Tottenham kept the pressure on league leaders Chelsea with a thrilling dispatch of London rivals Watford on Saturday afternoon at White Hart Lane, firing four past a side that struggled to match the quality and intensity of Mauricio Pochettino’s men.
Goals from Dele Alli, Eric Dier and a Heung-Min Son brace extended Spurs’ winning run to seven games and puts the side within four points of Antonio Conte’s Blues.
For Watford, it was their first defeat in three games and leaves the club sat in tenth with 37 points.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s game, Pochettino had said that Tottenham’s recent win at Swansea was a telling “demonstration of the character” of his side. But if the win at the Liberty Stadium had been about Tottenham’s mental resilience, today’s victory served as yet another reminder of just how far the north London club have come.
Pochettino has learned the lesson of last term, when his side ran out of steam, and although Spurs still have seven games to play, they certainly look like they will be able to last the distance.
What makes Saturday’s victory all the more impressive was that Tottenham achieved it without their talismanic striker, Harry Kane. The England international returned to Pochettino’s bench today but did not enter the fray until all four of Spurs’ goals had already been scored.
Watford’s resilience was tested from the off, with Vincent Janssen enjoying the first real chance of the game after eight minutes.
From the comfort of the half-way line, Eric Dier floated play out to Kieran Trippier on the right-hand side byline who, with his first touch, caught the ball on the volley to fire it back across the mouth of the goal.
But Craig Cathcart’s presence in the six-yard box was enough to unsettle the lurking Janssen as he struggled in vain to make any real connection with the ball.
Under pressure from both the Watford defender and Heurelho Gomes, the Dutchman could only find the upright to leave the Tottenham faithful visibly frustrated.
Watford clung on, enjoying a series of promising charges down the left flank through Stefano Okaka and M’Baye Niang, but the side were unable to find any way through the formidable Tottenham defence.
The return of Hugo Lloris equally complicated matters for the visitors whose presence in goal added further confidence and stability to home side’s backline.
Tottenham’s opening goal, then, caught no-one by surprise. Coming in the 33rd minute, it was a stark reminder of the intelligence and maturity that Pochettino has helped instil in this side.
Having snatched back possession within their own penalty box, the home side set about building a well-worked passage of play that culminated in Alli’s sparkling goal. Despite pressure from a high Watford line, Lloris opted for the short option from his six-yard box and after a slick interchange of passes inside Tottenham’s own final third, Mousa Dembele was away.
Abdoulaye Doucoure did his best to disrupt the oncoming wave of white shirts, bringing Dembele tumbling to the deck, but Anthony Taylor allowed play to continue. Son was to be the final piece in the puzzle, setting up Alli on the edge of the Watford box with a simple but vital five-yard pass.
The England international did the rest and fired the ball into the top-right corner with a wicked curled effort.
After 30 minutes of Watford resilience, the floodgates had been opened. Tottenham’s superior quality, both on and off the ball, shone through as they tightened their grip on the game. Just five minutes after Alli’s opener and the lead was doubled.
Son’s deflected in-box effort from the left fell perfectly for the incoming Dier who with a quick snap of his right foot drilled the ball past the outstretched Gomes and into the bottom right corner.
Not satisfied with their 2-0 lead, the home side pushed for their third - which duly followed. A failed Watford clearance enabled Spurs to once again drive into the space that had appeared in front of the visitors’ box.
After receiving play from Eriksen, Son cruised into the gaping hole before drifting left and dispatching a low-driven shot that found the bottom left corner.
It was a bombastic 11 minutes of football that confirmed why this season’s title race is not yet done. Tottenham were quite simply magical as they set about putting their London rivals to the sword.
Clinical, but patient when necessary, aggressive on the front foot and assured in defence: Pochettino’s men all chimed to the same bell.
The second-half started as the first one ended: with Spurs in full control.
The simplicity of their fourth goal demonstrated exactly this and came 10 minutes after the restart. Catching Watford down the right flank, Dier picked out an unmarked Son at the far back post with a precise and perfectly-weighted delivery.
Keeping his cool, the forward side-footed the ball into an open goal to grab a well-deserved second. It was bread-and-butter stuff from a side that continue to enjoy their place at the Premier League’s top table.
Watford had the chance to pull one back on the 65-minute mark but it wasn’t to be. Isaac Success was played in behind the Tottenham backline following a rare lapse of concentration from the home side but with Dembele on his shoulder, the forward fluffed his lines to fire the ball wide of Lloris’ right-hand side post.
The introduction of Kane beckoned a fifth but he was unable to add the gloss to what was a seemingly a perfect afternoon for Spurs. The forward struggled to get his head on the end of a Trippier delivery in the 75th minute and saw his injury-time free-kick smash against the Watford upright to sail behind for a goal-kick.
Not that anyone at Tottenham will mind. This was an afternoon to enjoy and one that keeps Spurs’ hopes of an end-of-season upset on the cards.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Trippier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies, Dier, Dembele (Sissoko 75'), Son (Onomah 87'), Alli, Eriksen, Janssen (Kane 61').
Subs not used: Walker, Nkoudou, Wimmer, Pau Lopez.
Watford: Gomes, Janmaat, Mariappa, Cathcart, Holebas, Amrabat (Deeney 70'), Success, Doucoure (Zuniga 59'), Cleverley, Niang, Okaka (Kabasele 84').
Subs not used: Capoue, Pantilimon, Mason, Eleftheriou.
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire)
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