Tottenham Hotspur tame Southampton to stay second
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Premier League: Tottenham Hotspur 2 Southampton 1
First-half goals from Christen Eriksen and Dele Alli helped Tottenham Hotspur overcome the challenge of Southampton and remain second in the Premier League table.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side were cruising at the break despite not ever hitting top gear at White Hart Lane.
And a nervy second half was to follow in north London, but Spurs did enough to claim the points and remain unbeaten on home turf this season.
Pochettino made four changes from the side which had easily defeated League One side Millwall 6-0 in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup last Sunday.
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Hugo Lloris returned in goal and took the armband with Michel Vorm dropping back to the bench, while Kyle Walker was fit to start in place of Kieran Trippier.
Mousa Dembele was also back with Harry Winks missing out and Eriksen came in for the injured Harry Kane.
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Heung-Min Son led the line in the absence of Spurs’ prolific home-grown hero and the onus was on him in attack.
Meanwhile, Southampton hadn’t played for 15 days – since winning 4-3 at Watford – and were eyeing revenge against Spurs, who had triumphed 4-1 in the previous meeting on December 28.
The Saints did not have Italian hitman Manolo Gabbiadini at that time, but their January signing had scored six times in his first four matches for the club and was the one to watch for the hosts.
Eriksen started the game in magnificent form and produced a stunning through ball for Son after three minutes, but Fraser Forster denied the forward from eight yards.
The visitors settled soon after, however, and forced Tottenham into a couple of sloppy passes at the back with their high pressing.
Eric Dier picked up the first booking of the game in the 11th minute for a rash tackle on Nathan Redmond, but Spurs soon began to get on top.
Dembele and Walker combined brilliantly from a corner before Eriksen’s cross was flicked on for Son, but his header was easily saved.
And Pochettino’s side created another opportunity in the 14th minute and this time Forster was beaten as Tottenham moved the ball around smartly before Demble found Eriksen, who let fly from 25 yards and drilled his shot into the corner.
It was a stunning strike and just reward for the Dane, who had also netted the opener last weekend against Millwall.
Spurs nearly made it 2-0 less than 60 seconds later, but Alli was denied by Forster.
Oriol Romeu almost equalised for Southampton with a sweetly-struck effort in the 17th minute, but it sailed just wide.
Tottenham almost added a second in the 24th minute, though, as Eriksen picked out Toby Alderweireld from a corner, but Forster produced a fine save and then Saints threatened twice in quick succession.
First, a poor pass by Dier allowed Southampton to attack and Dusan Tadic cut back for Gabbiadini, but he could only fire into the side netting.
And straight after that opportunity, Claude Puel’s men threatened again and should have levelled as Redmond managed to get on the end of a deep cross and his toe-poke came to Tadic, who smashed over from close range.
It was a great chance and would prove a costly miss for the visitors as just past the half-hour mark and Tottenham won a penalty.
Southampton failed to clear the ball and Alli nipped in ahead of Steven Davis and was brought down, leaving referee Andre Marriner with little option other than to point to the spot.
After a slight delay, Alli was eventually allowed to take the penalty and sent Forster the wrong way to double Spurs’ lead in the 33rd minute.
To compound Saints’ frustration, Italian hitman Gabbiadini was forced off just before the spot-kick due to injury with Shane Long replacing him.
Five minutes before the break and Spurs nearly made it three after a stunning passage of play that saw Dembele turn away from two players before nutmegging a third and Eriksen went close to picking out Son, but the final ball just evaded the Tottenham forward.
Pochettino’s team hadn’t been at their best, yet it had been enough to dominate an off-the-pace Southampton side.
Three minutes of stoppage time were added on at the end of the first half and Dembele fouled Redmond to hand Saints a promising situation.
Davis took the free-kick and tried to cut back for a team-mate, but Spurs anticipated it well and looked to break.
Fortunately for Southampton the ball rolled loose for Cedric Soares and he let fly from range and forced Lloris into a diving save.
The half time whistle followed soon after and Spurs were quickly into their stride after the restart, creating a decent opening in the 49th minute as Ben Davies did well on the left before play was switched to the opposite flank and Walker cut back for Eriksen, who blazed over.
But they switched off in the 52nd minute, as Ryan Bertrand’s cross was missed by Alderweireld and James Ward-Prowse reduced the deficit at the back post.
It was a wake-up call for Spurs and they should have immediately restored their two-goal lead, but Son fired wide following Eriksen’s centre.
The next goal was crucial and both teams and sets of supporters could sense that, as the decibel levels inside White Hart Lane increased.
Long tested Lloris in the 57th minute, but it was easy for the Tottenham captain and although Spurs were seeing plenty of the ball, they were regularly picking the wrong option or giving it away cheaply.
Dier needed treatment in the 70th minute after a challenge with Davis, which saw Son put the ball out despite Tottenham being on the attack.
The England defender was eventually able to carry on before Winks was summoned by Pochettino with quarter of an hour remaining.
Son was the man to make way with Alli moving up top and the north Londoners putting five in the midfield.
Winks was straight into the action with a trademark run before winning Spurs a free-kick in a good position.
It came to nothing and Trippier replaced Walker with 12 minutes left, as Pochettino looked for his team to see out the win.
The tension was growing as Southampton continued to threaten, with Vincent Janssen brought on with four minutes to go as Eriksen made way to give Spurs more of a focal point up top.
The Dutch forward nearly found the net on the stroke of full time as he got away from his marker, but Foster denied him with a strong hand.
Five minutes of stoppage time were then added on, much to the frustration of the home supporters, but they found their voice to urge their team over the line in the final match before the international break.
Janssen won Spurs two free-kicks deep into stoppage time as the seconds ticked away and there was a universal sigh of relief when the final whistle was blown.
Spurs had made hard work of it, but they had won again to remain Chelsea’s closest challengers, with their first test without Kane passed going into a two-week break.
Tottenham: Lloris; Dier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen; Walker (Trippier 78), Wanyama, Dembele, Davies; Alli, Eriksen (Janssen 86); Son (Winks 75).
Unused subs: Vorm, Sissoko, Onomah, Wimmer.
Southampton: Forster; Cedric, Stephens, Yoshida, Bertrand; Romeu, Davis; Ward-Prowse, Tadic (Boufal 69), Redmond (Rodriguez 80); Gabbiadini (Long 31).
Unused subs: Hassen, Caceres, Hojbjerg, McQueen.