Southampton 1 Spurs 2
Spurs attacked early and often down the right flank, exposing a weak Saints left side, then defended deep to take the points as it finished Southampton 1 Spurs 2.
Andre Villas-Boas brought back Gareth Bale in to the side after his time off since becoming a father. Brad Friedel also returned in goal after missing the trip to Maribor, as did Clint Dempsey in the advanced midfield role in support of Jermain Defoe.
We started in our usual 4-3-3 formation with a midfield trio of Sandro, Tom Huddlestone and Clint Dempsey. Jermain Defoe was once again up front playing with Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon as wide forwards.
The balance in midfield looked much better than it had been in previous matches. Tom Huddlestone had been dropping deeper in behind Sandro, forcing the Brazilian to play further up the pitch against Chelsea and Maribor. Here, Huddlestone was dropping in to pick up the ball from the defenders, but it wasn’t all the time, so it gave a much better balance to the side in the first half.
It was especially pleasing to see him getting further forward, as he did in creating the first goal.
Tom picked out Gareth Bale with a perfect cross, but it was Sandro who was doing an excellent job of forcing the play to the right to expose a weak Saints left side.
Spurs go right at the Southampton left
Tottenham started much the quicker and as we saw in our 5 keys to Southampton vs Spurs, the Saints left side was their main weakness. We looked to expose this at every possible opportunity during the first half and created both goals as well as several chances from this side.
It started with Sandro and the Brazilian was doing an excellent job of taking the ball from the defenders, or winning it back and moving it right.
He made 7 interceptions in the match and every time he won the ball, he was looking to move it to Walker and Lennon.
Southampton had an early warning as Sandro won the ball in the middle of the park, moved it to Lennon, who threaded the ball in behind Saints left back Danny Fox. Kyle Walker was overlapping throughout the first half and his cross found Defoe who shot wide.
The first goal was not long in coming, as Sandro once again picked off a pass and moved the ball wide to Walker. His lofted pass down the line found Defoe in space behind the Southampton left back once more. Jermain moved the ball inside to Tom Huddlestone, whose cross picked out Gareth Bale to head home.
The second was generated in much the same fashion, as Sandro once more won the ball, again moving it quickly to Kyle Walker. His pass found Aaron Lennon cutting through the inside right channel, as the Southampton left side was opened up once again.
Lennon then slipped the ball in behind the defence to Jermain Defoe cutting in to the left back area. Despite his shot being cleared off the line, Clint Dempsey was there to gobble up the rebound.
It was another well-executed goal exposing Saints’ weakness, but also scored in the Andre Villas-Boas way of hitting cutters on the run with slid through passing.
Southampton 1 Spurs 2 shots in the box
Spurs were running rampant in the first half and looking to expose the left side of the Saints defence. This then opened up the other Southampton weakness, conceding shots in the box.
We looked in our 5 keys to the game at how Southampton had allowed the most shots in the penalty area of any Premier League team this season. As a result of our attack down the right at their weak left side, this opened up shooting opportunities inside the area.
We took 12 shots in the game, 10 of which were in the box and both our goals came from here. On another day, Jermain Defoe could have had several goals from attacking the near post area as a result of balls being played in from the right.
Hudd sub changes the match
Spurs ran the match in the first half, but at 2-0 and with Andre Villas-Boas maybe thinking about our Europa League exertions, he went on the defensive.
Tom Huddlestone came off and Jake Livermore replaced him, as AVB once more adopted a ‘have what we hold’ strategy. We’ve seen this quite often this season and as the more defensive player in Livermore came on, Southampton came back in to the match.
Within 5 minutes of the change, the score was back to Southampton 1 Spurs 2. A Sandro foul brought pressure from a free kick, where Brad Friedel was slow off his line, yet Maya Yoshida missed the header with goal gaping. The resulting corner was then whipped in to Jose Fonte and although Friedel saved his flick, Jay Rodriguez was on hand to lash home the rebound.
Southampton were suddenly back in the match and were pressing up the field. They are second only to Fulham in interceptions this season and they picked off 16 passes in this match, 11 of which were in the second half.
With the pressure came the inevitable rearguard action, as William Gallas made up for last week’s dismal performance against Chelsea. Out of Southampton’s 15 shots, 7 were blocked, 3 of these by the Frenchman, who also cleared a dangerous Adam Lallana ball from underneath the crossbar.
Gallas showed some determined will power, as he was adamant on making up for his Chelsea debacle.
“All the players fought in the second half, we were professional and fought for everything. We didn’t want to concede that second goal.”
That spirit by the skipper allowed us to hang on for all three points, as it finished Southampton 1 Spurs 2, gaining our first victory at St. Mary’s in the Premier League.
Southampton 1 Spurs 2 conclusions
This was an excellent Spurs performance, where we ruthlessly exposed the weak left side in the Saints’ defence before trying to shut up shop.
Having travelled all the way to Slovenia and back, fatigue was always going to be an issue and Andre Villas-Boas made the move at 2-0 to shut down the game.
This has been a familiar ploy this season and understandable, even if not ideal, given our Europa League exertions. After conceding late goals against West Brom and Norwich having made a defensive move, this time, as at Old Trafford, it worked.
Andre Villas-Boas was pleased that we were able to hold out for the win.
‘It was very, very similar to the game we played at Old Trafford when we had an extremely good first half in terms of keeping the ball and playing. But in the second half we showed that desire to defend and hold onto the result.’
While we haven’t been the best team at holding on to a lead in seasons past, it looks like this tactic will be part of our future.
Final Score: Southampton 1 Spurs 2