Son and Llorente supply late heroics as Spurs turn it around
Spanish striker had already missed a sitter before scoring winner against Watford
Tottenham Hotspur’s Fernando Llorente scores his side’s winning goal late on in the Premier League game against watford at Wembley. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA Wire
Tottenham Hotspur 2 Watford 1
Tottenham may be out of two cups but they are not completely out of form. Time was running out on a bitterly cold night in north London and the home side appeared to yet again be heading for defeat. But then two heroes emerged – Son Heung-min on his return to the side having competed at the Asian Cup and then, with 87 minutes on the clock, Fernando Llorente, the man who earlier had missed a sitter but now rose to send a header into the back of the net. It was the winner.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men now find themselves just two points behind Manchester City in second and will overtake the champions should they beat Newcastle on Saturday. Watford, meanwhile, remain ninth and will feel deflated given how much they had put into this game having taken the lead in the first half through Craig Cathcart
Son, one of eight changes to the side who limped to defeat at Selhurst Park, started in attack alongside Llorente as Pochettino reorganised his players in a 3-1-4-2 formation and the South Korean quickly caught the eye with his energy and direct running. As early as the third minute he caused panic in Watford’s defence, and in particular to Cathcart, with a driving run into their area. Six minutes later he cut inside on to his left foot and hit a curling shot from long range that drifted just wide of the far post.
Those moments aside, however, the home side made little impact during the first half, their forward play stodgy and somewhat predictable against opponents who also made eight changes from their own FA Cup fourth-round encounter, the 2-0 victory at Newcastle, and remained resolute in a 4-4-1-1 formation.
And the visiting side could have taken the lead themselves after four minutes had Troy Deeney been able to connect with Daryl Janmaat’s right-wing cross as he jumped from an unmarked position inside the area. Unfortunately for the Watford captain, Toby Alderweireld was on hand to flick the ball to safety with a vital header.
There was no salvation for Spurs, however, seven minutes from half-time and as they conceded in incredibly sloppy fashion. Jose Holebas swung a corner into the area, Hugo Lloris came out to collect the ball but instead hesitated, providing Cathcart with the time and space to head the ball into the net via a deflection of Davinson Sanchez. It was the Watford defender’s fourth goal of the season and the cue for a somewhat sparse and already agitated home crowd to make their displeasure even more clear.
Pochettino’s reaction was swift. Off went Serge Aurier at half-time and on came Lucas Moura. That meant a shift of position for Moussa Sissoko, from central midfield to right wing back in what was now a 3-4-2-1 formation.
It was unfamiliar role for the Frenchman but he took to it well and delivered the cross on 52 minutes from which the home side should have equalised. Llorente did well to get to the delivery ahead of Adrian Mariappa but after his shot was kept out via an excellent stop by Ben Foster the striker’s next contribution was nothing short of a howler – a shot with a knee that missed an empty net from a matter of yard out. Llorente held his head in horror as the ball drifted over the bar and as he did, a fresh wave of moans and groans emanated from the majority of those in attendance.
The miss was a bad one but it at least sparked Tottenham into life. They were now pushing forward with increasing aggression and in increasing numbers. On 63 minutes, Christian Eriksen’s low shot forced Foster into another smart save and then shortly after Ben Wilmot, having come on as a replacement for Tom Cleverely, cleared Danny Rose’s low left-sided drive from practically on his goalline.
The pressure was mounting but Watford stood firm. Javi Gracia’s men were also prepared to use illegal means in order to keep their opponents at bay, Lucas Moura especially. The Brazilian was cut down in his tracks on numerous occasions, with Mariappa and Etienne Capoue receiving bookings from referee Graham Scott for doing precisely that.
Tottenham appeared to be heading for a third successive home loss but then came the turnaround. On 79 minutes, Isaac Success failed to make it 2-0 with a side-footed shot from close-range and then, a minute or so later, Son showed him how it should be done with a close-range drive. That appeared to be that but with time running out came Llorente’s own telling contribution. – Guardian