Topsy-turvy Tottenham blunted by Blades
Yet more VAR drama as Sheffield United earn a well-deserved 1-1 draw against Spurs
09 November, 2019 — By Dan Carrier at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
SPURS 1 (Son 58)
SHEFFIELD UNITED 1 (Baldock 78)
THE curse of topsy-turvy Tottenham struck again today as Mauricio Pochettino’s charges failed to build on an excellent midweek Champions League away win at Red Star Belgrade – and instead struggled to earn a point against newly-promoted Sheffield United.
These are games that, on paper, Spurs should win – but at the moment, with form so patchy, teams coming to Spurs fancy their chances.
Sheffield United showed why they are flying high in the table with a performance that, though lacking in finery, had bundles of commitment. Spurs took a second half lead through Heung-Min Son, but were pegged back by George Baldock’s 78th minute equaliser.
After the match, Pochettino made clear his frustrations. “It was an even game. They deserved the point. We were better at times, but we did not start well,” he said.
“For it to be one-nil to us and not keep it, and maybe score the second goal when we dominated, you feel very disappointed, upset, frustrated… its not a good feeling.”
He repeated his mantra that this was a team in transition. “You can see we need to find the balance,” he added. “We are building a team through this season, and it is the toughest league in the world. We are in the process of building to be where we want to be.”
While he seeks the right mix, his Spurs team looks shorn of confidence, and Pochettino has yet to find a way to instil the belief they need.
He stuck with a defensive partnership of Eric Dier and Davinson Sanchez, who had been comfortable in the midweek Champions League stroll, but swapped Ben Davies for Danny Rose, and Serge Aurier for Juan Foyth in the full back spots.
United’s constant press did not give Tottenham the opportunity to get comfortable and it lead to Spurs looking hurried in possession.
From the start, United looked like the sort of opponents Spurs have found cumbersome in recent months: well organised, willing to take risks, and with an aggression that suggests the players are enjoying their Premier League experience. The same cannot be said for a number of players in Lilywhite.
And how times have changed: other, supposedly lesser teams, used to come to play Spurs at home with a set up that would lead to a game of attack versus defence. They would ask Spurs to break them down and then try to hit them on the break.
In the current climate, United came set up to attack as much as defend. It shows quite how far Tottenham’s stock has fallen in recent months.
The visitors settled well, and it looked like Dier and Sanchez were in for a busy afternoon. It took Spurs 10 minutes to get going – and they nearly opened the scoring when Harry Kane tried to turn a low Aurier cross in at the near post and then had a possible call for a trip in the box: he had his back to goal and it didn’t warrant a glance at the VAR.
United showed they were dangerous, with John Lundstram striking a post on 32. Things did not look up for Spurs after the half time break, with Tanguy Ndombele hooked on 45 as he carried an injury.
Harry Winks came on as Spurs sought a way to break the deadlock. He added a bit of drive but Spurs still looked vulnerable when United poured players forward.
Then came the opener. Spurs took the lead on 58 when Son latched on to a loose ball in the box and snuck a shot home from close range.
It lasted all of three minutes. United looked to strike back and did so with almost contentious ease. David McGoldrick snuck in at the back post and tapped home a low cross. But referee Graham Scott went back to check it through VAR and the original ball to start the move was shown to be off side – much to the terraces joyful relief.
It didn’t last long. On 77, a George Baldock cross evaded all and spun in to the Spurs goal. It was soft, but perhaps deserved by United after the extraordinarily close VAR decision.
The closest Spurs came to getting an unlikely three points came through substitute Lucas Moura – his excellent effort from the edge of the box was tipped over by Dean Henderson in the Blades goal.
It means Spurs have now dropped 12 points this season from winning positions – more than any other team. If they’d held on to them, they would be in second place now.
With 10 days now till they play again, his players need to have a long, hard look at themselves and how they can find the grit to see out matches like todays.
Gazzaniga, Sanchez, Son, Kane, Dier, Sissoko, Lo Celso, Dele (Foyth, 71), Aurier (Moura, 85), Ndombele (Winks, HT), Davies.
Substitutes not used: Vorm, Alderweireld, Winks, Sessegnon, Foyth, Eriksen, Moura.
SHEFFIELD UNITED: Henderson, Baldock, Stevens, Fleck, O’Connell, Basham, Kundstram, Egan, Norwood, McGoldrick (Freeman 90), Mousset (Robinson 86).
Substitutes not used: Moore, Freeman, McBurnie, Sharp, Robinson, Jagielka, Besic.