There will be a nervy phone call made by Mauricio Pochettino tomorrow morning. It will be to the Tottenham doctor and it will involve the state of Ryan Mason’s knee. Only then will the true cost of victory be known.
Without Mason’s intervention at Sunderland, a true moment of quality with eight minutes remaining, Tottenham would be winless after five games. A 1-0 victory gave their three draws a different perspective. They have now lost once in five.
Pochettino could even claim the goal was all about the philosophy he is trying to impose on his players. If that is the case, better days – certainly than on Sunday – lie ahead.
From the outside it looked like a really good player taking a game by the scruff of the neck, but that is old-fashioned talk in the modern game.
In doing so, Mason saved the blushes of Harry Kane, who looked awfully out of touch. The midfielder even had the grace to involve the England forward in the move that gave Spurs their first win of the season.
There was a pass to Kane, who fed Eric Lamela, who in turn found the run of Mason. The midfielder took a touch, dinked the ball past the 6ft 8in frame of Costel Pantilimon into the Sunderland goal and took a kick from one of the goalkeeper’s flailing legs as he did. Mason was still mobbed, even in injury. When his team-mates climbed off, the stretcher bearers carried the midfielder slowly around the pitch. By then victory was just about closed out.
“Ryan got a knock on his knee when he scored,” said Pochettino. “Now is difficult to assess the pain. It is painful. Maybe tomorrow we will know. We hope it is not a big problem. It was a great goal, it showed how we want to play, how we try to play, what our philosophy is. It was fantastic. For a manager it is fantastic the way we scored.”
Mason was the game’s best player. His searing cross-field pass in the 67th minute looked perfect for Kane inside the Sunderland six-yard box. Kane missed his kick.
It was that kind of afternoon for the man who cannot stop scoring whenever he pulls on an England shirt. “I’m very happy with him,” insisted Pochettino. “You know, you only need time for him to score again. He started to score last season after two months. He is very confident and very happy. He is happy in the changing room afterwards. The mentality is for the team. Everyone has the target. First the interest of the team. For that he is happy.”
What will perhaps have caused more consternation is the the way the Tottenham central defenders were dissected in the 26th minute. Jermain Defoe, restored to his favoured central striking role after a simmering row with the Sunderland manager, Dick Advocaat, was sent clear through by Jeremain Lens.
It did not look like the Defoe of Tottenham. He took two touches and then, with his third, hit a shot that went past the Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris and hit the far post. “The few chances you get you have to score a goal,” said Advocaat.
The Tottenham woodwork would be struck again, immediately after Mason’s goal. Younes Kaboul, another former Spurs man, crossed low from the right and substitute Jack Rodwell, who had been on for three minutes, tried a first-time shot that clipped the visitors’ crossbar.
Those two efforts would prove as close as Sunderland would come to a goal. It is now one point from three league games at the Stadium of Light this season, but there are at least signs of improvement on the appalling showing when they lost 3-1 to Norwich.
Advocaat did concede that the team tired in the closing stages, the introduction of Andros Townsend stretching the home side. “Some players from my team were a little bit out of physical shape and [Spurs] scored at the right time,” he said. “We deserved more than nothing. You sometimes don’t get what you deserve. I feel hard done by.
“It is a disappointing result but I’m not disappointed with the way we played. You could see a big difference in our approach. The crowd likes the way we played. It is an attractive way of playing. We didn’t get the point we deserved.”Reuse content