Southampton 2 Tottenham 3 match report: Emmanuel Adebayor recall pays off for Tim Sherwood's bold Spurs

Interim boss Sherwood wins in his first Premier League match as manager

ST MARY’S

As job applications go, this was much better than Tim Sherwood’s first attempt. Tottenham’s defending was as porous on Sunday as it had been in his debut as caretaker manager, the 2-1 home defeat by West Ham in the Capital One Cup last Wednesday, but Sherwood’s team showed spirit and attacking intent to a degree that has often been absent this season.

Most significantly, the interim head coach was richly rewarded for restoring Emmanuel Adebayor to the team. The Togo striker, who had been out of favour with Sherwood’s predecessor Andre Villas-Boas, scored twice, adding to his strike in midweek, as Tottenham came back from an early Southampton goal and the blow of  conceding an equaliser soon after taking a 2-1 lead early in the second half.

Amid all the anguish of the departure of Villas-Boas a week ago in the wake of the 5-0 home defeat by Liverpool, it was almost possible to lose sight of the fact that supposed crisis club Tottenham actually started yesterday’s match three points above newly-sexy, high-pressing Southampton. That gap is now six points and Spurs also own  the Premier League’s best away record – a statistic that, perhaps, only underlines the level of their under-achievement so far.

It was certainly not all good news yesterday. Roberto Soldado was unconvincing as ever, missing two good chances. And Tottenham only managed three shots on target, although two went in. But with West Bromwich Albion, also under temporary management, their visitors on Boxing Day and a new emphasis on attack, the White Hart Lane faithful may be able to look forward to more than post-Christmas indigestion. “It’s the only way I know how to play,” Sherwood said.

Southampton, in contrast, who briefly stood second in the table when they led 1-0 at Chelsea on 1 December, are now without a victory in six games, equalling their longest winless sequence under Mauricio Pochettino. That run has included tricky games against Arsenal and Man City but also a home defeat by Aston Villa, and yesterday’s match would not have looked much of an obstacle a few weeks ago.

However, the relative lack of depth in their squad has been cruelly exposed in recent weeks, and yesterday injuries and illness forced Pochettino to field arguably his weakest team of the season. A throat infection that sidelined England Under-21 left back Luke Shaw meant that no more than five of the Southampton starting XI could be considered first choices, with Croatia central defender Dejan Lovren the only member of the back five who would make the strongest team.

So it was hard to escape the feeling early on that Spurs would have no excuse for failing to win in the circumstances, although of course we should have known better. Even with Michael Dawson back after suspension, they allowed Southampton far too much space, and the centre of midfield, where Christian Eriksen and Mousa Dembélé were outnumbered, was overrun.

Southampton were ahead after only 13 minutes when Lovren almost arrogantly dispossessed Adebayor and spread the ball wide to Danny Fox, standing in for Shaw. He made ground down the left and passed inside to Adam Lallana, who was not put under even the most rudimentary pressure as he turned past Vlad Chiriches and shot low past Hugo Lloris’s right hand from 20 yards.

Sherwood moved from his seat in the stand to the technical area to instil a greater sense of urgency and although it was to pay off, Spurs could have been two down after 23 minutes. Rickie Lambert robbed Danny Rose and slid the ball square to Lallana. His England team-mate scuffed his pass but the ball still reached Jay Rodriguez, only for the third of Saints’  England trio to shoot high.

It was an expensive miss. Almost immediately Adebayor swept a long forward pass down the left, to the jeers of home fans who thought it overhit. However, Soldado reached the ball and crossed to the far post, where  Adebayor got between Jos Hooiveld and Fox to volley home – a carbon copy of his finish against West Ham on Wednesday.

But the youthful Saints continued their pressing game, harrying Tottenham into errors all over the field. “That first half was horrible, wasn’t it?” Sherwood said. “It wasn’t to do with formations, it was mis-control and passing it to the wrong team. But after getting to the bell level pegging, we took it on. In the second half we were very good.”

Even though Dembélé was forced off by injury to be replaced by untried French 19-year-old Nabil Bentaleb, Tottenham took the lead. Rose exchanged passes with Eriksen on the left and hared towards the byline, crossing low to the near post where Hooiveld stuck out a foot and diverted the ball under Paulo Gazzaniga and into his own net – his fourth own goal in two seasons.

But Saints would not fold. On the hour Jack Cork played a clever pass down the right for Lallana, and as Lloris rushed from his line, the best chance for a goal looked to be a chip, even though the angle was difficult. Instead, with admirable awareness, Lallana squared the ball, somehow spotting that Lambert was up in support and able to roll the ball into the empty net.

Tottenham, though, were far from finished, and on 64 minutes, Southampton failed to clear a throw and the ball broke to Adebayor, who turned inside and swept the ball past Gazzaniga as Lovren tried in vain to plug another of the gaping holes appearing around him.

Soldado then squandered two chances to put the game beyond the home side. First he got away from his marker but pulled his shot wide. Then he missed even more culpably, scooping the ball over the bar from two yards out after meeting Nacer Chadli’s low cross from the right.

“Very frustrating,” was Pochettino’s verdict. “I’m very angry about the result today. We dressed up as Santa Claus and gifted them so many goals and chances.” At least he can recover over Christmas with a nice quiet, relaxing trip to play Cardiff City. Or maybe not.

Southampton (4-3-3): Gazzaniga 6; Chambers 6, Hooiveld 4, Lovren 7, Fox 6; S Davis 6, Cork 7, Schneiderlin 6; Lallana 8, Lambert 6, Rodriguez 5.

Subs: Ward-Prowse 5 (Cork 62), Ramirez 6 (Davis 70), Gallagher (Fox 78).

Booked: Ward-Prowse.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Lloris 5; Walker 6, Dawson 6, Chiriches 5, Rose 6; Lamela 4, Dembele 5, Eriksen 6, Sigurdsson 6; Soldado 5, Adebayor 8.

Subs: Bentaleb 7 (Dembele 51), Chadli 7 (Lamela 60), Defoe (Soldado 85)

Booked: Sigurdsson

Referee: C Foy.

Man of the match: Adebayor.

 

Arts & Entertainment
tvGrace Dent on TV
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Sport
Emmanuel Adebayor, Tim Sherwood and Hugo Rodellega
sportThe latest news and scores
News
Brand said he
people
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Sport
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain drives in the rain during the qualifying session of the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai
sport
Extras
indybestFake it with 10 best self-tanners
Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
peopleOrlando Bloom the pin-up hero is making a fresh start
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Life & Style
The North Korean TV advert for Taedonggang beer, that became a YouTube hit
food + drinkAnd what did it take to set up a taste test back in Wiltshire?
Arts & Entertainment
filmLife for Leslie Mann's can be challenging sometimes
Voices
For music lovers: John Cusack with his vinyl collection in 'High Fidelity'
voices...but don't forget rest of the year
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit