Swansea’s visit to Spurs yesterday was a mouth-watering treat for those who love their football played on the ground with pace and skill. During the week Sam Allardyce made a shocking statement that West Ham have played at times like Swansea this season. Based on what I have seen he can be only referring to the “shoot from the half way line” pre-match competition by the substitutes. Our regular Lily of the Valley, Abi Davies made the trip down to London for this one.
A fairly even encounter at White Hart Lane, inclusive of some scintillating football from either side, was decided largely by Spurs superior clinical ability in front of goal as they capitalised on their opportunities whilst their counterparts couldn’t do so as efficiently.
Looking to end their poor run of form in order to record a first win in 6, Spurs found themselves on the back foot early on as Routledge, Rangel and Sigurdsson in particular were combining well for the visitors in order to cause problems for Assou-Ekotto at full back.
Despite Nathan Dyer’s availability, Brendan Rodgers stuck with Sinclair and Routledge on the flanks- a decision by no means perplexing given the form of the two wide players heading into Sunday’s fixture. Having relished his opportunity in the side whilst Dyer served his suspension, Wayne Routledge demonstrated from the outset through his footwork, control, strength and deliveries into the penalty area, exactly why he is keeping Nathan Dyer out of the side. It was Routledge who almost broke the deadlock for the visitors with their first real chance of the game however his effort from the edge of the D fired marginally wide of the Spurs goal.
Having impressed over recent weeks, looking somewhere near his best, Scott Sinclair struggled to influence the game at White Hart Lane as the winger was muscled off the ball far too often and easily, however Swansea were still posing a large threat down the left wing courtesy of full back Neil Taylor.
Gareth Bale constantly proved troublesome for the home side as he was given freedom to dominate proceedings down the left flank, due to his blistering pace coupled with some poor positional play from Angel Rangel. The Swansea right back was caught high up the field on numerous occasions however without Steven Caulker to move across to cover for him and with Bale’s counter attacking danger, Rangel was far more exposed than he has been over recent weeks.
Prior to kick off, the overriding feeling amongst the Spurs fans that I spoke to, was that if Swansea attempted to play with their usual philosophy and looked to control the game with their possession based style, they would be annihilated. However for large spells of the match Swansea’s one touch passing was of the highest ilk and at times left Spurs chasing shadows.
Swansea’s Neil Taylor further impressed with another assured display at left back. The defender pushed forward with real purpose and confidence whilst also completing his defensive duties well.
Swansea’s midfield trio of Allen, Britton and Sigurdsson were looking more hungry and determined to control play in the middle of the park, however with 19 minutes played, somewhat against the run of play, Van Der Vaart opened the scoring for the home side. The move starting with Bale outpacing Rangel in order to advance into the final third and deliver a dangerous ball into the box, the Welsh international did so and despite his compatriot Ashley Williams intercepting the initial delivery, the ball fell to Van Der Vaart who connected superbly to fire past Vorm.
The home side were firmly in the ascendancy following their goal as they pressed to extend their advantage, almost doing so when the phenomenal Kaboul’s header forced an outstanding save from Vorm, who did well to parry the ball away to safety. Despite further first half chances for both sides, the score line remained 1-0 going in at the interval.
Shortly after the restart, Gylfi Sigurdsson came agonisingly close to hauling Swansea back on level terms, when a fantastic strike from the Icelander seemed destined for the top corner. However Brad Friedel did magnificently well to divert the ball out for a corner. 10 minutes later Sigurdsson did level proceedings with his 6th goal in 8 games.
When Joe Allen’s initial shot was blocked, the ball fell for Routledge who showed great strength to hold off defender Assou-Ekotto and set up Sigurdsson who’s effort into the ground bounced up and past Friedel.
After the goal, numerous dubious decisions resulting in free kicks for the home side broke up Swansea’s fluency, stopped them getting into any rhythm and helped the home side regain some sort of authority.
Van Der Vaart and Gareth Bale came close to restoring Spurs’ lead before Adebayor was rewarded for his persistent threat, rising above Swansea’s defenders to connect with Van Der Vaart’s corner and put the home side back in front. Without the presence of Caulker, Swansea’s defending of set pieces was a large concern, especially coming up against 6ft 3in striker Adebayor.
Despite further heroics from Michel Vorm, Spurs secured all 3 points four minutes from time when Adebayor headed home his second of the game. Conceding twice in the second half through headers, Swansea undoubtedly missed the height of Steven Caulker, this along with Swansea’s attempt to defend with zonal marking cost them dearly.
Kaboul played a vital role in Spurs victory on Sunday, making numerous important interceptions whilst Brad Friedel also made many saves of the highest class to ensure Swansea did not score more than one on Sunday. I feel the result was a testament to Tottenham’s strength of character to respond as they did to Swansea’s equalising goal, especially given their run of form going into the match.
I think there were many positives for Brendan Rodger’s side to take from Sunday’s defeat. Spurs, throughout the game pressed the Swans deep in their own half and I feel the Welsh side looked far more assured and better equipped to deal with this pressure than they have done in previous weeks. As well as this, there were periods of the game where Swansea out-passed their opponents, something not many teams have been able to do.
Swansea will be hoping that they can record their first win in three to move back into the top half of the table when they host Newcastle on Friday, therefore welcoming Caulker back into the side for the fixture will be a huge boost given that they will be facing one of the most sensational attacking trio’s in the top flight in Ba, Cisse and Ben Arfa.