Formational changes and counter attacks see us edge our Europa League tie Spurs 2-1 Anderlecht at White Hart Lane.
Sometimes you just have to get the job done. That was exactly what we did here to eek out a final score of Spurs 2-1 Anderlecht in our Europa League Group J match. Our Belgian opponents were impressive and caused us no end of problems right out of the gate.
Anderlecht’s fast start
Determined not to go down an early goal like they did in the last game, Anderlecht came racing out of the traps. They were energetic and calculated in their closing down, as they looked to press the ball when it either went out towards the sideline or from our first pass in to midfield. Once the ball was regained it would be swiftly moved forward for Stefano Okaka or out to Frank Acheampong to get him isolated 1v1 where he could use his speed.
Anderlecht were effective at it. A quick pass forward to Okaka forced Jan Vertonghen to have to recover and knick the ball away for a corner in the first minute. Just after and another rumbling run saw Vertonghen having to slide and block a shot from Okaka after Erik Lamela was disposed on halfway.
It continued throughout the first 20 minutes as Steven Defour and Youri Tielemans both had good efforts from Anderlecht’s trapping and swift break tactics. Okaka then tried to roll Jan Vertonghen and after out muscling and shrugging him off saw a sliding Ryan Mason block his shot.
Anderlecht were on top whilst we looked leggy from our exploits in beating Aston Villa on Monday night. It wasn’t until Mauricio Pochettino made a switch that we started to get back in the game
Anderlecht were in the ascendancy and our lack of width was really playing in to their hands. The Belgians were crowding the centre and it was forcing Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli to have to come deeper to get the ball. This invited the pressure from Anderlecht to come higher up, allowing them to break quicker.
After 20 minutes Mauricio Pochettino made a change to switch the sides of Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela. The Dane was moved to drift in from the right, Lamela from the left. Whilst this didn’t add natural width, as both players continued to drift in, it did start to create confusion in the Anderlecht defence.
Immediately after the change, Lamela found himself free in the inside left channel. He took a pass from Ben Davies with the outside of his outstretched left boot and drove towards the area, but could only send a sliding tame left-footed effort wide.
This move had highlighted where the space was though. Dele Alli charged in to it to take a pass up the line, earning a corner. The resulting kick was sent short from Eriksen to Lamela and then in to Harry Kane in what looked like a pre-rehearsed training ground routine. Kane drove past one challenge, but overrunning the ball saw him tackled by Kara Mbodji.
Attacking the left continued to bring success and Lamela was involved once more. Kane got in through the inside channel, but whiffed on a back heel with the Argentinean bursting past him on the overlap. Minutes later and we worked an excellent position. Dele Alli sprung forward on a counter attack and had the time and space to spot Christian Eriksen’s run. Unfortunately he tried to curl the ball with the outside of his right rather than trusting his left.
The switch to move Lamela to the left was working and in-between the success we were having down this side, we took the lead by going straight through the centre. The movement to create the chance was calculated, pinpoint and it made for a superb team goal.
It started with earning a foul just inside the Anderlecht half. With Stefano Okaka off the field, we took advantage of them only having ten men.
Anderlecht had been cutting off the centre with Leander Dendoncker tracking Dele Alli throughout the half. However, Alli’s movement to drift out of this area took Dendoncker with him and created space for Christian Eriksen to move in to.
Frank Acheampong was in two minds whether to continue tracking Eriksen, creating space for the Dane. Ryan Mason found him now free between the lines, but Alli didn’t stop his run there. With Eriksen on the ball in his zone, Dendoncker was now attracted back to the Dane. Alli noticed this and headed up-field. This drew the attention of Kara Mbodji who was marking Harry Kane.
As Kara was attracted to Alli’s run, Kane span off the opposite way. This left the other Anderlecht centre back, Olivier Deschacht, in no man’s land and Eriksen free to slide the pass through.
Harry Kane made no mistake as he rifled the ball in to the corner of the net with a finish reminiscent of so many of his goals from last season. It was such a beautifully crafted and executed team goal, 1-0.
Second half counters
Going in a goal up at the half, Mauricio Pochettino made a conscious change to play a much more counter attacking game after the interval.
Minutes in and Dele Alli was again on the break down the left. However, once more he couldn’t find the run of the man through the middle, as he tried to flick the ball with his right for Erik Lamela’s run.
Mauricio Pochettino’s changes also saw him look for speed on the break as Son Heung-Min came on for Christian Eriksen. Chances followed that saw Ben Davies hit the bar and Mousa Dembele run on to a layoff and have a scuffed effort with his unfavoured right, a sighter for what was to come.
Anderlecht third man runs
Whilst we were playing on the counter, Anderlecht were continuing to be aggressive and were having success with chipped passes for third man runs. It saw them twice give us a scare and then equalise, as we didn’t heed the warning signs.
It started with the introduction of Imoh Ezekiel. Following a corner, his chipped ball in gave Kara Mbodji a glorious opportunity right in front of our net. The centre back had been up from a corner and his short run through the middle wasn’t tracked.
Fortunately Kara couldn’t control the lobbed pass and sent it sideways, away from our goal, when it looked easier to score.
Two minutes later and Anderlecht were in via the same method again. This time Fabrice N’Sakala had the ball and chipped it in for Steven Defour’s run from deep. Not picking the Belgian up saw him comfortably bring the ball down on his chest. Having to then wait a moment for it to come down from the resulting bounce saw Defour have to hit a rising ball that went just over the bar.
Two warnings, but the third time we weren’t so lucky. After having the wrong people in the right places, this time Anderlecht had the players that they wanted. Defour delivering the ball and Ezekiel making the run.
Defour’s chipped pass was pinpoint, Ezekiel’s run left Ben Davies behind and saw him squeeze the ball in off the near post. Anderlecht were level.
Back on the counter
With the scores tied and us playing on the counter, Mauricio Pochettino introduced more speed with Josh Onomah coming on for Dele Alli.
It would be the speedy subs that would get our counter attack going for our winner. Eric Dier was fouled and Erik Lamela took the kick quickly to get the ball forward to Son on the run. He took a touch and sent a long pass over the top for fwellow substitute Josh Onomah to race after.
The ball then went back to Ben Davies who had got himself forward. An exchange of passes with Mousa Dembele set the left back free to put in a cross that was chested down by Son.
Son’s cushioned touch meant that ball rolled deliciously in to the path of Mousa Dembele. After his earlier scuffed sighter with his right, the Belgian would’ve been forgiven for trying with his left this time. He didn’t waiver though and let rip with his unfavoured foot again. This time the ball flew with the accuracy of an arrow straight in to the top corner giving the keeper absolutely no chance. He wheeled away to be mobbed by his teammates as the crowd went wild, Spurs 2-1 Anderlecht.
The goal visibly knocked Anderlecht who were pushing for a winner of their own. The game, and three vital Europa League points that looked way off when the Belgians equalised, was won.
Spurs 2-1 Anderlecht overall
We got away with three points, but the game showed the newfound character of the team to keep going, believing in what it is doing.
The changes Mauricio Pochettino made to first of all switch the sides of Eriksen and Lamela, then to play on the counter attack, saw him out-coach his opposite number when we weren’t outplaying them.
The team did look leggy after Monday’s exertions, which leaves me anxious ahead of the North London Derby with only two full days to recover.
Final score: Spurs 2-1 Anderlecht.