23/03/2014: Tottenham 3-2 Saints
Tottenham - Eriksen (31, 46) Sigurdsson (90)
Saints - Rodriguez (19) Lallana (28)
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Saints' very faint European hopes all but died following a heart-breaking last minute loss at Tottenham. Mauricio Pochettino's men dominated most of the first half, but a series of defensive errors allowed Spurs back into it. The game looked to be heading for a draw, following a relatively drab second-half, only for Gylfi Sigurdsson to step up to make it an even more frustrating afternoon than it already was.
The game experienced an open start. Tottenham attempted to attack from the flanks, but found little joy early on. Nacer Chadli's dangerous 15th minute cross wasn't picked up by another Spurs player. Saints played with a lot more purpose going forward, looking for quick through balls over the top of the Tottenham defence. Adam Lallana scooped an early chance over the bar after Rickie Lambert had held onto the ball for what seemed like an eternity on the right of the penalty area.
Saints fell afoul of the offside trap on a few occasions early on. Jay Rodriguez had a goal ruled out after being flagged up on 9 minutes. He had a lot more luck 10 minutes later. Kyle Naughton misjudged Artur Boruc's goal-kick, allowing Rodriguez a free run at goal. The England striker had enough time to take a touch, steady himself before firing into the corner of the net.
Saints grew in confidence after that goal, and continued to control possession. Luke Shaw had a deflected shot fizz agonisingly past the post. Then on 28 Lallana made it 2-0. Naughton was at fault for Spurs again, gifting the ball to Lambert on the edge of the area. He turned his man, before playing in Lallana, who peeled off to the right before sliding past Lloris.
In one of the many similarities to the Sunderland game in January, Spurs pulled a goal back almost immediately. Nabil Bentaleb fired a warning shot just wide on 30 minutes. Seconds later the home side had a goal back. Chadli got the better of Dejan Lovren on the right, before playing a simple pass to Naughton, who crossed into the centre of the penalty area. Nathaniel Clyne fluffed his clearance, allowing Christian Eriksen in for a powerful finish.
Saints were less dominant towards the end of the half, but still managed to create a few chances. On 38 Lloris made a smart save from Lallana. Two minutes later Steven Davis had a deflected shot go out for a corner. Spurs finished the first-half strongly, forcing Boruc into a couple of good saves.
Tim Sherwood made a half-time change which would help alter the course of the game, bringing on Sigurdsson for Mousa Dembele. Spurs were back level 46 seconds after the restart. Roberto Soldado found it far too easy to muscle Lovren off the ball on the right. The Spaniard took the ball into the penalty area, before crossing low for Eriksen, who had a simple tap in at the far post.
Tottenham continued to pile on the pressure during the next 15 minutes or so. Boruc made a good save from Chadli on 56. A few moments later Eriksen hit the side netting. The game then petered out somewhat. Saints looked slightly more dangerous during the final half hour, but struggled to match the intensity they displayed in the first half. On 88 Lambert shot just wide following a decent counter. The game looked to be heading for a certain stalemate until deep into stoppage time. Lovren's headed clearance came out to Eriksen, who touched the ball on to Sigurdsson. The Icelander drilled into the bottom corner of the net, completing a remarkable turnaround for Tottenham.
In the grand scheme of things the loss isn't that much of a disaster, but it doesn't make it any less gutting in the short term. Saints should have heeded the warning signs from last week's mini-collapse against Norwich. We've surrendered far too many leads this season, sometimes due to our inability to adopt a more conservative style when ahead, but on this occasion individual errors were what cost us more than anything else. Saints can take plenty of positives from the way they took apart a team with Champions League ambitions. The front four of Davis, Lallana, Rodriguez and Lambert were particularly superb in the first half. Lallana is already on the plane, but Rodriguez and Lambert would have done their World Cup chances no harm at all in front of the watching Roy Hodgson.
Boruc: 6. Made some good saves, although nothing that you wouldn't expect him to deal with easily. Calm under pressure
Clyne: 5. Unfortunate slip for the first Spurs goal, but clearly not at 100% throughout the first half. Came off at the break
Fonte: 6. Some wayward distribution at times, but fairly solid defensively
Lovren: 4. Partially at fault for the first two goals, and arguably even the third. Looked shaky throughout, but particularly either side of half-time
Shaw: 7. Wasn't allowed to get forward as often as usual, but good defensively. Didn't let a lot get past him
Cork: 7. Positioning and awareness good as ever. Tidy enough on the ball
Ward-Prowse: 6. Didn't always use the ball that well early on, but some very good defensive work
Davis: 8. Thrived in the first half with Saints constantly hitting Spurs on the break
Lallana: 8. Energy and inventiveness in abundance, particularly in the first-half
Lambert: 8. First half display as good as any of his previous best outings in a Saints shirt. A great range of passing. Opened up the Spurs back-line time and again. Struggled to keep up with the pace of the game at times in the 2nd half, but a few good moments
Rodriguez: 7. Took his goal very well. Movement around the Tottenham area very troublesome for the opposition
Chambers: 7. A very good 45 minutes. Made a number of important tackles
Ramirez: 6. Not quite as explosive as previous cameo appearances, but did make a few impressive runs
Gallagher: Didn't really have enough time to make an impression on the game