05/10/2014: Tottenham 1-0 Saints
Saints' winning run came to an end at White Hart Lane, with Tottenham coming out on top in a turgid encounter. Mauricio Pochettino got the better of his former side, with Ronald Koeman's men rarely threatening going forward.
Tottenham made a very aggressive start, unsettling Saints at the back with Pochettino's trademark pressing. Ryan Bertrand was well positioned once again to clear a Tottenham header off the line on 3 minutes. On 8, Saints threatened the Tottenham goal for the first time, breaking down the right, with Mane shooting against Kyle Naughton from inside the area.
Tottenham lowered the intensity after the opening quarter, with Saints enjoying more possession. There were a few crisp counters, but overall not enough imagination in the away side's play. Saints were presented with a decent opportunity when Mane cut the ball back into the box, only for Graziano Pelle and Morgan Schneiderlin to get in each other's way. On 25 minutes Erik Lamela embarked on a solo run before seeing his shot tipped past the post by Fraser Forster. Christian Eriksen was then given far too much room in the centre of the park before testing the Saints keeper with a low drive. The Dane would make amends on 40 minutes. Emmanuel Adebayor played in Nacer Chadli, who quickly gave the ball to Eriksen on the edge of the area. The player had enough time to set himself before firing low into the corner of the net.
Saints went on the attack immediately after the goal, with Pelle tamely shooting at Hugo Lloris from outside the area. Spurs came very close to making it 2-0 just before the break, with Chadli hitting the post, having been put through with a clear run at goal. At the other end, Dusan Tadic's free-kick was easy for Lloris to deal with.
Spurs showed a lot more urgency than their opponents for much of the first half. Saints were fairly well organised as a unit, but showed little cohesion going forward. There were a few hefty challenges, but the referee was fairly lenient when it came to dishing out cards. The second-half was a bit flat. Spurs sat off a little more, but were still the superior outfit. Younes Kaboul was perhaps lucky to only see yellow when he took out Mane just outside the area on 52.
Saints did briefly up the tempo just after the hour, with Victor Wanyama testing Lloris with a rasping volley. The visitors were wasteful from the many set pieces they were presented with. On 73 Steven Davis floated the ball to the back post, but Schneiderlin couldn't quite get his head to the ball. For all the possession Saints were enjoying, they weren't troubling Tottenham at all in the final third. Koeman sacrificed a midfielder to give Pelle more support up front by bringing on Shane Long for Wanyama. The balance of the game didn't really shift though, and an equaliser seemed unlikely until the 84th minute. Saints employed a slightly more direct game, which did yield one major chance. Schneiderlin's long ball was taken down by Long, who quickly fed Bertrand. The full-back drove the ball low along the box, with Sadio Mane miscuing at the vital moment. That was about it from Saints. Spurs saw out the remaining minutes comfortably to end a forgettable clash.
A disappointing afternoon for Saints. Koeman's side weren't adventurous enough going forward and were outfought in other areas of the pitch early on. Spurs weren't brilliant either, but had a bit more about them and were certainly worthy of the win. James Ward-Prowse would have been useful for his dead ball delivery on this occasion. As mentioned above, Saints squandered a number of set pieces. Koeman's men still sit 3rd in the table, much higher than anyone could have imagined prior to the season starting. The performance was disappointing of course, but the result is far from a disaster. Saints have a good run of fixtures coming up and are capable of maintaining a place in the top six for another month or so at least.
Forster: 6. Made a few alright saves, but also spilled a couple of routine crosses
Clyne: 6. Not quite at his very best, particularly with the ball at his feet. Reasonably steady defensively
Fonte: 6. Not completely faultless, but generally well positioned and sharp in the tackle
Alderweireld: 6. Caught out slightly once or twice, but a reasonable showing overall. Made a few well timed slide challenges
Bertrand: 7. Worked hard down the left flank as you would expect. Some crucial blocks in defence and a cross for the one killer chance
Wanyama: 6. A bit up and down. Looked very imposing at times, but slightly sloppy on other occasions
Schneiderlin: 6. Some good passing in spells, particularly towards the end of the game. Occasionally a bit clumsy in the tackle
Davis: 6. Showcased some great skill and kept the ball moving at pace. Just let down by his final ball
Tadic: 5. Very quiet. Barely involved in any decent moves in the final third
Mane: 6. First touch excellent. Stretched the Spurs defence on a few occasions in the first half. Faded after the break, and fluffed the only real clear cut effort Saints had
Pelle: 5. A bit isolated. Not involved anywhere near as much as in recent games
Long: Some good defensive play and some nice work in the build up to Mane's chance
Tottenham - Eriksen (40)
Attendance: 35,564 (2,279 Saints fans)
Referee: Mike Jones
Tottenham: Lloris, Naughton (Dier 32), Kaboul, Vertonghen, Rose, Mason, Capoue, Eriksen (Dembele 81), Lamela (Kane 90), Chadli, Adebayor
Subs not used: Vorm, Fazio, Townsend, Soldado
Saints: Forster, Clyne, Fonte, Alderweireld, Bertrand, Wanyama (Long 76), Schneiderlin, S Davis, Tadic, Mane, Pelle
Subs not used: K Davis, Gardos, Targett, Cork, Reed, Mayuka