A series of injuries overshadowed Tottenham’s 1-0 win over Sunderland at White Hart Lane on Sunday afternoon. Spurs dominated all aspects of proceedings, yet a second half of trauma for the home side could prove costly in the weeks to come.
Manager Mauricio Pochettino made three forced substitutions as Moussa Dembele, then Eric Dier were each affected by hamstring concerns. Most worrying of all though for Pochettino and the home support would no doubt have been the sight of star striker Harry Kane stretchered around the ground following an awkward twisting of his right ankle.
Kane had earlier taken advantage of some sloppy defending from Sunderland centre back Papy Djilobodji for a simple collect and tap-in in the 59th minute. This followed an hour of utter dominance from Tottenham, who registered the most shots at goal of any team in a first half of the Premier League this season. Somehow the scoreline remained 0-0 at the break, and until Kane’s finish it appeared Sunderland would be hopeful of managing a point.
In fact it was not until going a goal down that Sunderland finally attempted to get men forward. Ex-Spur Jermaine Defoe had remained completely isolated with the Black Cats forced deeper and deeper inside their own half by Spurs’ dominance. Sunderland appeared an outside chance of knicking a goal and point as Tottenham continued to spurn chances in front of goal amidst their injury crisis. Whilst the chances were plentiful, Sunderland did ensure that it would at least require something brilliant from their opposition, as few of the opportunities were clear-cut.
With Adnan Januzaj seeing a second yellow card in the 89th minute for a clumsy challenge on substitute Ben Davies, Sunderland’s hopes appeared dashed. And whilst appearing to maintain pressure, they barely threatened a restructured back four. Spurs had gone into the game with Jan Vertonghen surprisingly switched to left full back in the injured Danny Rose’s continue absence. Eric Dier meanwhile moved into the middle to both replace Vertonghen and accommodate Victor Wanyama in the defensive midfield role.
Spurs now go 5 Premier League games unbeaten at the start of a season for the first time in 12 years, but player health is of most interest. First Kyle Walker appeared to suffer a hamstring concern early in the second half, managing to shake it off. There was no such luck for Dembele, forced from the field after 74 minutes, while only moments later Dier too clutched at the top of his right hamstring before being withdrawn.
As Kane went down and remained unmoved whilst Erik Lamela fashioned and wasted yet another goal scoring opportunity, thoughts turned to the upcoming fixtures. With League One side Gillingham in the League Cup to face on Wednesday night, Kane and co. may well have been due a rest. That now appears enforced, Pochettino no doubt sweating on the medical report that could decide Kane’s availability for challenging away fixtures to Middlesborough in the Premier League and CSKA Moscow in the Champions League, all within 10 days.
Vincent Janssen will now be handed further starting opportunities in the striker role, beginning at Gillingham. Whilst Dembele and Dier seem more chance of returning for Middlesborough, the length of Kane’s absence could be of significance should Janssen be unable to replicate his teammate’s return to form. With Kane returning to form by netting goals in back to back league games, plus the fixture congestion, the injury timing could not be worse from a Spurs perspective. Janssen is yet to open his Spurs account, and whilst he has looked busy and threatening at times, he will need that and more in the days and weeks to come.