Not the best performance ever but a deserved win. Soldado’s penalty was enough, despite a late flurry from Palace that forced the best from Lloris.
In a nice touch the servers in the bar at the away end had been given Spurs legends t-shirts to wear, I was served by Jimmy Greaves, not a man I’d have trusted in front of an optic. Perhaps the employment of soft skills in the refreshments area was designed to take your mind off what greeted you at the top of the stairs, one of the worst views I’ve ever had at a Premier League game. The TV gantry blocked most of what you could see from the low raking stand, which pre kick-off appeared to be a ‘tame’ eagle flying from goalmouth to goalmouth avoiding the sprinklers whilst it eyed up which cheerleader it fancied for dinner. Come the first whistle everyone stood up of course which made the view worse but improved the atmosphere.
News of Vertonghen’s inclusion was balanced by Sandro’s absence, and on the evidence of last season, one fears for the defence without the Brazilian in front of it. But in fact there was nothing to worry about as Palace were more cautious than expected and rarely made it into our half in the first forty five minutes. We were hardly spectacular in response though as we struggled to break them down but Lennon and Walker combined several times to good effect and both Sigurdsson and Dembele had good long range efforts. The best chance of the half fell right at the end to Chadli though who sent a header from Lennon’s deep chip over from close range.
We were dominant in the first half, but it was a far from satisfactory display. Our tempo was way too slow most of the time with only Walker, Lennon, Sigurdsson and Dembele injecting any pace. Dawson’s propensity for the long ball was frustrating and unproductive, Rose got in to good positions but looked limited in possession, Soldado was only rarely involved and Paulinho and Chadli looked like they were taken by surprise by the physicality and speed of the game. It seems ridiculous but at one point I was wondering if the heat was getting to the Brazilian, Spaniard and Moroccan.
It was more of the same after half-time as we controlled the game whilst Palace tried to make themselves difficult to play through. It was Aaron Lennon who forced the crucial mistake when he got to the bye-line and Moxey handled his cross. Perhaps unaware of the psychosis taking a penalty normally induces in Spurs strikers, Soldado nervelessly put us ahead.
Shortly after we took the lead, Dembele disappeared, presumably injured, to be replaced by Capoue who proceeded to have one of the finest debuts I can remember for a long time. If this is how he plays normally, he’s not just here as a squad player. He was constantly in position to break up play, make an interception or move the ball on. He and Paulinho, who also had a fine debut, combined to great effect. How AVB intends to fit in these two and Sandro and Dembele I don’t really know.
Holloway made three changes and Palace decided to throw the kitchen sink at us. They suddenly looked a better side and put us under some pressure, mostly from long ball stuff. Hugo was forced to come quickly off his line a couple of times and also go down sharply to a Dikgacoi shot at the death. The best chances to change the scoreline though came to Sigurdsson and Defoe who both missed wide of the left hand post.
There were loads of positives. Lloris was excellent throughout and I’d say that he and Vertonghen were probably our men of the match. Walker played well, especially going forward, Lennon was dangerous and Sigurdsson energetic, Chadli was quiet in the first half but looked much livelier after half time. Soldado’s touch looked great and his instinct for goal clear to see, he’ll need far more service though to make the impact he’s capable of. Dawson was average, it was great to see Kaboul back.
When (if) everyone’s back fit it’ll be fascinating to see how Villas-Boas intends to fit everyone in. Is he going to play Holtby behind Soldado? If he isn’t then who is going to provide the subtlety?
Swansea next week and no doubt a tougher test.
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