Foyth puts his penalty blunders behind him to clinch hard-fought win
A hard rain fell on Crystal Palace once more at Selhurst Park, the stadium where they are still yet to win a league game this season, although a cold, wet English afternoon will forever be remembered by the young Argentine defender Juan Foyth, who was his team’s match-winner.
The 20-year-old scored his first goal for Tottenham and it was certainly an improvement on his previous weekend at Wolverhampton Wanderers. Foyth conceded two penalties in that victory and this time he was much more assured as Spurs rang up their second narrow victory of the week, one that keeps them in touch at least with the Premier League’s three unbeaten teams.
For Palace it was just more of the same – they still have no goals from open play at home in the league this season and are on a run of five defeats and one draw that somehow has still not seen them drop into the relegation zone. The withdrawal from the matchday squad of Wilfried Zaha with a groin injury was a portent of things to come: Palace have not won without their star player since September 2016.
Roy Hodgson does not entertain the theory that his side’s destiny is determined by the presence or otherwise of Zaha and he said so again after what he maintained was a battling performance from his players. “The team has done extremely well but that’s not going to stop anyone countering, ‘You haven’t won the game, Wilf Zaha didn’t play and therefore you lost’. I know that’s not true. Anyone who studied the game will know that’s not true.”
Hodgson’s side were undone, he felt, by one lapse in concentration from a second-half corner and a failure to take their chances, including one from substitute Alexander Sorloth that Hugo Lloris stopped magnificently. Zaha had been injured against Chelsea and was “extremely unlikely” to play all week, Hodgson said, “although Wilf never wants to rule himself out – he always believes miraculously he’ll get himself out there despite not having trained”.
There was also an injury for Spurs’ Kieran Trippier that saw him go off in the first half with a groin problem which may yet affect his participation in England’s two matches during the international break. James Tomkins departed for Palace in the second half with a blow to his knee and perhaps he might have got a head to the loose ball that Foyth headed in minutes later.
Foyth will now travel to be part of his national team’s squad and for Mauricio Pochettino, himself once a young Argentine centre-back making his way in Europe, there was considerable pride in the player’s development. “We were talking a lot during the week [about what happened against Wolves],” Pochettino said. “That’s football. When you are a centre-back – and I was – you are involved in this type of situation.
“But the confidence and trust is massive from the club and his potential and his quality will be very helpful for the team. He showed great character and played so well. I am happy for him because it’s a massive victory for him to feel he’s a Premier League player and helped the team to win.”
The only point at which Pochettino bristled was the suggestion that this was not a vintage Spurs performance, and indeed it was a tough watch as both sides laboured in the rain.
For Pochettino, however, this was precisely what he wanted after that narrow victory over PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League on Tuesday. Moussa Sissoko came into the side and was arguably his best player. Christian Eriksen, Harry Winks and Son Heungmin all dropped to the bench.
“In the last four years it was a classic Tottenham victory here at Palace – 1-0 for us, fighting, working hard, always suffering a little bit,” he said. “It rained a lot and sometimes it’s difficult for every team to play fantastic football in maybe the way we want to play. [In] this type of game it’s so important to get the three points.”
Spurs’ victory takes them level on points with third-place Liverpool, who play their corresponding fixture against Fulham today. The Champions League tests against Inter Milan and then Barcelona will see the qualities of this team examined in other ways, but for now they are keeping pace as best they can with the Anfield men, as well as Chelsea and Manchester City.
The game’s only goal will have been a severe disappointment to Hodgson, who saw his side fail to defend a corner. Harry Kane’s initial header was blocked by Luka Milivojevic and spun into the air. It was there to be won but neither Jordan Ayew nor Patrick van Aanholt attacked the ball and instead Foyth reacted decisively to head in the first goal of his senior career.
There was the Sorloth opportunity saved by Lloris and before that a weak attempt by Ayew to tee up substitute Jeffrey Schlupp for a shot. Palace’s problem is scoring goals.
Hodgson said later that there has still been no discussion about the resources available in January, and for the time being Christian Benteke, Connor Wickham and Zaha are all injured. Manchester United are next after the international break before Burnley come to Selhurst Park on Dec 1 for a game the home team simply must win.
Juan nil: Tottenham’s Argentinian defender Juan Foyth celebrates his decisive goal