Goals from Dele Alli and Harry Kane help Tottenham Hotspur sting Hornets to get back on track
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Premier League: Tottenham Hotspur 2 Watford 0
Tottenham Hotspur got back on track in the Premier League with a 2-0 victory at home to Watford, but it was far from straightforward for Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
Goals from Dele Alli and Harry Kane secured all three points for Spurs against the Hertfordshire-based Hornets, but they very nearly stung the hosts on a couple of occasions.
It took some outstanding saves from Hugo Lloris to prevent Watford scoring and allow the Lilywhites to take a big step towards securing a top-four finish.
The north Londoners essentially only need four points from their last three games to guarantee a Champions League spot for next season given their superior goal difference over London rivals Chelsea.
Spurs entered this match off the back of a three-game winless streak with two of those encounters at Wembley.
The most recent, Saturday April 21, was the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United, which Tottenham lost 2-1.
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Pochettino made just one change from the bitterly disappointing defeat last weekend as Hugo Lloris returned in goal with Michel Vorm on the bench.
Watford’s Javi Gracia picked a fairly attacking line up with Richarlison returning and Andre Gray up front while captain Troy Deeney dropped to the bench.
Ex-Spurs midfielder Etienne Capoue, as expected, also started, but Heurelho Gomes was among the replacements.
Given it was a Monday night and there was not too much left to play for, the crowd at Wembley seemed pretty sparse minutes before kick-off.
It was fairly understandable and Tottenham needed to get back on track and appeared to have found the perfect opponent to do so in Watford.
The Hornets hadn’t defeated Spurs since 1994 in a League Cup tie at White Hart Lane on October 4 and hadn’t scored on the road since January 2 of this year.
Watford started confidently, however, and Will Hughes had an effort after 12 seconds, but his shot was tame and went harmlessly wide.
Nevertheless, it signified the intentions of Gracia’s team and they continued to look the more assured in the opening exchanges.
A good tackle by Kane, after he had lost possession, helped set Tottenham on the right path.
In the sixth minute they produced an encouraging pattern of play when Jan Vertonghen’s cross-field pass found Kieran Trippier and he set Christian Eriksen down the right, but his cross was put behind for a corner, which came to nothing.
Another corner was won two minutes later and from this one Spurs threatened, but Eric Dier’s header went over.
Slowly but surely Pochettino’s men appearing to be going through the gears and they should have done more from a decent position in the 12th minute.
Alli got away from the Watford back four and looked to find Kane – unmarked at the back post.
His pass was poor, but still reached the England man and yet his touch was heavy and the chance went.
Watford were not sitting back though, and attacked themselves in the 14th minute when the impressive Hughes flicked into Richarlison’s path, but he missed his kick and Vertonghen cleared.
Another nervy moment occurred a minute later when Jose Holebas passed out to Kiko Femenia, but the wide-man failed to control with Ben Davies out of position.
It proved costly as in the 16th minute Tottenham broke the deadlock, although thanks to a mistake by Orestis Karnezis.
Trippier brought the ball forward and crossed into the area where Watford’s goalkeeper spilled the routine cross and Eriksen had the presence of mind to cut back for Alli to slot home.
It was the England midfielder’s 14th goal of the season and fourth in his last five league appearances and this one came under the watchful eye of international boss Gareth Southgate.
Alli celebrated with another Fortnite-inspired celebration, but Spurs weren’t able to build on the opener as Trippier needed treatment soon after the 16th-minute goal.
Eventually he was able to resume and Tottenham got into the swing of things with 20 on the clock.
After a mini-run of poor results, the swagger looked to be coming back for Spurs as they aimed to take a big step towards Champions League qualification with a win.
Yet in the 26th minute Watford were nearly back on level terms and like in the loss to United, it resulted from Tottenham losing possession inside their half.
Dier tried to find Alli, but saw his through ball intercepted by Capoue and he produced a neat pass into Gray and despite Vertonghen being in close proximity, the ex-Burnley man only had Lloris to beat.
Thankfully for Tottenham, their captain came to the rescue. The Frenchman, who has come in for criticism of late, got down low to save Gray’s effort from inside the area and the score remained 1-0.
Spurs upped the ante after Watford’s opportunity and Heung-min Son had a penalty shout waved away in the 30th minute, after going down under a slight challenge from Doucoure, before Eriksen drilled wide from long range seconds later.
Tottenham were still looking slack at times in possession and Watford showed their potency again in the 36th minute.
Unsurprisingly Hughes was involved and he back-heeled to put Doucoure behind the hosts’ back four.
The ex-Granada loanee cut back and despite a number of challenges going in, retained the ball and got his shot off, but Lloris saved with his effort taking a slight deflection to take the sting out of the drive.
More stray passes resulted in groans from the Wembley crowd with the match having an end of season feel to it.
Gracia’s men threatened some more four minutes before half time when Hughes spread the play out to Richarlison and he cut inside, but Trippier did well to block his shot.
It only added to the feeling of nerves and tension with Spurs struggling to get a foothold in the match.
Watford scented blood and went for the kill again and came so close to equalising on two occasions in the 44th minute.
The first happened when Tottenham lost possession high up the pitch and the Hornets broke and Gray played Richarlison in on the left.
Although the angle was tight, the Brazilian let fly from 16-yards and forced Lloris into a fine save.
It wasn’t over yet for Spurs, as back came Watford and Hughes looked to put through Doucoure again – still in the 44th minute – and only Lloris’ quick reaction prevented the French midfielder having an opportunity as Tottenham’s goalkeeper cleared well.
After a couple of months of scrutiny, Lloris was answering his critics in emphatic fashion, but Spurs needed half time.
Fortunately for them only a minute of stoppage time was added on and it went by without anything significant to note, which allowed Pochettino to speak with his team and refocus their minds on the task at hand.
The Tottenham boss didn’t make any changes at the break and in the 48th minute his decision paid dividends.
Son got played in down the left by Alli and looked to find team-mate Kane, but the forward slipped, which fitted well with his current luck.
He quickly got back up to his feet though and was rewarded for doing so as Trippier got onto the loose ball and crossed into the area where Kane tapped home his 38th goal of the season and 27th in the Premier League this season.
It was much-needed for Spurs and their star striker with Kane now only four behind Liverpool’s Mo Salah in the race for the golden boot.
Pochettino did make a change with 63 on the clock when Dembele, not for the first time in the match, went down and this time come off with Victor Wanyama replacing him.
Watford also made a double substitution with Deeney and Gerald Deulofeu coming on for Gray and Femenia.
Spurs almost extended their lead with 22 minutes left when Trippier produced a superb free kick from the right touchline and Vertonghen rose highest, but saw his header hit the post and just evaded Kane.
The Hornets almost made the most of that let-off in the 70th minute when Holebas’ cross was headed down by Deeney for Richarlison, but the Brazilian blazed over.
It was an excellent opportunity and Watford did have the ball in the net 60 seconds later when Doucoure played Deulofeu through on goal and he rounded Lloris and tapped home, but the offside flag had correctly already gone up.
Spurs had a goal of their own ruled out for the same reason three minutes later when Vertonghen played in Kane, but the forward was denied a second by the linesman.
Another substitution was made by Tottenham straight after as Moussa Sissoko was brought on in place of Son.
Immediately afterwards a slightly worrying moment occurred when Richarlison and Trippier clashed headers and the former needed a couple of minutes of treatment.
Played didn’t resume until the 77th minute and the Brazilian didn’t enter the pitch again until 78 was on the clock.
Pochettino made his third and final change with seven minutes to go as Alli left the pitch to a standing ovation after another fine display.
Erik Lamela replaced him and then the game’s other outstanding performer, Hughes, was replaced by Andre Carrillo.
Both sides were going through the motions during the final exchanges as fans from the two sets of supporters headed for the Wembley exit doors.
They all nearly missed a third Tottenham goal when Kane picked out Sissoko with a fine through ball, but the former Newcastle United midfielder blazed over with only Karnezis to beat.
Six minutes of stoppage time were then added on at the national stadium and Lloris had to be alert in the 95th minute to preserve his clean sheet.
Watford substitute Carrillo got past Davies too easily and let fly, but Tottenham’s number one saved well again and grabbed the resulting cross into the area.
The full time whistle followed soon after and although it had been a flat night at Spurs’ temporary Brent home, the victory means a win from Saturday’s fixture at West Bromwich Albion will essentially secure a top-four finish.
Of course given Liverpool’s recent draws in the league, Tottenham will now target a third-placed finish because they trail Jurgen Klopp’s team by one point with a game in hand over Newcastle United on May 9 to come next week.
While it was far from pretty, it was job done for Pochettino and his team as they got back on track after the recent disappointing results against the Manchester sides with a 2-0 win over a spirited Watford side.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris; Trippier, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Davies; Dier, Dembele (Wanyama 63); Eriksen, Alli (Lamela 83), Son (Sissoko 74); Kane.
Unused substitutes: Vorm, Alderweireld, Aurier, Moura.
Watford: Karnezis; Mariappa, Cathcart, Kabasele, Holebas; Doucouré, Capoue; Femenía (Deulofeu 64), Hughes (Carrillo 84), Richarlison; Gray (Deeney 64).
Unused substitutes: Gomes, Britos, Janmaat, Sinclair.