Date: 26 December 2018
Given Spurs’ recent goal-scoring exploits, and our own record against them, many Cherries’ fans were already anticipating our worst defeat of the season today, even before the match had kicked off! Nonetheless we would still have reason to be frustrated with the manner of this defeat, not to mention the moment for which it may always be remembered: a possible career-ending injury for Simon Francis.
Any hopes that we would repeat our recent cup performance against Chelsea were dashed when we reverted to a flat 4-4-1-1, perhaps the biggest surprise being that Stanislas was preferred over King in the number 10 position. It would be misleading to say we started brightly, but we did hold our own against our hosts for a while. Indeed in the first quarter of an hour honours were fairly even, with probably the best shot during this period coming from Brooks (saved by Lloris, who was captaining Spurs today). But on 16 minutes Eriksen, from some distance, spotted a clear route through a sea of shirts and exploited it to open the scoring: 1-0. Seven minutes later Daniels gave the ball away to Walker-Peters, who passed to Son, who fired home for 2-0. And it was Daniels again (having a dreadful day) who failed to prevent the cross that allowed Moura to score on 35 minutes. This was rapidly becoming a rout.
But before half-time Francis, off the ball, went down. He’d received some attention earlier, after a clash with Lerma, but now he was down again. Were the two incidents connected? It certainly seemed serious, as this time he was on the ground for even longer than the first occasion, before a stretcher came on for him. As has become the convention in English football, he received a huge ovation from the home fans as well as the away fans as he was carried down the tunnel. Lacking another right full-back as such, Eddie immediately changed the system: bringing on Rico as a left wing-back, and switching Fraser from left midfield to right wing-back. This is a position in which he plays well, but we certainly miss his forward play when he does so. We ideally need two Ryan Frasers in the squad!
Four minutes were added by the referee at the end of the half, which didn’t seem long enough to cover one of the breaks in play let alone both. Not that we were likely to complain: this half couldn’t finish quickly enough as far as we were concerned! Surprisingly, in the very last second of the added time a header from Daniels was saved by Lloris. A consolation goal at this juncture might have made a massive difference to how the match would pan out. Half-time: 3-0.
We wondered what Eddie could say during the break to raise the players’ spirits. Evidently the answer was “nothing”, because when they trudged back onto the pitch (some time before the home players) their heads were well and truly down! And it was in this manner that they played out the entire second period.
A Stanislas shot actually found the back of the net – right in front of the visiting fans – quite early in the half. But our cheers were short-lived, because the assistant referee didn’t hesitate to raise her flag for offside. Around the hour mark Kane scored Spurs’ fourth with a volley. Mousset attempted a headed goal on 69 minutes but it went fractionally wide; this just wasn’t our day. And a minute later Begovic, who’s been playing so well in recent weeks, failed to successfully catch a shot from Moura. And no sooner had he spilled the ball than Son was on hand to capitalise on the error and score his second goal of the afternoon – and Spurs’ fifth. Game over.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Francis (6), S Cook (6), Aké (6), Daniels (4);
Brooks (6), Surman (6), Lerma (7), Fraser (6);
S Cook, Aké, Daniels;
Fraser, Surman, Lerma, Rico;
King, Mousset, Stanislas.