Spurs Too Sharp For Doomed Blades

5 min read
by Ewan Flynn

Perhaps Tottenham and their manager will have finally learnt their lesson with this performance. Caution does not pay against those struggling sides in the Premier League.

Serge Aurier, Harry Kane and the outstanding Tanguy Ndombele were the scorers as Spurs returned to winning ways with a comfortable 3-1 win at Bramall Lane.

Jose Mourinho’s side started the game looking every inch a team with a point to prove following their bitterly disappointing second-half display midweek against Fulham. Conversely, rock-bottom Sheffield United showed precious few signs of life – despite having picked up their first win of the season last time out – in a campaign where the Steel City club look destined to break records for all the wrong reasons.

It took the away side less than five minutes to open the scoring. Kane found Steven Bergwijn – restored to the lineup in place of Moussa Sissoko for this one – on the edge of the area. The Dutch forward worked the ball on to his right foot before drawing a fine one-handed save from Aaron Ramsdale. From the resulting Son corner, Serge Aurier soared above the static home defence to nod home. The pained Ramsdale’s audible analysis of the goal was spot on: “F****** too easy lads”.

No side has managed more goals within the opening quarter-of-an-hour of games than Tottenham this season.

With their next meaningful attack, Spurs almost underlined that statistic. Kane dropping deep, as is increasingly his want, slipped Son through. The forward’s explosive pace took him clear of the Blades backline, and as Ramsdale advanced from his goal to confront him, the Spurs number seven dinked his effort over the onrushing keeper. Unfortunately, Son’s aim was fractionally off, the ball brushing the outside of the post on its way wide.

Tottenham continued to look dangerous and went close again just before the 15-minute mark. Reguilon’s forceful tackle released Son for a sortie down the left-wing. His menacing low cross, seeking Kane at the far post, was ballooned into the air by the panicked Ampadu. As the ball plummeted back to earth, Kane sought to impede Ramsdale’s attempt to prevent it from dropping into his net. Flapping wildly, the keeper just about managed to avert a freakish own goal.

The dominant visitors were finally able to extend their advantage six minutes before half-time. When it came, the goal was the sort of self-inflicted wound that will surely see Sheffield United relegated with a points tally among the very lowest ever recorded in the Premier League. Jayden Bogle, in the right-back position, played a safe pass infield to Oliver Norwood. The Blades skipper, under no pressure, took a wretched touch which invited Hojbjerg to pounce.

The Dane quickly fed Kane 30- yards out with his back to goal. Fatally the home defence allowed the striker to turn. Advancing to the edge of the area as those in red and white retreated, Kane unerringly steered his shot around Ramsdale’s despairing dive. It was his twelfth league goal of the season. Added to the 11 assists Kane has supplied, the England captain must be among the favourites for the PFA Player Of The Year.

Having only once scored more than a single goal in a Premier League game this season – a losing effort against Manchester United – and registering ten blanks in 18 matches, a comeback from the blunt Blades always looked an unlikely prospect. Chris Wilder’s side deserves some credit for their spirited start to the second period, although Tottenham were again guilty of unnecessarily relinquishing the initiative to inferior opposition.

Just before the hour, a short throw-in on the left-wing caught Spurs sleeping. Lundstram was allowed to set the ball back to Fleck, who whipped an inviting centre into the box. McGoldrick had the jump on Ben Davies and guided a deft header into the bottom-corner of Lloris’s net.

With Tottenham’s players’ minds no doubt drifting to the catalogue of dropped points from winning positions so far this season, the game looked set up to examine the North Londoners’ resolve. Thankfully for Jose Mourinho, a 62nd minute moment of magic from Tanguy Ndombele prevented the hosts from really testing Spurs mettle.

Hojnjerg, for the umpteenth time, picked off a slack pass in the Sheffield United midfield. Ndombele immediately took over and rattled a ball into Bergwijn, a player who exhibits the silky touch of so many educated in Dutch football. The former PSV man imaginatively scooped a pass over the Blades rearguard, seeking the sprinting Ndombele. On the angle, with the ball running away from him, the midfielder flung out his right foot and somehow managed to hook the ball over Ramsdale and into the far corner. It was a finish that very few players would even conceive of attempting, let alone successfully execute. If ever a goal deserved to be witnessed by a live crowd in the stadium, then this was it.

Perhaps Tottenham and their manager will have finally learnt their lesson with this performance. Caution does not pay against those struggling sides in the Premier League. While it is easy – and probably correct – to highlight Mourinho’s conservative instincts as the cause of Spurs failure to press home advantages in recent games, the players’ mindset must be open to question too. Here though, with their two-goal lead re-established, Spurs were able to coast through the final half an hour free of any anxiety.

Had they added a fourth in what remained of the game, Tottenham, at least temporarily, would have leapfrogged Liverpool in the table on goal difference. A chance to add that final flourish arrived in injury-time. Ndombele’s dizzying series of stepovers afforded him space to work the ball into the feet of late substitute Lucas Moura, who in turn found Son on the right side of the box. The South Korean cut the ball back to Harry Kane, who looked poised to add to the string of goals fashioned between the Premier League’s most prolific partnership. That Kane failed to hit the target with his left foot shot, was perhaps the afternoon’s only real shock.

This victory has moved Spurs back into the Premier League’s chasing pack. Considering the quality of players at Jose Mourinho’s disposal – and the inconsistency of the other contenders – why should Spurs not harbour title aspirations? It is still for the Tottenham manager to prove he can nurture this ambition rather than hinder it.

All views and opinions expressed in this article are the views and opinions of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of The Fighting Cock. We offer a platform for fans to commit their views to text and voice their thoughts. Football is a passionate game and as long as the views stay within the parameters of what is acceptable, we encourage people to write, get involved and share their thoughts on the mighty Tottenham Hotspur.

Freelance football writer for When Saturday Comes The Blizzard and FourFourTwo. Author of We Are Sunday League

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