Fight club

Lloris and Son clash but Spurs hold on to beat Ever­ton

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Ja­son Burt at Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur Sta­dium

At least Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur showed some fight and Jose Mour­inho, for one, cer­tainly did not mind the bizarre half-time bust-up be­tween goal­keeper Hugo Lloris and striker Son He­ung-min as his team scrapped their way to a much­needed vic­tory over Ever­ton, who ap­peared com­bat­ive them­selves but were des­per­ately dis­ap­point­ing.

In­stead it was a sober­ing blow to Carlo Ancelotti, whose side had im­pressed since the restart and would have gone above Tot­ten­ham, im­prov­ing hopes of a late chal­lenge for Euro­pean foot­ball, with a vic­tory, but they ca­pit­u­lated dis­mally and now have to turn their minds to a sum­mer re­build.

The Ancelotti eye­brow was at max­i­mum ex­ten­sion through­out as the Ital­ian fu­ri­ously chewed his gum and surely won­dered about what was un­fold­ing in front of him. Tellingly, he hooked Alex Iwobi dur­ing the in­ter­val and Gylfi Sig­urds­son not long af­ter, with the two big-money sign­ings – worth a com­bined £85mil­lion, do not for­get – con­tribut­ing pre­cious lit­tle. A reckoning is com­ing.

Mour­inho, mean­while, will sim­ply look at the re­sult and feel vin­di­cated af­ter the crit­i­cism he faced fol­low­ing the dispir­it­ing de­feat by Sh­effield United. He will also know that this was his 200th win in the Premier League, in 326 games, with only Sir Alex Fer­gu­son hav­ing reached that mile­stone more quickly, in only four games fewer. Such statistics will not be missed by Mour­inho, even if there will be a pang of dis­ap­point­ment that he did not beat Fer­gu­son’s to­tal.

Nev­er­the­less, this kind of con­tin­u­ally medi­ocre foot­ball is surely not what Spurs crave. Harry Kane looked like a lost soul through­out as he was starved of sup­port and op­por­tu­ni­ties, although he at least tried to af­fect the play when he did get the ball. It says some­thing when the “high­lights” are led by an own goal and an an­gry ex­change be­tween two team-mates. And that was it.

The bright spot for Spurs, be­yond the points, was the con­tri­bu­tion of Gio­vani Lo Celso, who was cen­tral to the goal and was also alert enough to po­si­tion him­self be­tween Lloris and Son af­ter the cap­tain had run over to be­rate the striker. Pre­sum­ably it was for not track­ing back as Ever­ton cre­ated a rare chance, which was typ­i­cally wasted as Richarli­son shot wide. Even so, it looked harsh on Son, given he was sent a duff pass on half­way that was eas­ily in­ter­cepted.

Harry Winks also in­ter­vened to hold back an ag­i­tated Lloris as he shoved Son, who had re­acted to the out­burst, be­fore he went down the tun­nel. Although the pair were rec­on­ciled be­fore the sec­ond half be­gan, and hugged each other at the end, was it a sign of their de­sire to win or an in­di­ca­tor of the frus­tra­tion that Spurs are sim­ply not play­ing very well? Ei­ther way, they man­aged the feat of start­ing a fight in an empty house.

Lloris later said it was “part of foot­ball”, but it was more re­veal­ing that he also stated Spurs’ predica­ment this sea­son was some­thing the play­ers were not happy with. So it was that annoyance, the cul­mi­na­tion of a poor, dis­jointed campaign, boil­ing over.

Quite what the sup­port­ers made of it all ap­peared to be in­di­cated by what was hap­pen­ing on the big screens in­side the sta­dium, where those on the Zoom calls ap­peared so­porific as the game me­an­dered. And who could blame them? In fact, they looked as though their screens had frozen.

In fair­ness, this was a mid-table clash and even if both teams had much to play for there is a rea­son why they are scrap­ping around try­ing to force them­selves into the fight for Europe rather than be­ing at the heart of it, which is where they should be. Both changed their man­agers mid-sea­son and hired high-cal­i­bre re­place­ments; re­place­ments but not ma­gi­cians, of course, although Mour­inho is go­ing to run out of good­will soon enough un­less he starts to pull a few rab­bits out.

The ball ended up in the Ever­ton net with the last kick be­fore the first-half drinks break, and it would have been hard for them to swal­low. It was typ­i­cally scrappy as Kane’s shot was blocked by Michael Keane and the ball re­bounded to Lo Celso, who swiv­elled and drove it goal­wards – ex­cept it was fly­ing well wide un­til it struck Keane’s arm as he ran across to cover and wrong-footed Jor­dan Pick­ford.

It meant Lo Celso could not claim his first Premier League goal since

join­ing Spurs, but the Ar­gen­tine is at least pro­vid­ing some spark, and he was their driv­ing force in a first half when they were un­doubt­edly the bet­ter team. Not that they had to do too much to achieve that. Spurs also cer­tainly tar­geted Richarli­son, who came in for some hefty chal­lenges, and with no fans in the ground his loud re­ac­tions were au­di­ble.

The only other items of note came from goal­keep­ing er­rors. Lloris spilt a header by Do­minic Calvert-Lewin and Pick­ford alarm­ingly al­lowed a cor­ner to slip through his hands. Nei­ther mis­take was cap­i­talised on and that said it all.

Maybe the clash with Lloris fired up Son, be­cause he fi­nally threat­ened with a shot past Pick­ford’s post and then forced a sharp save from the England in­ter­na­tional. The only flick­er­ing signs of re­sis­tance from Ever­ton came from a weak shot by sub­sti­tute Moise Kean, who should have done bet­ter, two ef­forts from an­other re­placeBy ment, An­thony Gordon, and an im­pro­vised flick by Calvert-Lewin. It was that meek from the vis­i­tors, who suf­fered their first de­feat in four games since the restart.

Mak­ing up: Spurs goal­keeper Hugo Lloris and team-mate Son He­ung-min hug dur­ing Tot­ten­ham’s 1-0 win af­ter al­most com­ing to blows as they left the pitch at half-time in a row over track­ing back. Tot­ten­ham man­ager Jose Mour­inho de­scribed the in­ci­dent as “beau­ti­ful”.

Ric­o­chet: A shot by Gio­vani Lo Celso (right) de­flects in off Michael Keane (sec­ond left)

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