Tottenham 1 Swansea 0: Vertonghen strikes as Spurs sink the Swans
Premier League: Tottenham 1 Swansea 0
Jan Vertonghen struck a 75th-minute winner while Scott Parker made his long-awaited return in injury-time as Tottenham narrowly overcame Swansea at White Hart Lane.
Vertonghen pounced when Kyle Walker’s free-kick dropped to him in the second half, and Andre Villas-Boas’ side bucked their recent trend of conceding costly late goals to see out the win.
The Lilywhites’ victory means that they leapfrog Everton into fourth place in the table, behind third-placed Chelsea on goal difference – although the Blues have a game in hand.
Steven Caulker and Gylfi Sigurdsson were both on loan with the Swans last season, but they were both on the Tottenham bench against their former club.
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William Gallas was preferred to Caulker while Kyle Naughton was also recalled at left-back, enabling Jan Vertonghen to move inside to centre-back.
Gareth Bale missed out through injury so Clint Dempsey lined up on the left of the midfield again in a 4-4-2 formation, with Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe up front.
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There was a clear commitment from both sides to keep the ball on the deck and attempt to outpass each other – and it was Swansea who dominated possession in the opening exchanges, nearly taking an early lead as a corner kick made it all the way across the goalmouth without getting a touch.
Spurs began to get amongst their visitors and wrestle control of the game, but they were unable to find a way past a determined Swans rearguard, who were quick to throw their bodies in the way of any goalbound efforts.
Mousa Dembele won the ball in the visitors’ half and backheeled it to Defoe, whose low effort was brilliantly blocked by Swansea forward Michu, who had somehow got back to salvage the situation.
Walker then got forward and cut the ball across the box to Adebayor, but he found Leon Britton in the way and his shot ricocheted to safety.
Spurs’ best chance arrived in the 24th minute as Aaron Lennon played a quick one-two with Sandro to get in behind the defence – but he opted to find a team-mate rather than go for goal himself and the ball was intercepted and cleared.
Swansea threatened as Jonathan De Guzman’s cross just eluded Wayne Routledge as he stretched to reach the ball with his head, and White Hart Lane then witnessed two spectacular long-distance efforts at opposite ends.
Walker struck a thunderous, 25-yard thunderbolt that struck Gerhard Tremmel in the shoulder, and Michu then tried his luck from all of 45 yards and saw the ball drop inches over the crossbar with Hugo Lloris scurrying back into his net.
Swansea nearly made the perfect start to the second half as Routledge got around Gallas and chipped in a cross for Nathan Dyer, who was unable to direct his close-range header at goal.
However, Spurs grabbed the upper hand again and Adebayor embarked on a solo run before unleashing a low effort that lacked power but nevertheless forced Tremmel to get down palm the ball around the post.
The two teams then combined for a high-quality passage of play, with Swansea passing the ball neatly before Sandro’s crunching tackle launched a Tottenham break. Lennon and Defoe and freed the overlapping Walker, but the full-back fired over the bar from a good position.
The tension rose as the last 20 minutes approached, and Villas-Boas made two changes, introducing Sigurdsson and then being forced into a second substitution as Adebayor limped off, to be replaced by Andros Townsend.
The forward’s withdrawal looked like it would hamper Spurs’ chances of finding a winner – but the only goal of the game came moments later in the 75th minute as Walker’s free-kick landed in front of Jan Vertonghen, and the Belgian defender swept the ball past Tremmel into the bottom corner.
Having shipped a steady stream of costly late goals – including two in injury-time at Everton in their pervious outing – the question was whether Tottenham would be able to hold onto their lead.
Villas-Boas and his assistant Steffen Freund both rose from their seats to tell the back line to move forward, rather than dropping fearfully towards their own goal.
Defoe could have eased their nerves in the 87th minute, going through one on one with Tremmel but firing straight at the German.
His head coach and backroom staff were left with their heads in their hands on the bench – and they were given five extra minutes to endure at the end of the 90.
Spurs were forced to defend a series of set pieces and Villas-Boas introduced Parker – who returned to a standing ovation – to bolster the rearguard action.
There was late drama as Lloris rushed from his line to punch clear, getting the ball but also flooring Michu, and referee Mike Dean failed to stop play.
Spurs continued to attack, causing a melee as players squared up to each other, and Jake Livermore rushed from the bench to get involved as coaches argued on the side-lines.
The action eventually resumed and the final whistle closely followed as Spurs held on to secure victory.
Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Gallas, Vertonghen, Naughton, Lennon, Sandro, Dembele (Parker 90), Dempsey (Sigurdsson 69), Adebayor (Townsend 72), Defoe