Spurs manager Jose Mourinho hit out as another Video Assistant Referee controversy cost his side.
It was a familiar sense of frustration for Tottenham Hotspur and a familiar anger for Jose Mourinho, who once again felt his team had been wronged by Var.
Harry Kane was denied what appeared to be the clearest of penalties in the first half, when he was pushed in the back by Joshua King. The man behind the screens in Stockley Park was Michael Oliver, the same video assistant referee who had controversially denied Tottenham a penalty against Sheffield United last week.
“The same referee that was the Var against Sheffield United,” said Mourinho. “In the world everybody knows that is a penalty. And when I say everybody, I mean everybody.”
Mourinho even referred to Oliver as “you know who”, as if he was a Harry Potter villain, adding that it was the most significant action of the match. “The game had the most important moment,” Mourinho said. “You know when, you know who and I don’t want to say anything more in relation to that because everybody knows. I don’t need to say much more.”
Mourinho could not expand further in the usual post-match press conference. Instead he stormed out after a technical glitch prevented it from starting as planned.
The best indication of Mourinho’s view of this stodgy, drab and unimaginative Tottenham performance came at half-time, when Tanguy Ndombele trotted down the tunnel in his full kit. Truly, things must have been bad if Tottenham’s record signing was getting a game. Before this, Ndombele had played 19 minutes since lockdown. It was therefore little surprise that he looked no better than the rest of them in Tottenham blue, with Mourinho’s side once again lacking fluency or invention in attack.
Spurs’ performances have so far been worse than results since football’s suspension, yet this was neither a good showing nor a good outcome. They could not even muster a single shot on target. Ahead of Sunday’s derby against Arsenal they sit ninth in the table.
Some credit must go to Bournemouth for preventing Tottenham from showing any hint of their class. Eddie Howe’s side rediscovered their verve here, after such a dreadful few weeks, and while they were not dangerous in attack, they were organised and difficult to play against. This might not be enough to keep them up but, at least, it is a step in the right direction.
“It is a point gained,” said Howe. “Our players gave everything. We have fought. It was a real hard shift for everybody. That is the kind of thing we are going to need.”
Bournemouth even thought they had won it in the final minute of normal time, when Callum Wilson acrobatically turned the ball into the net. A slight handball from King saw it cancelled out via Var, though, and Harry Wilson then missed the chance of the match in stoppage time, denied by Hugo Lloris with no one else to beat.
Howe’s side were on their toes from the off, closing down the Tottenham players and looking to play forward. The biggest cheers of the first half came for Adam Smith and Dan Gosling, who received huge praise from the home bench after crunching into challenges near the touchline. It has not been the case in recent games but here, at least, Bournemouth looked like a group of players who were willing to swing a few punches.
If only the same could be said for Tottenham, who were comparatively meek throughout. There is no creativity or momentum to their game, with Kane horribly isolated in attack. They had every right to feel aggrieved with the decision not to award Kane a penalty, but it was no excuse for the lack of quality. Their flat showing in a grim first half prompted Mourinho to order both Ndombele and Son Heungmin into a half-time warm-up.
The players soon needed to limber up again, thanks to a stoppage
in play that followed a horrible collision between Smith and Ben Davies. The ball hung in the air and Smith’s eyes were locked upon it as Davies came charging through. The impact was sickening, with Smith leaving the field on a stretcher and in a neck brace, although he was conscious and talking after a few minutes. “Don’t worry Smithy,” Kane told the former Tottenham player. “You’re still ugly.”
Nothing was quite as ugly as Tottenham’s performance, though. They appear short of inspiration and confidence, with Bournemouth looking the more likely winners at the end. If Harry Wilson had beaten Lloris in stoppage time, it would not have been undeserved. For Spurs, Arsenal will provide more formidable opposition than this. Mourinho will know better than anyone that an urgent improvement is required.
No push over: Spurs striker Harry Kane goes flying under a challenge from Bournemouth’s Joshua King but the Var decided it was not a penalty