Kane and Spurs brought down to earth by stub­born Swansea

The Observer - Sport - - SPORT | FOOTBALL | PREMIER LEAGUE - Nick Ames


Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur can­not quite shake the mon­key from their back. This was the most frus­trat­ing of af­ter­noons: a fix­ture that had promised to bring up suc­ces­sive re­sound­ing Wem­b­ley wins and an­swer any ques­tions about their level of com­fort at the na­tional sta­dium but in­stead de­vel­oped into an ex­er­cise in ex­as­per­a­tion.

Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino may feel his team should have beaten a dogged but un­am­bi­tious Swansea, par­tic­u­larly af­ter a one-sided sec­ond half in which Harry Kane struck the bar, but the truth was that they took too long to get go­ing. His op­po­site num­ber, Paul Cle­ment, had urged his team to play harder and faster than at any point in the sea­son to date; they did so and, for that, a valu­able point was de­served.

As can of­ten be the case when rous­ing Euro­pean ex­ploits are fol­lowed by a more mun­dane as­sign­ment, the early ex­changes lacked flu­ency and tempo. Both had been supremely ev­i­dent dur­ing Spurs’ win over Borus­sia Dort­mund on Wed­nes­day but it was lit­tle sur­prise that Po­chet­tino made three changes in an ef­fort to keep things fresh. Dele Alli, Moussa Sis­soko and Kieran Trip­pier all re­turned; Son He­ung-min, scorer of a mar­vel­lous opener against the Ger­man side, had to fill in at left wing-back.

Son, hardly shack­led by the shift, had the best half-chance of the open­ing quar­ter but his an­gled shot was re­pelled by a strong right hand from Lukasz Fabi­an­ski af­ter sub­tle ap­proach work from Sis­soko. The Swansea goal­keeper had al­ready pushed a 35-yard free-kick from Harry Kane wide in the ninth minute; these were de­cent in­ter­ven­tions but Spurs, although pur­pose­ful, were hardly brim­ming with threat.

That owed in part to the ef­forts of a com­pact Swansea side that, field­ing two cen­tral banks of three, squeezed the space that Alli, in par­tic­u­lar, had ex­pected to in­habit. It was the sys­tem they had used in win­ning their pre­vi­ous away game at Crys­tal Palace, and pro­vided a sounder propo­si­tion than the more of­fen­sive setup that Cle­ment felt had com­peted in­ad­e­quately dur­ing last week­end’s home de­feat to New­cas­tle.

Their threat was rare but, with 19-year-old Tammy Abra­ham again prov­ing an im­pres­sively ro­bust leader of the line, there were flick­ers of in­ter­est. Jordan Ayew shanked an awk­ward vol­ley wide in the fifth minute af­ter Hugo Lloris mis­cued into his path. Abra­ham, full of run­ning, em­bar­rassed Davinson Sánchez in the 25th minute by round­ing him on the right flank and pulled a cross back that, had Sis­soko not in­ter­vened ex­pertly, would have pro­vided Tom Car­roll with a clear shot at goal.

Other than that the traf­fic moved in one di­rec­tion, al­beit with none of the Cham­pi­ons League piz­zazz. Fed­erico Fernán­dez’s pan­icked clear­ance from a cross by Son, now ap­pear­ing on the right, thud­ded over the bar rather than be­low it; Jan Ver­tonghen forced Fabi­an­ski to clutch a 25-yard sighter but the away team looked com­posed and con­tent when the in­ter­val ar­rived.

Spurs re-emerged briskly. There were half-shouts for a penalty when Toby Alder­weireld, run­ning into Martin Ols­son, buck­led in the box although no Tot­ten­ham player ap­pealed; Ols­son was luck­ier in the 56th minute when Trip- pier swung over a cross that ap­peared to brush his left arm.

Mike Dean saw no of­fence but Kane should have opened the scor­ing on his own ini­tia­tive mo­ments later. Son had been moved to a cen­tral po­si­tion and tested Fabi­an­ski again from near the by­line. Sis­soko re­trieved the sit­u­a­tion and cut back for Kane, eight yards out, to thrash first-time against the bar.

He will score harder chances but Spurs had cranked things up to siege lev­els and when Fabi­an­ski, show­ing su­perb re­flexes to flick Kane’s near-post header over, saved Swansea again mid­way through the half it felt like a ques­tion of when the break­through would ar­rive.

Po­chet­tino sought an an­swer by in­tro­duc­ing Fer­nando Llorente, who made his league de­but against the club that sold him 16 days ago. The script was laid out but his ar­rival in Son’s place was a sur­prise and Tot­ten­ham’s mo­men­tum stut­tered. Trip­pier and another sub­sti­tute, Serge Aurier, both shot wide to­wards the end but Swansea’s play­ers, who flocked to Fabi­an­ski af­ter the whis­tle, fin­ished much the hap­pier.

Ed­die Keogh/Reuters

No way through: Son He­ung-min is well watched by the Swansea de­fence as the Tot­ten­ham for­ward tries to cre­ate an open­ing at Wem­b­ley.

Frus­trat­ing day: Dele Alli (left) and Harry Kane re­act as a Spurs chance is wasted

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