Llorente makes up for miss to sting Hornets with late winner
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Premier League: Tottenham Hotspur 2 Watford 1
Fernando Llorente was able to shake off a miss of the season contender to grab an all-important winner for Tottenham Hotspur at home to Watford this evening.
It seemed like the Hornets would sting Spurs’ for a second time this term with Craig Cathcart opening the scoring in the first half.
However, another late show from Mauricio Pochettino’s team, via goals from Heung-min Son and Llorente, secured them a vital three points which strengthened their third spot place in the Premier League.
After exiting two cup competitions during the past week, it felt like an important night in Tottenham’s season.
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There was no disgrace in losing on penalties to Chelsea in the League Cup semi-finals last Thursday, but Sunday was a major disappointment.
It wasn’t so much the result at Crystal Palace, yet more the manner of it, especially given the chances the Lilywhites created at Selhurst Park, and failed to take, and the sluggish defending for both goals.
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Pochettino made eight changes to that side which lost 2-0 in the FA Cup fourth round last weekend.
As expected, Hugo Lloris returned in goal and Toby Alderweireld started again after he was rested at Palace as Spurs went with a back three with Serge Aurier and Danny Rose coming in as the wing-backs.
Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko partnered together in the centre of midfield and up the pitch in attacking areas, Son was restored to the team after his venture Asian Cup and Christian Eriksen came back in too.
This all saw Paulo Gazzaniga, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker-Peters, Eric Dier, Oliver Skipp and Lucas Moura drop to the bench for the visit of Watford.
Surprisingly Juan Foyth missed out on the 18-man squad and so did Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, who had been linked with a deadline day move away from the club.
Leading the line for Tottenham again was Llorente, and in doing so he was starting his fourth consecutive match for the Lilywhites.
It was another opportunity for the Spaniard to show his true quality in a match where Spurs had to be wary of the Hornets sting.
Javi Gracia’s Watford had been something of a bogey side for Tottenham this season, even if Pochettino’s men got the better of them in the League Cup third round back in September at Stadium MK.
At the start of that month, however, the Lilywhites had suffered their first loss of the season at Vicarage Road in the league.
With the temperature at freezing point, it was not a night for the faint hearted in Brent with Wembley Stadium again at a capped capacity.
Play got underway after a moment of silent reflection for missing Cardiff City player Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson.
The first moment of note didn’t arrive until the ninth minute, but there was no surprise to see who was involved.
Son showed exactly what Tottenham had been missing with a quick burst of pace and he then a cut inside and let fly, but saw his curling effort sail inches wide.
It would have been another goal to his highlights reel and he was looking the most likely in the opening exchanges.
Six minutes later and Ben Foster was called into action, but he got down low to his right to save Eriksen’s deflected effort following Sissoko’s cut back.
The Dane, alongside Son, was continuing to get into pockets of space and despite the run of back-to-back defeats, Spurs were looking menacing.
While Tottenham remained on the front foot, Watford had an encouraging moment in the 25th minute.
They attacked well down the right and Eriksen needed to react quickly to block Troy Deeney’s shot before Daryl Janmaat blazed over from a tight angle.
It boosted the visitors and the game suddenly opened up over the next several minutes with a couple chances nearly occurring.
First Fernando Llorente almost produced a magnificent assist when he controlled a high ball, checked inside from Cathcart and looked to find Jan Vertonghen on his left foot with a 45-yard pass in the 28th minute.
Spurs’ central defender tried his best to beat Foster to the ball, but the Hornets number 26 just about got their first and thwarted the danger.
Less than 60 seconds later and Watford went on the attack and Gerard Deulofeu did well to keep Davinson Sanchez at arms length before he neatly turned away from the Colombia international, but his low effort skidded wide.
As the interval approached, the Hertfordshire club enjoyed a couple of forays into the Tottenham half.
Jose Holebas let fly from range in the 37th minute and while his effort looked wild, it took a touch off Aurier and gave Gracia’s men a corner.
Watford were unable to do much with it, but kept the ball well and forced another as Adrian Mariappa saw a shot deflected behind by Llorente.
This time Holebas put the ball straight into the area and Lloris initially came before he retreated and the moment’s hesitation was enough to see Cathcart deflect home after a tussle with Sanchez in the six-yard box.
It was another poor goal to concede and not for the first time this season Tottenham had conceded from a set-piece against Watford.
While the atmosphere had been largely impressive for the opening 38 minutes, it now changed and the hosts left the pitch to some half-hearted boos at half time.
Pochettino had seen enough and replaced Aurier at the break with Moura coming on and Sissoko moving to wing-back with Eriksen dropping into the centre of the park.
It immediately had the desired effect, though it didn’t produce the equaliser like it should have.
Sissoko did well out well and crossed into the area where Llorente was able to poke an effort towards goal.
Foster saved and yet made a hash of the next part as the ball rebounded to Llorente, who had the simple task of putting the ball in the net from a few yards.
However, in the Spaniard’s attempts to volley it home, he kneed the ball over to the shock of the Spurs supporters.
It looked harder to miss than score and yet Llorente had squandered the opportune chance to level in the 52nd minute.
While the fans were still feeling down in the dumps about the miss of the season, the team didn’t let it affect them and created more opportunities.
Eriksen saw a free kick brilliantly saved by Foster’s feet in the 63rd minute and from the resulting goalmouth scramble, Alderweireld’s chipped cross was nodded wide by Llorente, who at least this time was under pressure.
More pressure from the hosts resulted in a moment of controversy with 68 played as Moura went down under the challenge of Janmaat.
Referee Graham Scott waved play on, however, and Rose saw a shot blocked by the visitors’ substitute Ben Wilmot.
Tottenham’s second change of a bitterly cold evening happened with 21 minutes left as Trippier replaced Sissoko, who left the pitch to warm applause.
Spurs were dominating possession, but struggling to find gaps to penetrate a Watford defence now playing with Wilmot just in front of them.
Plenty of set-pieces were being forced by the north Londoners, but very little were put in a dangerous area and so most of those promising situations were wasted.
So many of Tottenham’s crosses were off target, but the latest in the 77th minute nearly resulted in the equaliser, but Foster got back to claw away Winks’ centre.
Then a big moment occurred and one Watford would later rue as substitute Isaac Success fired wide on the volley in the 79th minute following Deeney’s knock down.
It was a massive opportunity for the Hornets to put the game to bed, but the sub had sent it off target from 10-yards.
Pochettino’s final change was made seconds later with Erik Lamela replacing centre back Vertonghen and then the Lilywhites were finally all square.
Llorente received the ball and cut inside, but was tacked and yet the ball ricocheted to Son and he smashed home from inside the area in the 80th minute.
After chance after chance, Foster had finally been beaten and by a shot which went in down the middle of the goal.
Now Tottenham were level they were scenting blood and in the 87th minute they got an all-important winner.
Following another poor cross into the area, the ball came for Rose and this time his delivery was a peach and on the end of it was Llorente, who showed the type of aerial instincts he was signed for.
The former Swansea City forward pulled onto the back post and held off his marker to plant a header into the bottom corner.
It was a massive moment for the Spaniard and he wheeled off to find Pochettino and celebrate with his manager.
After the miss of the season, now Llorente was being saluted for his sixth goal of the season and what a vital one it was.
The supporters, who had been moaning and groaning for a large chunk of the game, were now full of joy and despite four minutes of stoppage time, Tottenham held on for a potentially crucial win.
With Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Man United all dropping points this midweek, Spurs have made ground on some of their rivals.
Pochettino’s team trail the Reds by seven points, but are only two off second-placed City while they now hold a seven-point lead themselves over Arsenal and the Blues who are joint-fourth.
Next up for the Lilywhites is another home clash on Saturday, this time with Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle United.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris (c); Sanchez, Alderweireld, Vertonghen (Lamela 79); Aurier (Moura 46), Winks, Sissoko (Trippier 69), Rose; Eriksen, Son; Llorente.
Unused substitutes: Gazzaniga, Walker-Peters, Dier, Skipp.
Watford: Foster; Janmaat, Cathcart, Mariappa, Holebas; Hughes, Cleverley (Wilmot 66), Capoue, Pereyra; Deulofeu (Success 61), Deeney ©.
Unused substitutes: Gomes, Britos, Masina, Sema, Quina.