Tottenham vs Hull match report: Crisis-torn Tigers on the brink after another defeat

Tottenham 2 Hull 0: Bruce’s worst week in football ends with his team staring into the abyss

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The Independent Online

The crack grows into a chasm for Hull City, who must win at home to Manchester United next Sunday to have any hope of sending Sunderland or Newcastle down in their stead. Self-inflicted as the Tigers’ wounds may have been, with Jake Livermore’s suspension after testing positive for cocaine following a shocking home defeat by Burnley, to lose here yesterday was cruel.

It rounded off a dreadful week for the club, which manager Steve Bruce described as his worst in 40 years in football. “I’m shocked, saddended, disappointed, angry,” he said of the news about Livermore. “Why wouldn’t I be? I had to inform him he’d failed a drugs test and the conversation was the hardest I’ve ever had with a footballer. He’s obviously in a dark place. We’re all let down, everybody connected with the club, but the biggest thing is he’s let down himself.  He’ll have to live with the consequences. As always you have to handle it and not let it affect people.”

Credit to his players, who did not let the shock affect them here. They were better for much of the afternoon than Tottenham, who undeservedly took the lead early in the second half through Nacer Chadli and built on it with a goal from full-back Danny Rose to record only a second win in seven games. From looking as if they were doing their damnest to avoid another campaign in the Europa League, which meant 10 extra games this season, Spurs look like needing their passports after all.

Hull, of course, were playing in Europe last July, and much good it did them. Last May Bruce had sat in the Wembley press room after losing the FA Cup final from 2-0 up, contemplated the task ahead and estimated needing “five or six” players. Owner Assem Allam granted him more than that at a net cost of £25m once Shane Long had been sold, but by a combination of misfortune (the long injuries to Robert Snodgrass, Mohamed Diamé and others) and mis-spending, the rewards have not matched the outlay.

Allam, who has upset supporters for wanting to change the club’s name, wants out, at the right price. Those fans would like that, although Allam has promised Bruce will stay. That, like Livermore’s expected punishment, however, is for the future.

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Hull players react to conceding a goal

What Hull need now is the sort of spirit and application next week that they showed yesterday, plus a finishing touch. They gambled on Nikica Jelavic providing it on his first start for two months, which proved worth a try, although he was never going to last 90 minutes. He produced two of their best efforts before being replaced after an hour by Abel Hernandez, who also went close to making a breakthrough.

Although Livermore was missing, two other former Spurs men were influential; the captain Michael Dawson and Tom Huddlestone both doing their bit to minimise the home side’s chances as well as keeping their own energetic wing-backs, Ahmed Elmohamady and Robbie Brady, supplied with accurate, long diagonal balls to put a suspect home defence under pressure.

Elmohamady has sent over more crosses than almost anyone in the Premier League this season and he maintained his record. From one of them in the first 20 minutes Jelavic hit a rising shot against a post and from the next the striker’s impressive overhead kick was not far wide.

Tottenham, when they did manage to get forward, tended to find nobody on the end of their crosses, knocked in by the right-back Eric Dier and later Harry Kane, who worked hard without looking like adding to his 30 goals in this remarkable season.

Second best until the interval, his team

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Spurs celebrate after Nacer Chadli opens the scoring

were penned in for the first nine minutes after the resumption until Erik Lamela led a break and Chadli made a clever run from left to right to go round the 40-year-old goalkeeper, Steve Harper, and score his 13th goal of the season.

Just after the hour, Ryan Mason set up Rose, who was sporting dark red hair, to volley a second and increase Hull’s misery. Although their goal difference is the best of the three endangered clubs, they were denied the chance to improve it when Hernandez had two successive efforts blocked by defenders.

The visiting supporters who had chanted “we are staying up” early in the game cannot be anything like sure of that now but they need to keep the faith and believe in the possibility of a first for their manager.

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Danny Rose shows off his newly-dyed red hair after scoring Spurs' second

As Bruce said: “I couldn’t have asked for any better after a woeful performance last week. The reason we’re in the bottom three is that we had five or six good chances and have not taken them. We’ve got to beat Man United and I’ve not done that in 17 years. Maybe they owe me something after wrecking my knees, hip and ankle!”

Tottenham: (4-2-3-1) Lloris; Dier, Fazio, Vertonghen, Rose; Mason (Stambouli, 78), Bentaleb; Lamela, Eriksen (Dembele, 57), Chadli; Kane (Soldado, 89).

Hull: (3-1-4-2) Harper; Chester, Dawson, McShane; Huddlestone (Robertson, 70); Elmohamady, Meyler, Quinn, Brady; N’Doye, Jelavic (Hernandez, 61).

Referee: Anthony Taylor

Man of the match: Elmohamady (Hull)

Match rating: 6/10

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