Spurs twice let lead slip before being mauled by Wolves
Tottenham's hopes of finishing in the top-four left hanging in balance after 3-2 home defeat
01 March, 2020 — By Dan Carrier at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
SPURS 2 (Bergwijn 13, Aurier 45)
WOLVES 3 (Doherty 27, Jota 57, Jimenez 73)
JOSE Mourinho’s troubled first three months at Spurs continued on Sunday as he saw his side twice throw away a lead before finally succumbing to Wolves.
The home defeat, which saw another tinkered team selection, means with 10 games left Champions League qualification is disappearing into the distance.
It was telling that when Tottenham went 3-2 down with 20 minutes remaining, they did not muster one shot on goal as they tried to get back on level terms.
Mourinho named an unconventional starting XI. He was missing goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and also left out Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen. It was the first time since the autumn defeat in the Carabao Cup against Colchester that at least one of those names didn’t feature in the line up, and the first time this season in the Premier League.
But it was up front that Spurs looked particularly toothless. Without Harry Kane or Heung-Min Son, Dele Alli was asked to operate in a role that he does not look cut out for – playing off the shoulder of the last defender. It’s a move that has robbed Tottenham of an attacking outlet from deep.
Mourinho said afterwards he felt his side were unlucky. “Neither side were happy with a draw,” said the Spurs boss. “Wolves looked very fast, direct and strong.
“We do not have a striker, so we were looking for different solutions. It worked in so far as we scored two goals. We also had more possession than them, more control. I think the result was unfair, totally unfair on us.”
Mourinho cited a chance that fell to Alli as Spurs lead 2-1 early in the second half – but the midfielder could not direct his header home. “Dele missed a big chance to score a beautiful goal. He was in a good position, the cross was great, and it was great from a player who is not striker.”
Mourinho also called on his players to keep the faith – and said he hoped to keep within striking distance of the top four while Kane and Son recover from their injuries, hopefully in time to make an impact for the season’s run in.
“We have to keep close until we have the power back,” he said.
“We have recovered 11 points [off the top four], it went to one point and then it has all changed again for us. It is frustrating but we have to keep fighting. I cannot complain about our spirit.”
And his take on what ended with a smattering boos ringing out round the ground was not all spin.
It started well for Spurs. They set about their task with purpose and looked well rested following last Saturday’s defeat at Chelsea.
They took the lead on 13 when Serge Aurier was played in by Harry Winks and his side-foot cross was pushed goalward by Alli.
Wolves keeper Rui Patricio got to the ball but could do nothing about Steve Bergwijn pouncing on the rebound and slamming it home.
The visitors reacted well, moving the ball forward with pace and looking to get Adama Traore away when they could, while Tottenham were more patient.
The visitors equalised on 27 through the on rushing full back Matt Doherty. Wolves broke down the Spurs right and when the cross came over, Eric Dier could not cut it out, while Japhet Tanganga got in a tangle as the ball fell kindly for Doherty, who took his time from five yards out.
For a time Spurs looked rattled, but then found themselves heading down the tunnel at the break with their noses in front.
A goal mouth scramble saw Ben Davies, Giovani Lo Celso and Alli all have goal-bound shots blocked,!before Aurier stepped inside his man brilliantly and, using his weaker foot, curled home a glorious finish.
But Nuno Santo’s side have something Spurs look like they could do with a shot of – the belief to jolt themselves back to life when things aren’t going to plan.
Instead of their heads dropping, the excellent Diogo Jota equalised just before the hour mark.
Full of confidence, Jota then raced from deep, carried the ball right across the pitch and laid it on for Raul Jimenez in space.
Jimenez stepped calmly inside Tanganga and shot firmly past Paulo Gazzaniga.
Spurs had no answer, the bluntness of their attack obvious as their possession led to very little to trouble Patricio in the Wolves goal.
Mourinho will have to pick his players up for the midweek fifth round cup tie versus Norwich. The chance of finishing in the top four, with 10 games left, is beginning to look out of reach – no matter how much their coach talks them up.
SPURS: Gazzaniga, Sanchez, Winks, Dier, Lo Celso, Alli, Bergwijn, Aurier (Fernandes, 81), Moura, Davies (Parrott, 90), Tanganga (Ndombele, 75.
Substitutes not used: Vorm, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Skipp.
WOLVES: Patricio, Doherty. Neves, Jimenez (Pondence, 90), Boly, Coady, Jota, Saiss, Moutinho, Vinagre, Traore (Bendocker, 75).
Substitutes not used: Ruddy, Neto, Gibbs-White, Kilman, Buur.
Attendance: 58, 064