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  • Julian Taylor at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

'Tough moments' admits Stellini as composed Cherries prove too sour for Tottenham



Julian Taylor at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium


Tottenham Hotspur 2

Bournemouth 3


The league table may indicate that Tottenham appear to be in the higher echelons of the Premier League table – but this campaign is quickly running out of steam, as Bournemouth grabbed what proved to be a deserved, late, winner in the capital.


It looked like Spurs were going to take a point from a performance which was shifty and lacking in multiple areas when Arnaut Danjuma struck in the 88th minute, yet there was still time for their dishevelled, cavalier state to be brutally exposed when the Cherries’ Dango Ouattara outwitted a flailing home defence to curl an enticing winner for an impressive side, growing in confidence as they steer themselves to probable safety.


Not for the first time, did Tottenham have the look of a team coasting in banal fashion. Heung-Min Son put them in front early on, but rather than signalling a forceful afternoon in the spring sunshine, Spurs resorted to sloth. No doubt this is a consequence of their lack of leadership since the departure of Antonio Conte, with his interim replacement, Cristian Stellini, never looking like he could ignite drive, far less answers.


As frustration became contagious around the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, fans voiced their displeasure against Chairman Daniel Levy as well as the fare offered on the pitch. Such is the prevailing mood in N17 these days.


Delayed

Kick-off in north London was delayed by fifteen minutes due to travel difficulties for the Cherries. And the visitors approached the game clearly hoping not to experience a similar logjam on the pitch.


Somewhat fortuitously, Tottenham had, last week, managed to scrape past an impressive Brighton at home, thanks to the ever-reliable Harry Kane and Son. They were not going to be lucky a second time. Bournemouth had been on a fair run coming into the game, with three wins from their last five outings sufficient to draw them three points clear of the drop zone. This industrious triumph ensures a precious six point advantage over the bottom three.


“We started the game well but when we scored we dropped”, said acting head coach Stellini. “We have to change this mindset. We have said many times we have to be strong.


“I understand it is a tough moment for everyone. I take the responsibility, but we have to create unity in the team. You have to be perfect in a defensive situation and today we were not perfect and we made two mistakes (for Bournemouth’s goals).”


Tottenham dominated the earliest proceedings against Gary O’Neil’s cautious outfit – and made the breakthrough after 13 minutes, Son the effortless executioner. A fine move was initiated from a raking pass from Clement Lenglet deep inside the Spurs’ half which found Ivan Perisic on the right. The Croatian, pressing into the penalty area, then had the most basic of tasks to set up Son who somehow managed to escape a raft of Bournemouth defenders to guide the ball home. This brightness was to fade alarmingly.


The first period saw the Cherries restricted to the very occasional foray and long-range tilt at the Tottenham goal. Nevertheless, Lilywhites’ keeper Hugo Lloris was drawn into a fantastic save, turning over a sizzling Marcus Tavernier left foot piledriver from 20 yards out. Bournemouth gained more confidence as a result with head coach O’Neil especially animated on the side lines.


Clipped


The visitors got their reward in the 38th minute. Pedro Porro was at fault for Tottenham, losing possession on the right and the Cherries’ Philip Billing managed to nudge the ball through three home defenders into the path of Matias Vina who, in a dash, clipped the ball impressively over Lloris to level.


That sense of confusion at the back saw Tottenham concede a second goal five minutes after the restart. Eric Dier and substitute Davinson Sanchez were caught out inside their own area from a neat interchange between Tavernier and Dominic Solanke, with the latter manoeuvring the ball over exposed Lloris. It was, like Bournemouth’s opener, a goal which was an especially poor one from Spurs’ point of view to concede. Sanchez had to then suffer the ignominy of being replaced shortly afterwards.

Tottenham's labours were accompanied by the increasing rumblings of the home faithful. Even Kane, in a deep role, and Son – those normally reliable interlopers – found the Cherries too tough to crack. O’Neil’s decision to frustrate the stuttering north Londoners was perhaps a risk, with Spurs restricted to unconvincing, flutterings from distance.


One of those, however, paid off with two minutes to go. Substitute Danjuma drilled a fine left foot shot into the corner of the net when Bournemouth failed to clear a long throw by Perisic.


Sting


Then, the dramatic, injury time pop and sting.


Spurs, caught with too many players forward, saw Bournemouth move quickly on the counter. And substitute Ouattara displayed real composure to finish, slipping past flailing Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg before curling past Lloris.


Tottenham’s defensive troubles were exposed once more – and yet their fans should not, and will not, be deceived by a team devoid of consistent invention and shape. They stall at fifth in the table but have played two games more than Manchester United, who are three points ahead.

A top four finish? There is next to no chance of Champions League participation next term from this showing and certainly without a long term manager to succeed Conte in place. Meanwhile, Bournemouth’s quest to retain Premier League football next term was simply more disciplined and intense. O’Neil aptly described events as a “rollercoaster”, post-traffic pile up, on what was a day to savour for the Cherries.


SPURS: Lloris, Skipp (Richarlison 76), Emile-Hojbjerg, Son, Kane, Perisic, Dier, Romero, Kulusevski, Porro, Lenglet (Sanchez 35, Danjuma 58)

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