Tottenham Hotspur vs West Brom match report: Mauricio Pochettino angered by slack Spurs' 'bad day'

Tottenham 0 West Brom 1

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The Independent Online

Mauricio Pochettino and Alan Irvine’s appointments this summer were separated by just two weeks but by an ocean in terms of fanfare and enthusiasm. Today, though, it was Irvine’s side who looked far sharper, brisker and tighter – in short, better coached – than Pochettino’s.

This was West Bromwich Albion’s first win of the season, and Tottenham’s worst performance. Pochettino said the team was “wrong” in its approach and he was absolutely right. Irvine was almost dancing on the touchline at the end. Pochettino was taking his frustration out on the water bottles even before James Morrison headed in the only goal with 16 minutes left.

The goal was no real surprise; the points were utterly deserved. Albion had chances to score in the first half and should have had a penalty; Spurs looked desperately uncomfortable even against the visitors’ rather limited attack.

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Morrison put West Brom in front on 74 minutes

 

Before today, West Brom’s only Premier League goals of the season had come on the opening day, in a 2-2 draw with Sunderland. Their only goalscorer, Saido Berahino, led the line here, with support from Stéphane Sessègnon. But within the opening minutes it was clear they were going to cause Spurs problems. Craig Dawson headed over the bar in the second minute, before Berahino ran in behind and shot just wide.

Joleon Lescott, imperious on his Albion debut, would have scored with a volley had it not hit Dawson and by the time Craig Gardner forced Hugo Lloris to make a diving save, Albion could have scored four.

When Emmanuel Adebayor saved Dawson’s header with his left hand, and went unpunished by referee Kevin Friend, Irvine was wondering if his team would ever get any good luck again.

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James Morrison scores for West Brom

 

“We have not scored a lot of goals,” the manager admitted with a smile afterwards, “and you worry when you don’t get things like that, or when Lloris makes those saves, or when Dawson blocks the volley, that it is never going to  happen for us.”

West Brom continued to take confidence, though, from their own performance and from the vocally disgruntled home crowd. Berahino skipped away from Vlad Chiriches and forced another Lloris save. Pochettino made changes but Irvine stuck with his team, knowing they were on the right track.

 

Then, after 74 minutes, Chris Brunt curled in a corner from the right, Morrison drifted away from Erik Lamela at the far post and his headed finish was simple.

Pochettino said a draw would have been a fairer result but Spurs created far fewer real chances. They had slightly more forward intent for the last half hour, when Roberto Soldado came on and they switched to 4-4-2, but even then the substitute’s tame near-post shot at Ben Foster was as good as it ever got.

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Pochettino cut a frustrated figure

 

Before then, this was the polar opposite of the intensity and ambition that Pochettino demands from his players, a world away from the performance that shredded Queen’s Park Rangers here 4-0 last month. “We were slow, very slow tempo, you need to play quick,” Pochettino – who admitted to being “angry” and “disappointed” – said afterwards. “The way we played was wrong. We had a bad day and the team looked very nervous.”

The nerves emanated from the defensive partnership of Chiriches and Younes Kaboul. They started the game by conceding a needless corner – Chiriches hitting the ball straight at Kaboul – and did not get much better. Pochettino said he “needs to decide” what his first-choice centre-back partnership will be but surely it must include Jan Vertonghen, Spurs’ best outfield player, who was on the bench today.

Vertonghen started at Partizan Belgrade on Thursday and like every other outfield player who did, he did not begin this game. The rotation is admirable but Spurs need a strong sense of a first team, which has been lacking for a while.

Irvine does not have to manage the Europa League, he simply has to keep West Brom in the Premier League, and he needs more days like this one. “I would be lying if I said there wasn’t an element of relief,” he admitted. “But the over-riding emotion is real pleasure.”

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