It was almost all so predictable. A herculean performance in goal from Ben Foster. A failure to make the most of their chances that saw Spurs locked at nil-nil with West Brom heading into the final ten minutes. Then who else but Nacer Chadli would find the back of the net to put his unfancied new team a goal up, seemingly to snatch a late victory and valuable three points.
At 1-0 down and with time fast running out, it seemed Spurs had thrown away an opportunity. That of remaining unbeaten and that to break down an opposition who sit deep and concede well more than two thirds of possession. We’d seen this before with Tottenham, not so much in recent weeks, but it looked a familiar pattern.
Spurs lacked fluency throughout much of the second half. They could not get their game going. Where Tottenham had dominated the final 15 minutes of the first 45, they looked sluggish and unable to put the Baggies defence and Foster under any real pressure. It was a stop-start affair, which played into West Brom’s hands. And the home side gradually grew in confidence the longer the half went.
As West Brom began to threaten, and suddenly look dangerous, so too Spurs appeared susceptible at the back. With Toby Alderweireld stretchered off on 60 minutes, the rock of the back four gone, suddenly Salomon Rondon and James McClean came into the game. Sure enough it was from set pieces that Spurs were most open, Eric Dier unable to really get a foothold in the contest after coming on.
Hugo Lloris, only required to show off several neat passes in the first half, needed the gloves late in the second. Called into action, he pulled of a wonderful save from a corner as McClean struck with power low and to Lloris’ left. The deflection rebounded to Chadli off the bar, and the former Spurs man made no mistake from close range with Lloris’ still struggling to make his way off the floor.
It was a sloppy goal to concede by Tottenham. Yet again it displayed just how much work still needs to be done on set pieces. It’s an area in which there seems to have been minimal improvement over the past 12 months; it is the area from which Spurs concede goals.
The goal did, however, spring Spurs into action and they could very nearly have scored within the next minute. And a calm, clever finish from Dele Alli ensured Spurs left The Hawthorns with their unbeaten record intact. Alli shows remarkable composure for one so young, and to slide the ball off the outside of his boot with such precision epitomised just that.
Heung-Min Son was once again heavily involved in Spurs’ forays forward, including for the goal, following his inclusion on 72 minutes. While Vincent Janssen performs an admirable role with his back to goal, at this stage his threat as a scorer appears limited. By contrast, Son moves with such energy, his skill with both lateral and direct ball movement confuses opponents, leaving them little time to react. Add that to his precision passing and it was a different Tottenham going forward once was Son was added to the mix.
On balance Spurs would perhaps be happy with taking a point from the game. While it was a game they should be winning, going a goal down late and after Alderweireld’s own going down, it was technically an escape from defeat.