved his pathetic penalty attempt.
The 2nd half witnessed more sloppy finishing and defending as Villa equalised from a basic corner kick as Dele, Bergwijn and Son continued to spurn gild-edged chances with Reina living a charmed life in the Villa goal.
Deep into stoppage time, it certainly looked like Spurs would squander two precious points and the chance to close the gap to 4th place. Then, Villa defender Engels misjudged a Sanchez clearance, allowing Son to race clear to slot past Reina for an unlikely last-minute winner!
How did we win that? Even Jose Mourinho admitted that Southampton were the better side. Well, once more the Mourinho factor kicks in to earn a victory despite a poor performance.
To be fair, at 75 minutes, after Danny Ings had out the Saints 2-1 ahead, it looked all over for Spurs and deservedly so. Even though we took an early lead with a lucky deflected Ndombele goal, Spurs were tepid, ponderous and lacklustre for most of the game. Southampton were dominant (with 67% possession at one stage) and deserved to go through.
But then, things clicked for Spurs in the last 15 minutes. Subs Dele Alli and Gedson Fernandes made THE difference. The move which led to the equaliser began with a cheeky Dele flick and as the play moved forward Dele had the decisive touch to put Lucas Moura in a position to score, which he did with aplomb!
Dele and Gedson were both in the winning goal. Breaking through the Saints defence, Dele played a sumptuous through ball for Son Heung-Min and Sonny was brought down for a deserved penalty. And with two minutes left on the clock, Sonny cooly converted to send us into the 5th round!
If you wanted to focus on negatives, there were many. Vertonghen, Ndombele (despite his goal), Sessegnon, Tanganga, Dier all looked off the pace. Without Lo Celso or Dele for most of the game, there was no link to the front players which meant that Sonny and Lucas were also struggling. Yes, two ugly lucky wins in four games but Mourinho knows he has a massive task ahead if we are to get something out of this wretched season.
Spurs have got a new hero, Steven Bergwijn, signed from PSV before the close of the transfer window & scoring a crucial goal on his debut.
Citeh fans will argue that this Spurs win was lucky and very ugly – I will not dispute that – but when you consider that Raheem Sterling should have been sent out for his horror tackle on Dele Alli, thereby reducing Citeh to NINE men when Oleksandr Zinchenko was red-carded in the 2nd half, then maybe Citeh were the lucky & ugly ones!
Not only that but Ilkay Gundogan missed a gild-edged chance to score when Hugo Lloris saved his penalty, and not to mention the numerous glaring chances that Citeh spurned, then perhaps Citeh should look to themselves and wonder why their Billionaire Boys were misfiring!
Son Heung-Min made the game relatively safe in the 70th minute but Spurs continued to defend deep without the ball (only 33% possession) and ground out a vital 3 points, Mourinho-styled it must be said, which brings us closer to Chelsea and that coveted Top 4 spot.
There was a moment just before Spurs’ winner where loud boos reverberated around the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as it appeared that bottom club Norwich were gaining the ascendancy in this game.
Luckily for Spurs, in the next attacking move, Dele Alli’s shot was deflected and looped over Norwich keeper Tim Krul gifting Son Heung-Min with an open goal, which he did not spurn.
Spurs hung on for the remaining 10 minutes to take three precious points but it was far from convincing. Spurs had ended the first half ahead with a typical Alli goal, their first Premier League goal in four games (!) and looked comfortable in the lead.
But that confidence vanished in the 2nd half when Norwich took the game to Spurs and suddenly, Spurs looked lost at sea. The hapless Ryan Sessegnon conceded a penalty which Teemu Pukki converted and Spurs looked to be on the ropes till luck turned their way.
Clear and obvious that with the injuries to Harry Kane, Moussa Sissoko, Ben Davies and the whole Christian Eriksen transfer saga, this Spurs squad is in a very bad place. Daniel Levy is to blame, having neglected squad development in last couple of transfer windows.
That all said, apart from Liverpool, the rest of the Premier League clubs have been so inconsistent that Spurs are still only six points away from the top 4, even though we are clearly having a poor transitional season.
Let’s put things into perspective. Mourinho has only overseen one Premier League win in the last 5. Watford on the other hand have won 4 out of the last 5. Simply put, Watford are favourites to get all 3 points. Any away points taken by Spurs at this moment would be an achievement. Not expected much.