|Seven points from nine over Xmas lifted Saints clear of the zone and recent performances had shown a steely determination absent from much of the early months of this season. Spurs had picked up points since replacing MoPo with Jose but were still trailing the Top 4 placed sides.
BT had bought the rights to show all the New Year’s Day games live and Saints v Spurs were one of the 3pm kick-offs available without using the red button. Lynsey Hipgrave was the anchor with Jermaine Jenas and Frannie Benali MBE as pundits. Frannie was convinced the move to 4-4-2 had suited Saints and was responsible for our upturn in form. indeed, at the same point last season Saints were 7 points worse off.
Both sides made 2 changes from the previous weekend. Spurs brought in Sissoko and Moura to their midfield while Saints saw Armstrong and Djenepo return to theirs.
Danny Ings scored yet another outstanding goal, which turned out to be enough to win the game.
IBO Reporter : Spot51
|Saints won the toss and kicked towards the Northam. Djenepo looked lively in the early exchanges but our first attempt minute later Spurs won a corner but the new, improved McCarthy took charge and caught Eriksen’s cross.
On 5m McCarthy made a decent save, tipping Kane’s shot away but Eriksen’s corner was cleared. The game was stopped briefly on 8m when a meaty challenge between Ndembele and Djenepo saw them both floored but both were eventually able to continue.
On 11m Mike Dean ignored Alli’s blatant dive in our box before Redmond carried the ball into their box forcing Gazza to block the ball for a corner. JWP’s kick was cleared allowing Eriksen to break down the right wing but, again, McCarthy collected his cross.
On 17m Saints took the lead. The ball was worked to Stephens in the right back position and his long pass fell nicely for Ings. He cut inside Toby, leaving the Belgian on his knees before hooking a left footed shot past Gazza. 1-0 Saints!
Spurs enjoyed some possession earning a free kick against Armstrong. Eriksen’s effort bounced off the wall and Saints were able to clear the resulting corner. Saints had been pressing effectively but on 22m Kane broke upfield. The referee again ignored an Alli dive allowing Saints to move upfield. Armstrong’s deflected shot earned us another corner but Ndombele was down again and had to be replaced by Lo Celso. Saints retained possession following the corner, only relinquishing the ball when Armstrong struck it wide.
On 27m Bertie blocked Lo Celso’s shot. The first corner was headed behind for another before McCarthy came to catch the ball. At the half hour, Saints were looking very decent, moving the ball well and dominating play. Soon after Armstrong set up Redmond and Toby did well to block his shot – over his own bar. Djenepo rose to meet the corner but made poor contact, sending it well wide.
Spurs enjoyed some possession which they lost when Sessegnon fouled the industrious Højbjerg. On 36m Alli was actually fouled but it was Lo Celso booked for bitching at the Ref. The free kick arrived perfectly for Kane but he was flagged offside thanks to Saints back line holding their nerves.
On 38m Kane’s shot was blocked, Alli went over our keeper but only get a corner. This time our marking failed as the ball arrived at the feet of Vertonghen. He only had to stick it in but somehow managed to fire over from close range. Phew!!
After more treatment for Djenepo he rejoined the game on 40m. With half time approaching, Armstrong fouled Moura. Lo Celso took it but sent it wide. The stoppages meant 3 added minutes during which Gazza made a great save when Armstrong met Redmond’s cross. Seems the Scot was offside but the keeper didn’t know that. The final action saw Moura meet a cross but miss the target. HT = 1-0.
During the break I learned a new word: Ingspirational, to describe Danny’s performance in the first half. Neither side made changes and Saints were soon back on the front foot. Redmond connected with Cedric’s cross but sent his volley way too high. Soon after, Toby Got away with a VAR review for handball and “you’ve seen ‘em given” TBF.
On 53m Djenepo was yellow carded but Saints continued their physical dominance of Spurs midfield. One particular crunching tackle by Ward-Prowse on Sissoko must’ve been heard on the other side of the Itchen. The TV showed Long preparing for action and on 57m he replaced Djenepo.
Sissoko was carded on 61m for fouling Ings and soon after the striker broke into the box but Long’s cross was cleared before he could reach it. Pundit Jenas reckoned Spurs looked even worse than during the first half, but Gazza was keeping them in the game by collecting crosses from both flanks.
Kane made a rare foray forward, but was seen off by Stephens. Saints were generally coping well with Spurs pressure. PEH in particular was always breaking up attacks, enjoying his best game for ages.
On 68m Bednarek saw yellow for fouling Kane but McCarthy again collected the ball when the free kick came in. Aurier was the next in the book for fouling Long. JWP took the free kick but Gazza came to claim it. JWP was soon booked for fouling Lo Celso.
From the free kick, Kane had the ball in the net, but VAR confirmed the lino’s offside call. Worse for Spurs followed as their captain limped off clutching his hamstring. He was replaced by Lamela.
On 76m Obafemi replaced Ings and soon after Mr Dean went to book Jose for bad-mouthing the Saints bench. They were all losing it now – with the strains of “Alli, what a W@nker” ringing in his ears, the England player was lucky not to be booked for upending Stephens.
Saints looked comfortable and their fans were now singing “Benali, Benali” in recognition of his richly deserved MBE. On 84m Saints won another corner but Spurs broke upfield only to be halted by Stephens – again.
From Saints next corner JWP found Long and the Irishmen almost put the game to bed, but sadly his header went the wrong side of the post. Up the other end, Redmond blocked a Moura shot, but yet again Saints were able to deal with the corner.
On 89m Sessegnon won another corner for Spurs, but Redmond carried the ball upfield before losing possession. Back came Spurs, but Moura ran it out of play. Saints then brought on Romeu for Armstrong.
In the 5 extra minutes, Eriksen seemed to be booked, but what for wasn’t obvious. Jenas made PEH his Man of the Match before Aurier sent the last effort of the match high and wide of our goal. Time was up and Saints’ festive haul became 10 points from 12. We briefly moved up to 11th in the table which, two months ago, looked way beyond us.
Most satisfying though was beating Spurs. That always feels great.
Man of the Match
For the first time in what seems ages, there were several options from among the Saints side. In the main, everyone did their job which ensured we outperformed a very stilted and disjointed Spurs side.
As usual Ings was great, ably supported by Redmond and Djenepo up front. At the back, McCarthy produced a clean sheet and both Stephens and Bednarek barely put a foot wrong in front of him. Both full backs were sound but it was in midfield that we regularly shut down what Spurs were trying to do.
I agree with Jermaine Jenas. Our captain, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, was the outstanding Danish midfielder on the park so he is also my Man of the Match.