Tottenham grind down slick Swansea to advance hopes of top-four finish
Tottenham Hotspur 1 Swansea City 0It was easy to wonder where Tottenham Hotspur’s goal was coming from, particularly when Emmanuel Adebayor limped off and Andre Villas-Boas looked at his substitutes’ bench and saw no strikers.
Tottenham, determined to advance their top-four credentials appeared to be running out of ideas. Until, that is, enter Jan Vertonghen: the summer signing from Ajax, who has emerged as a key figure and fans’ favourite. The Belgium defender scored his first goal in the Premier League and only his second for the club, after September’s at Carlisle in the League Cup.
Kyle Walker’s free-kick flicked off a Swansea head but it would be remiss to say that the ball fell kindly for Vertonghen as the visitors’ defensive concentration suffered a rare lapse. Vertonghen’s technique had to be perfect to convert the chance on the half-volley, but it was. Tottenham deserved their reward.
“It was a beautiful finish,” said Villas-Boas. “We knew that Swansea were among the teams who concede more from set plays . . . It was important for Jan because he has been looking for this goal for quite some time.”
The five minutes of injury time were tough for the Tottenham manager, given his team’s propensity to concede vital late goals. He had no complaints about the length of time added, after six second-half substitutions and Adebayor’s injury. The striker suffered a heavy ankle knock in a challenge with Leon Britton and later felt his hamstring tighten; he will undergo a scan to assess the extent of the damage. But Tottenham, to the relief of the home crowd, got the job done.
Blood and thunder
“We have addressed the [late goals] issue in training,” said Villas-Boas. “We have increased the complexity of the tasks the players have been doing at the end of the sessions . . . the players are conscious we have conceded in the past and they want to get it right.”
Swansea had never won at White Hart Lane and they came to pass. And pass. In this Premier League of blood and thunder, it is remarkable to witness their patience on the ball.
But this was not a vintage afternoon for Michael Laudrup’s team. Tottenham pressed and hustled them into errors. The game might have been over at the interval after what Laudrup said had become a “very bad first half” for his side.
Tottenham created a fistful of first-half chances and none was better than that which Mousa Dembele presented to Jermain Defoe after robbing Michu. The Swansea striker tracked back to block. Adebayor drew a save from Chico Flores; Aaron Lennon passed instead of shooting; and Walker’s drive ricocheted clear off Gerhard Tremmel’s shoulder.
Defoe would have made the closing stages more comfortable for Tottenham had he beaten Tremmel one-on-one in the 86th minute but Villas-Boas would savour the “patience and persistence” of his team.
Scott Parker’s injury-time introduction was warmly received but Tottenham’s real happiness came from a glance at the league table.