Stretching the centre backs in a narrow Eagles defence was the difference at the opening of our new stadium as it ended Tottenham 2-0 Crystal Palace.
A celebratory evening at the opening of the new White Hart Lane saw a decent tactical battle in-between the fanfare. Spurs needed quick transitions following turnovers, but stretched a narrow Eagles team out to make them pay. Two goals were forthcoming as it ended Tottenham 2-0 Crystal Palace.
Compact Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace weren’t the easiest of opposition for the opening of the new stadium. The Eagles are a well-coached team that have good defensive shape and structure. Their discipline was on display here for much of the match as they were difficult to break down.
The Eagles lined up in a 4-3-3 system and used their trio of central midfielders and back four to create a narrow block. Spurs were forced to the wide areas as a result.
The benefit for Spurs was that we had good creators in wide areas. Kieran Trippier was frequently on the ball and fashioned the first half’s closest chances. A perfect cross saw Dele Alli head in to the ground and too close to Palace keeper Vicente Guaita. A neat Trippier cut back when breaking in to the vacant outside space saw Christian Eriksen’s low shot on the swivel palmed away. Son Heung-Min was almost first to the loose ball on the rebound.
On the other side of the pitch, Mauricio Pochettino must have anticipated Palace’s narrow setup. The Spurs manager teamed Ben Davies with Danny Rose in a full back double up. Rose was frequently a threat to burst forward. Ben Davies equally got in to advanced positions and had a good shout for a penalty as he burst in to the box.
Tottenham were in control of much of the flow of the game, but had seen only fleeting moments where the attacking play from wide had opened a narrow Palace up. That changed in the second half as quick breaks from turnovers led to chances and goals.
Combined with the transitions was Mauricio Pochettino’s switch from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-1-1 formation. This got Son Heung-Min higher up the pitch to play off Harry Kane and he was the new stadium’s opening Premier League goal scorer.
The goal came from some excellent defensive work by Christian Eriksen. The Dane has been sub par recently, but his ball recovery and transition work in this match was excellent.
Eriksen disposed Luka Milivojevic and instantly played the ball out wide to Son. The South Korean had snuck in to the space behind the attacking Patrick van Aanholt.
As Son signalled for the pass, Eriksen delivered. Getting the ball early to Son in the space where van Aanholt should’ve been meant that James Tomkins was dragged out from his position in the centre.
Son could now isolate Tomkins and take him on with a jinking the dribble before unleashing a left footed shot. Son’s strike flicked off the desperate Milivojevic as he slid in to try and recover. The diverted shot flew in to the corner of the net, wrong footing Guaita in the process. 1-0 to Tottenham. Lift off at our new home.
Spurs second transition
Taking the lead from swiftly punishing a turnover in midfield, Spurs soon added a second from doing the same.
Martin Kelly was caught trying to dribble out of defence and get the ball to Andros Townsend. Ben Davies pounced in midfield to get to the pass as it reached Townsend. Son Heung-Min then swooped in from his new more advanced position to release Harry Kane in to the space vacated by centre back Martin Kelly’s initial run.
In this moment, both Crystal Palace full backs were caught forward. As a result, Kane could steal in from the left side and attack an exposed centre back pairing. As he went in to the box, Kelly fouled Kane, but Christian Eriksen arrived to score and make it Tottenham 2-0 Crystal Palace.
Eriksen’s burst forward to catch up with the play was exceptional. His initial burst of speed took him past and beyond Patrick van Aanholt. As the left back tried to recover, Eriksen then gave him the slip to spin and fire the second goal.
It was a fitting reward for Eriksen’s hard work and graft throughout the match.
Crystal Palace attack our right back
At a score now of Tottenham 2-0 Crystal Palace the game was effectively safe. However, the Eagles sought to set up a nervy finish and almost had it through their use of attacking the space around right back Kieran Trippier.
Wilfried Zaha had looked Palace’s most dangerous player on the break and he tried his luck against both Davies and Trippier. Zaha did cut a very frustrated figure as the match wore on. However, it was against our right back that he had the most success.
Zaha had a running spat with Trippier, but his neat dribble saw him jink in to the box. Aided by a half-hearted Trippier challenge to avoid conceding a penalty, Zaha got a good shot away that was thwarted by an outstretched leg of Hugo Lloris.
Christian Benteke equally had a good chance as James McArthur drifted away from Trippier to deliver a devilish cross on the spin. His ball to the back post just evaded a diving Benteke, which could’ve set up a nervy finish.
Moura Tottenham transitions
As it was, Tottenham could’ve been further in front. Once again it was from racing forward following Crystal Palace turnovers to expose the spaces out wide that were being left.
Christian Eriksen won the ball back from Andros Townsend and delivered an inch perfect pass in to hit Lucas Moura in stride. Moura had come on to attack a narrow Crystal Palace on the wing of Pochettino’s 4-4-1-1 setup. As he sublimely took down Eriksen’s pass in the space that Patrick van Aanholt had left, it seemed as if Moura would add a third. However, Vicente Guaita athletically stretched out an arm to deny the Brazilian.
The score remained at Tottenham 2-0 Crystal Palace to complete a night of celebration at our new stadium.
Tottenham 2-0 Crystal Palace overall
Mauricio Pochettino has tinkered with formations to put us in to strong positions in recent matches, but we’ve not converted chances to win those games.
Here we were more clinical when it mattered. Specifically from converting chances off of turnovers when a narrow and compact Crystal Palace team were out of their shape. The chances followed through stretching the Eagles’ centre backs as their full backs were out of position and they had to cover the space. Goals from Son and Eriksen ensued.
The new stadium and increased atmosphere definitely breathed new life in to some previously tired looking players. Christian Eriksen was the pick of the bunch. His work to break up play and then fizz the ball around was exceptional. If he can lift his play from his recent levels then we have a chance to make top four and do something in the Champions League.
Final score: Tottenham 2-0 Crystal Palace.
MOTM: Christian Eriksen.