The first half was injury and error strewn, the highlights were Alli’s sharply side footed equaliser and Hugo’s save after a Burnley break whilst the game was still scoreless.
If the away side’s strategy was to disrupt our plans and rhythm they made a good start by winning the toss and forcing us to kick towards the Paxton End first, it’s happened before but only rarely, I’m surprised more teams don’t try it. It shouldn’t matter of course, but in these days where there’s a big hole in one corner of the ground, who knows.
The whole forty five minutes was more stop than start as player after player from both sides but mostly those in claret and blue went down for treatment more often than if they were guesting on an episode of Casualty it seemed. Restarts were taking an age to execute, the crowd was quiet – you could hear Heaton’s instructions to his defenders even at the back of the North Stand and all in all it wasn’t something that would generally qualify as entertainment. This game was a really good example of why the length of the game should be take from the referee and put in the hands of a timekeeper who stops the clock whenever the ball goes out of play. Burnley were doing their best to make sure that the crowd didn’t get vale for money.
They continued after the break but also focused on making sure that any efforts we had on goal were from range and it mostly worked as Eriksen, Alli and Rose tried their luck, but none were able to beat the able Heaton. Eriksen’s header from ten yards after Rose’s brilliant volleyed cross was the closest we came to taking the lead before we finally did.
Pochettino’s substitution of Sissoko for Alli was inspired as the Frenchman gave away the free-kick that lead to the breakaway that we scored from as well as playing a leading part in the actual break itself. Whilst at full speed it was he who fed Rose just inside the area allowing the full back to batter a shot past Heaton’s right hand. Cue much relief and celebration.
Despite many efforts from Son in particular we could not extend our lead and this lead to a pretty anxious last five minutes or so as Burnley dropped all pretences of subtlety and hoofed balls up to the busy Vokes and Gray. The physicality and pace of the latter and Ashley Barnes had caused problems to Dier and Vertonghen all game and in the dying seconds Gray put in a wonderful cross to the near post that Vokes was a fag paper away from getting a touch on and ruining our Christmas… but he didn’t, so that’s alright.
Rose was outstanding until he went off injured, Walker, Winks, Vertonghen and particularly Lloris were excellent also. Eriksen wasn’t bad but wasn’t getting the ball enough in dangerous areas.
Two tricky but winnable games next at Southampton and Watford before a showdown against Chelsea. Back to only a point behind the top four and the Gooner filth. The back biting has started in South London following their last two results, some nice background music for the Christmas period.
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