Alderweireld delivers late derby delight for Tottenham
Spurs move above Arsenal in the table after defender heads home winner
Son 19, Alderweireld 81
José Mourinho had said that he could not wait for the season to finish and, given the gloomy mood that shadowed Tottenham into this derby and the state of the Premier League table, it was easy to see why. Yet there was a dose of unexpected cheer at the expense of their in-form neighbours when Spurs found a way to turn the tide of a second half that seemed to be slipping away from them.
The decisive blow was struck late on by Toby Alderweireld, who rose to flick Son Heung-min’s corner into the roof of the net. Defensively Arsenal broke down – why was Kieran Tierney marking Alderweireld? – but Spurs had done enough.
It was not a vintage performance from them yet Mourinho would not have cared. He needed this and what it meant was plain. At full-time the Spurs substitute goalkeeper, Paulo Gazzaniga, hammered a ball high into the sky and there were big hugs from Mourinho for his staff.
Arsenal had led through Alexandre Lacazette – Son would find an immediate riposte – and they controlled the game in the first half of the second period. It might have been different if a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang shot had been a little lower, rather than hitting the crossbar. But Spurs found a way in the closing stages to move above Arsenal into eighth position.
Mikel Arteta stuck with his 3-4-3 system, demanding intensity from his Arsenal players and advanced starting positions, and they went ahead when they were able to win the ball high up – something that the manager has demanded.
Serge Aurier read a pass from Granit Xhaka for Aubameyang but his touch was heavy and set up a 50-50 with Xhaka, which the Arsenal midfielder won, sending the ball spinning towards Lacazette. The striker took two touches before unfurling a rising drive that fizzed past Hugo Lloris into the top corner. It was a scorching finish.
Spurs were not behind for long and when they levelled, Mourinho’s impassioned celebrations betrayed an element of vindication. He had started with two strikers for the first time at Spurs – Son alongside Harry Kane – in order to give his team more presence and threat in the final third.
Dreadful back pass
It was Son who profited from a dreadful back pass by Sead Kolasinac, which had been intended for David Luiz but was off the mark. Son was onto it in a flash, holding off Luiz and clipping a lovely finish over Emiliano Martínez.
Behind-closed-doors football is weird but this game was more weird than normal. Derby day in these parts is normally frenzied and there were plenty of the usual on-pitch accoutrements in the first half – off-the-ball digs, a high tempo, yellow cards, thrills and spills. We were left merely to imagine how the crowd would have seethed.
Spurs might have taken an early lead. The big chance came
C Liverpool Man City Chelsea Leicester Man Utd Wolves Sheff Utd Tottenham Arsenal Burnley Everton Southampton Newcastle Crystal Palace Brighton West Ham Watford Bournemouth Aston Villa R Norwich
APts after Nicolas Pépé lost the ball cheaply and allowed Lucas Moura to run away from him. Lucas’s ball was dropped over David Luiz for Kane but Martínez used all of his 6ft 5in frame to stand tall and save the first-time lob.
Arteta’s team began the second half on the front foot, monopolising possession, probing for openings and they fashioned a glorious one when Pépé robbed Alderweireld on the edge of the Spurs area and found Lacazette. Aubameyang peeled away into the area on the left, Lacazette found him and the Arsenal captain struck viciously for goal. He was denied by the crossbar.
Arsenal took a more measured approach in the third quarter. Spurs stayed in their 4-4-2 shape but they dropped deeper, looking happier to punch on the counter.
The lull prefaced a grandstand finish from Spurs. Son went close after Kane got the better of David Luiz and, after Aubameyang had extended Lloris, Kane was denied by the advancing Martínez. Spurs might even have embellished the final scoreline only for Martínez to save from Kane and Son to shoot into Luiz. – Guardian
It is correct to begin by hailing the victors, particularly when they are as good as this. For anyone seeking a snapshot of Wolves’ identity under Nuno Espírito Santo, this match would be a fair case study. They had not been at their best in the previous week, looking sluggish enough to suggest their top-six credentials were at severe risk, but after a slow start they pulled clear and should have won by more.
Solid, methodical, supremely drilled and allowed to spark into life around the final third: the now-familiar notes were all hit and there remains the hope that next season’s Champions League will dance to their tune.
Wolves were helped, though, by an Everton performance vapid enough to be listed among the worst in this Premier League season. You could exhaust your range of pejoratives but a few will do: this was gutless, listless, drainingly passive fare.
Carlo Ancelotti has worked with far better players than these, many of whom will surely be shipped out if takers and replacements can be found, and will be best judged when he can enlist a few of his own. The nagging doubt is whether he can bring them to a level comparable with the clarity Wolves radiated here, which seems a daunting benchmark.
“The technical aspect was not good enough but the spirit of the team was unacceptable,” said Ancelotti, who was in no mood to offer excuses. “We have to show in the last
lose Lucas Digne. A split-second later he was on the floor, Digne making enough contact with his trailing foot to concede a spot kick, and Raúl Jiménez dispatched the gift.
Everton were unfortunate when Yerry Mina departed through injury and it also felt cruel when the 18-year-old Jarrad Branthwaite, introduced at half-time to compensate for that loss of height, instantly conceded a free-kick and let Leander Dendoncker run off him to head Wolves’ second.
But their failure to muster the faintest hint of a comeback spoke louder than any of those woes. Diogo Jota, a substitute alongside Traoré, lashed an excellent third goal after a masterful 70-yard ball from Rúben Neves. Other openings came and went, to the displeasure of the reliably deadpan Nuno.
■ Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld heads the winning goal during the north London derby against Arsenal at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.