Tottenham Hotspur outplayed Watford away from home as the Premier League resumed on Saturday, but Spurs still needed a late penalty save from backup goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga in order to salvage a point in a scoreless draw at Vicarage Road.
Despite heading into the contest having lost two consecutive Premier League games, Jose Mourinho’s team looked for most of the game like it would be able to build on the momentum created by the midweek FA Cup win over second-tier Middlesbrough. The visitors had the majority of ball and the chances. And against an overmatched Hornets team that has been in or near the relegation zone all season, it seemed only a matter of time until Mourinho’s team found a breakthrough goal, even without injured star striker Harry Kane.
But disaster struck for Tottenham with just over 20 minutes to play, when veteran central defender Jan Vertonghen was whistled (and subsequently yellow-carded) for handling the ball in the area. Fortunately for the London side, Gazzaniga — who has been filling since Hugo Lloris suffered an ugly arm injury in early October — dove to his right to stop Troy Deeney’s poorly aimed attempt from the penalty spot:
Here are three quick thought on the match.
Spurs were still unlucky not to win
Never mind that two minutes into the first half, Tottenham had their own penalty claims waved away by referee Michael Oliver on a play not much different than the one involving Vertonghen. Sure, Lucas Moura flicked the ball into the arm of Watford defender Craig Cathcart from close range, but the arm was also extended from Cathcart’s body. And did the fact the incident happened so early influence Oliver’s decision? Either way, we’ve seen those given this season.
Spurs were even more unlucky in second-half stoppage time. Right back Serge Aurier played a low cross into the box for a sliding Erik Lamela. The Argentine flicked the ball past home keeper Ben Foster but the recently acquired Ignacio Pussetto was able to clear his compatriot’s effort by the slimmest possible margin:
INSANE— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) January 18, 2020
Spurs were *that* close to finding a winner 🤯 pic.twitter.com/N1Xcb2OSrp
Tough day for Dele Alli
Not only did the English national teamer squander a golden chance for the go-ahead goal when he sent his point-blank header over the crossbar in the second half, he also was not a happy camper when Mourinho substituted him shortly thereafter:
Dele Alli was not pleased after being taken off 😳 pic.twitter.com/wnEvIS7FtV— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) January 18, 2020
Alli was in sizzling from at the end of last year, after Mourinho replaced Mauricio Pochettino on the Tottenham sideline in November. But he’s been less effective recently, and his reaction to being taken off the field on Saturday isn’t exactly a sign that he’s feeling good about his play or his place in the pecking order at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
With Kane expected to miss the rest of the season following hamstring surgery, getting Alli back playing his best has to be a top priority for the manager. Surely Mourinho understands how crucial that would be for Spurs’ chances of climbing back up the table from their current eight place.
Still a decent result for Watford
This is no doubt a tie that feels like a loss for the Hornets. Missed penalty kicks will have that effect. Yet Watford fans and coach Nigel Pearson would probably have taken the point had they been offered it beforehand, even on the back of three straight Prem victories.
Believe it or not, Watford has been the best team in the circuit over the last six weeks after league-leading Liverpool. The draw vs. Spurs extends their unbeaten run to six matches in all, and keeps them in the safety zone for now. After being in the basement much of the season, the fact that there’s a sense of disappointment after this one is a victory in itself.
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