Match Report: Swansea City 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur
2nd January 2018
Carlos Carvalhal suffered his first defeat as Swansea City boss but there was still positives to take following a 2-0 home defeat against Tottenham Hotspur.
The visitors were helped on their way within 12 minutes when the referee`s assistant failed to spot that former striker Fernando Llorente was clearly offside as he nodded home Eriksen`s pin-point free kick.
Carvalhal`s game plan was similar to the sort of stuff that we saw from his predecessor Paul Clement - and that was to sit deep in a 3-5-2 formation and frustrate the opposition. The main difference though was Carvalhal gave his a lot more freedom later on to try and get back in the game, bringing on attacking subs earlier as we chased a 1-goal deficit.
And we came close to equalising on at least two occasions, Ayew took too many touches inside the box as he missed a chance to shoot from around 8 yards, before van der Hoorn saw an effort hit the woodwork from a corner.
Carvalhal said his game plan was dictated by the fact that he had no strikers available to start, and defended the decision not to start McBurnie as he "hasn`t played 90 minutes" very often this season. With Naughton suspended after his stamp at Watford, Rangel started in his place. Up top, Dyer joined Ayew in front of a midfield three of Sanches, Clucas and Carroll.
Spurs must have had around 70% possession in the first half but they didn`t do a great with it in terms of creating chances and testing our goalkeeper. The early goal should have been ruled out, and in the latter stages the Swans could have been going in search of a winner, rather than an equaliser.
Spurs had a few more days rest than the Swans, having not played on the weekend but it didn`t show. Pochettino`s side was surprisingly lethargic and not at their usual free-flowing best. Harry Kane had to settle for a place on the bench, but it was in midfield where they weren`t doing enough to cause problems for Swansea`s tight 5 and 4 lines.
In terms of Swansea`s midfield, there was some contrasting performances. Renato Sanches looked like the only player capable of creating something in the opposition`s half while Tom Carroll looked out of his depth against his former club. Sam Clucas grew into the game after a quiet first half, and he looks more comfortable when the team are in possession. But playing so deep in our own half, there was little to no chance of us creating anything. There was no outlet, and we weren`t prepared yet to commit runners down the wide channels.
Having said that, we did start to get forward in the final 15 minutes. Olsson failed to test the goalkeeper at the near post with a short curling wide of the target, and we won a couple of corners.
Rangel was forced off early in the second half and with no other full backs available on the bench, Narsingh came on as we changed shape to 4-4-2, as van der Hoorn filled in at right back. The Dutchman has been in and out of the side all season, only being called upon when a 3-5-2 formation was used and during Fernandez`s absence, but he has always come in and did a solid job. Tuesday night was no different, and he even looked a better option at right back than Kyle Naughton. He got forward down the flank and even showed better crossing ability.
Bobby Madley came in for more criticism before the hour mark when he bottled an obvious second yellow for Spurs defender Sanchez. He made a high foul on Olsson and was nowhere the ball as the left back made his way into the final third. It was another shocking decision and it was no surprise to see Sanchez taken off minutes later.
A quick move down the right involving van der Hoorn, Sanches and Narsingh saw the latter running inside on goal, and with Ayew the only player available in the box, Narsingh fired a shot straight at the goalkeeper from an acute angle. It looked a difficult angle to score from, but there was also at least two defenders covering the passing route to Ayew, but I suppose you could say that you force a possible own goal or the ball getting though to his team-mate.
The Swans were now direct, and playing some passes that we`ve all been craving all season, and these were passing being played through and in behind Spurs` backline. Sanches poked a pass through for Narsingh`s big chance, Carroll picked out Dyer down the right a couple of times as well and we were seeing signs that we might still see some attacking football this season.
Ayew also had a chance to run on to one of these balls in behind Spurs` defence, but as he made his way inside and into the penalty area, he couldn`t get a shot on goal. He looked certain to score, as he skipped past the goalkeeper, Ben Davies got a crucial sliding tackle in to deny him a scoring chance.
Swansea`s play was getting us off our feet at last, and there was genuine belief that we might actually score and get something from the game. Van der Hoorn`s header hit the post from Carroll`s in-swinging corner from the left. Narsingh was causing some problems for Ben Davies down the right with his trickery and pace but just as we were on top late on in the game, Spurs killed the game off. Kane picked out Delli Alli with a long range pass from the left touch line, his first shot was saved but the rebound came back off him and into the net.
It was harsh on the Swans to say the least. The first goal saw an apology to Carvalhal from the assistant who failed to spot the offside. Sanchez didn`t get sent off and the Swans had some great chances in the final 15-20 minutes. There were plenty of positives, some promising attacking football, a vast improvement from Sanches and the sort of effort and desire that`s been missing for months.