Spurs kept the the title race alive with a hard fought 1-0 away victory against Big Sam’s Crystal Palace last night. Spurs, coming off the back of the weekend’s disappointing FA Cup semi final defeat were far from the free-flowing form that had seen them notch up 7 Premier League victories in a row before the game.
On a night where performance meant nothing and the result was king, it always looked like a moment of magic from one of Spurs’ attacking players would make the difference and it was the great Dane, Christian Eriksen, who stepped up to the plate with just 12 minutes remaining. Eriksen picked the ball up fully 35 yards from goal and with few options either side of him elected to shoot, firing a perfectly struck shot low into the bottom corner past Wayne Hennessy.
This was always going to a be tough game for Mauricio Pochettino’s men against an in-form Palace side and the opening stages simply confirmed that. Palace started well which was also helped by Spurs looking uncharacteristically sloppy in possession. The Eagles had the first real chance of the game after 20 minutes when Benteke’s effort, struck low from the edge of the area was saved by Lloris. The big Belgian had been slipped through by a lively Townsend and on current form most would have expected the Palace striker to have done slightly better with his shot.
Spurs struggled to find any fluency in attack during the first half and were lucky to go in at half time with 11 men, after Wanayama, already on a yellow, luckily escaped a second booking after clumsily sliding in on Townsend. It was clear thereafter that Wanayama would be walking a disciplinary tightrope with the referee, he was sensibly hooked at the break, along with his central midfield partner Dembele, who couldn’t shake of a knock he’d received early in the game.
Spurs’ struggles in attack were not all of their own doing however as Palace were excellent defensively, with Sahko putting in an imperious performance marshalling the home side’s backline. Sadly for Palace the Frenchman fell awkwardly on 60 minutes and had to be carried off with what looked like a serious injury. Spurs smelled blood after this and began to up the tempo.
Soon after, Spurs started to push Palace back which resulted in their first clear cut chance of the game when Walker crossed and Dele Alli volleyed wide from 4 yards out with the goal gapping. For all the youngsters’ talents that is the 5th or 6th absolute sitter he has missed over the last couple of seasons, proving the old adage that players are better off when they don’t have time to think.
As the clock began to wind down and it looked like the game could be headed for a draw, Eriksen took the responsibility to make something happen and gave Spurs a much needed lead after good hold up play by Harry Kane. They held onto their lead thereafter without much difficulty and go into this weekend’s North London Derby still very much on the coattails of leaders Chelsea.
Spurs’ lack of experience in pressure situations has been called into question after last seasons end of season collapse so coming away from Selhurst Park, which is no easy place to visit at this stage on the season, with 3 points after a tight game was massive.
Most neutrals will have been happy with the result too, as it keeps the title race going that bit longer. Spurs fans will now turn their attention to Goodison Park on Sunday and hope that Everton can do them a favour.
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