Spurs!!!! 4-0!!!! This sums up my emotions around the 75th minute: https://twitter.com/Mariners/status/773732386697728000?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw
This was the game of Heung-min Son.
We lined up 4-2-3-1 with Lloris in goal, Ben Davies replacing Danny Rose at left back, and Heung-min Son at left wing and Erikson at right wing instead of Lamela.
Stop me if you heard this one before, but Spurs started slowly. Mark Hughes’ boys came out in a pressing 4-3-3 and were active early. Spurs couldn’t settle the ball at the back and were trying to push long passes into the midfield with middling results. Stoke kept getting corner kicks, which plays into their strength–being one of the tallest, toughest teams in the league. Spurs are just as tall and were up for the challenge.
After the initial 15 minutes of choppy play, we started exerting our will on the game. 20 minutes in, Son dribbled into the box and Jeff Cameron clipped his heels and then fell on him. No call. 5 minutes later, Son lead a counter attack but his cut back pass was terrible–so terrible that it clanged off the shins of back-tracking winger/lunatic Marko Arnautovic and straight to Deli Alli who was played onside, alone, 6 yards out. Alli turned and fired on instinct and missed the goal with a move that was more clearance than shot. It was all confusing but we were showing promising signs.
Around the 35th minute, Arnautovic–who was sent off against Spurs last April in the middle of a 4-0 mauling–was given a yellow for diving. It was tough to see in real time but the ref was standing right there, it was clear in the replay, and no one on Stoke protested. Except for Mark Hughes who flipped his shit. The sideline official was offended that Hughes was offended and had the ref throw him out of the game. Hughes doubled down on losing his mind. The announcers decided it was the most interesting thing ever and talked about it constantly. Of the 100 minutes of game footage at least 7 minutes was of Hughes trying to call his assistant managers from his cell phone. Thankfully, it was revealed that Hughes’ official charge was “remonstration”, which, as nerds can explain, means he protested. Oh England.
Then, a few minutes later, Walker hit a short cross from within the box and it clipped his defender’s hand before the on-rushing Deli Alli was bowled over from behind by his defender. The ref decided Alli was faking and called a foul but didn’t give him a card. It was all chaotic and poorly ref’d. But by then we were clearly in control of the game. Stoke’s press eased up; our passes through the midfield became shorter; and our guys started gathering the ball, turning, and taking the space with dribbles. A lot of movement went through Erikson as he was pinching in very narrow to link play with Alli. He wasn’t sharp at first, some sloppy passes and some lost possession, but he did combine with Alli to unlock the defense and feed Son with a sniping pass to the penalty spot. Son, in an acre of space, put the ball in the net first touch. 1-0 at halftime. http://cartilagefreecaptain.sbnation.com/2016/9/10/12871248/watch-son-s-clever-finish-gives-spurs-lead-vs-stoke-city
Second half opened with a disjointed first 5 minutes but then the Spurs turned it on. 20-pass combinations, sweet overlapping runs, and the Stoke press was completely beaten. We were nasty on the counter attack, clinical in possession, and the chances that Stoke did create were harried or deflected shots that never felt like a real threat. When it was still 1-0 in the 55th minute, Stoke would have gladly ended the game if it were offered to them. Instead, Alli looped a pass to Erikson who coolly brought it down, twisted Jeff Cameron into the pitch like a screw, and fed Son with a soft pass to his feet. Son smashed it into the net. 2-0. http://cartilagefreecaptain.sbnation.com/2016/9/10/12871632/watch-son-s-sensational-strike-notches-brace-vs-stoke-city
It was on. Here’s Alli’s goal only 3 minutes later: http://cartilagefreecaptain.sbnation.com/2016/9/10/12871678/watch-dele-alli-s-first-goal-of-season-makes-it-3-0-vs-stoke-city
That’s Erikson gathering the corner kick clearance, feeding the recently subbed on Lamela, who feeds Walker–who sprinted 80 yards before taking the pass–who tucks in an easy cross to Alli sitting at the top of the box. Boom. Beautiful counter attacking goal.
Stoke preceded to walk for the next 25 minutes. Spurs did not. We got a corner, then played some ping pong in front of the goal. Kane’s shot from 3 yards out was blocked but Son ran it down halfway to the corner flag, turned, and sent it back from whence it came. Dier narrowly missed touching it in, but it ran to Kane who recieved it with more than 2/3 of the goal in front of him. His gathered it, measured, backed up, checked the wind, re-tied his shoes, brushed his hair, texted his pregnant fiance, straightened his shirt, cupped a fart to see how much it smelled, and then lashed it into the net past the reach of the diving Shay Given who is 40 years old. I think the rest of the defenders had stopped for tea.
The game wasn’t perfect but we controlled 70 of the 90 minutes and dominated 45 of them. We had 20 shots, 8 of which were blocked and 8 of which were on target. That means 8 of our 12 unblocked shots were on target. Good teams put it on net. We were a good team today. Really good. Around the 80th minute the very raucous traveling Spurs fans sang:
“It’s happening again, It’s happening again, Stoke City, It’s happening again”
Player ratings (-5 to 5)
Lloris – 2 – made some good saves but wasn’t under a ton of pressure. Made some good decisions to come claim crosses out of the air.
Davies – 3 – Excellent at left back. Knows he’s not as athletic as Rose and didn’t try to play like him. Had some clever 1-2s with Son and Dier. Didn’t let himself get pulled out of position too much.
Vertonghen – 3 – some smart, seamless defending. Didn’t appear to get caught out like the last few weeks.
Alderwierald – 3 – Solid as always.
Walker – 4 – Some great hustle plays. Got involved several times in the offense. Assist to Alli. Should have had a second one but for the ref. Made a nice goal line clearance.
Wanyama – 1 – I can’t remember him doing anything but getting a yellow, and then committing a few more fouls before being subbed for Lamela. We controlled the middle of the pitch so he couldn’t have been bad.
Dier – 1 – See Wanyama. Except no card.
Son – 4 – 2 goals, 1 assist, some awesome hustle. Enthusiasm and energy. Both goals were missable and he made them look easy. Would have rated 5 had he not scuffed about 3 fast breaks
Alli – 3 – 1 goal, 2 hockey assists, 1 total howler. He was creative and sneaky and mazy. It was fun to watch.
Erikson – 4 – Was hailed as the man of the match by many. His second half was very good, better than his first half, and much better than the first 3 weeks. Created a lot of chances.
Kane – 2 – 1 Goal and lots of hard work but still didn’t look very sharp. Glad he got his goal.
Lamela – 1 – Came on for the last 30 mins of the match. Lots of good passing. Showed poise.
Janssen – 0 – 20 minutes but had no impact.
Sissoko – 1 – Played right wing for 15 minutes. Had a deflected shot that still almost went in. Looked pretty fast. Picked up a yellow for a lazy foul.
Here was our xG map:
Shots are getting closer to goal and more central. Could have been 6-0 pretty easily.