If Ryan Mason has wrestled with imposter syndrome over these past three days, the transformative effect of his inaugural half-time team talk should give him heart.
Son sinks Saints
Ryan Mason’s Spurs rebounded from the most tumultuous 72 hours in the club’s history by coming from behind to win 2-1 against Southampton at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Amid the righteous fury at Daniel Levy joining the confederacy of club owners attempting a heist of European football, there has barely been time for Tottenham fans to digest their chairman’s decision to sack Jose Mourinho on Monday morning. But so dispirited had supporters become with Spurs football this season, Ryan Mason’s shock elevation from nurturing academy talent to interim first-team manager was met with near-universal relief.
Lancing the boil of the Portuguese’s stultifying 17-month tenure in just two training sessions was always going to be a tall order for the youngest man to pick a team in Premier League history, and Spurs immediately found themselves on the back foot. Only a superb double save from Hugo Lloris – denying Mohammed Salisu and then Che Adams from point-blank range – prevented Southampton from taking a third-minute lead.
The French skipper was again called into early action to smother at the feet of Kyle Walker-Peters after Stuart Armstrong had dissected the left side of the home defence with a raking through ball. With a quarter of an hour played, Tottenham’s pedestrian midfield had barely managed a successful forward pass across the halfway line. One rare attacking foray saw the hosts win a corner. Gareth Bale – making his first start since defeat in the North London Derby – took the kick short to Lo Celso. The Argentine immediately ceded possession to the vibrant visitors with a woefully short return pass. Southampton swept the length of the field and soon forced a corner of their own. Ward-Prowse’s whipped ball to the near post was met by Danny Ings with a deft header which skimmed beyond Lloris’s dive, kissing the post on its way into the net.
Southampton were excellent value for their lead and came close to extending it as half time approached. Walcott first had a fierce goal-bound shot from the edge of the area blocked by Alderweireld. Then, with the next attack, the former England man was a fraction away from connecting with a long ball pitched over the slumbering Spurs defence.
Despite their dominance, the Saints were almost sucker-punched in first-half injury time as Serge Aurier delivered a fine cross to the back post, which located Son unmarked in the six-yard box. Declining the opportunity to strike at goal, the Korean instead cushioned the ball to Lucas Moura. Having failed to anticipate the pass, off-balance, the Brazilian could only jab out a foot, sending the ball high over Alex McCarthy’s crossbar.
If Ryan Mason has wrestled with imposter syndrome over these past three days, the transformative effect of his inaugural half-time team talk should give him heart. Spurs, and Gareth Bale, in particular, played all the progressive football as the Saints tired after the break. The Welshman set up Son for a shooting chance with a delicious flick in the 51st minute. He then collected Moura’s switch of play before dipping inside Salisu and drawing a first save of the match from McCarthy with an arching drive. His most decisive contribution, however, came on the hour mark. The subdued Ndombele found his best pass of the contest, steering a ball through the Saints’ rearguard to Son. The forward nudged it on to Moura, who fired in a shot that was blocked. The rebound span away to the far post, where Bale stretched balletically to bring it under his spell before flashing an unstoppable curler into the far corner to level the score.
Danny Ings’ enforced withdrawal through injury with half an hour to play saw Southampton’s once potent threat all but extinguished. The game was there for Tottenham to win, and with Mason exalting his team from the sidelines, the north Londoners streamed forward. Spurs thought they had the lead on 75 minutes following a slick move started by Lo Celso. The midfielder shimmied clear of midfield traffic before sliding a perfectly weighted pass wide to the onrushing Reguilon. The flying full-back squared the ball to the penalty spot where Son swept home first-time left-footed. Following a VAR recommendation to referee David Coote that he review the goal, the official correctly spotted that Lucas Moura had needlessly strayed offside and was in McCarthy’s line of vision as the ball sped past the keeper.
Having denied Spurs a potential winner, VAR intervened again with just four minutes remaining to determine the match. Son slung in a corner that appeared to brush the arms of both Adams and Vestergaard before being half-cleared to the edge of the Saints’ area where Reguilon was stationed. The Spaniard cracked in a shot that went wide before he was felled by the lunging Moussa Djenepo. With the Spurs players still lobbying the referee over the apparent handballs, Coote awarded a free-kick just outside the perimeter of the 18-yard box. Replays showed that Djenepo’s contact with Reguilon came right on the line, and accordingly, the free-kick became a penalty. With the injured Harry Kane watching on from the stands, Son stepped up, cooly sending McCarthy the wrong way to win the match.
Spurs are now on their way to Wembley for Sunday’s League Cup final. If Ryan Mason can inspire his side to victory at the national stadium, a week that started with the threat of a potentially irrevocable schism between the club and its fans will end with Tottenham Hotspur lifting their first silverware for 13 years.
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