Spurs’ title hopes hit by shock defeat against Wolves
Visitors hit three second-half goals in response to Harry Kane strike, as Mauricio Pochettino's men 'pay for the effort in the other games'
29 December, 2018 — By Dan Carrier at Wembley
SPURS 1 (Kane 22)
WOLVES 3 (Boly 72 Jimenez 83, Costa 87)
TOTTENHAM’S chase for the Premier League top spot hit the buffers today when Wolves scored three second-half goals to win all the points at Wembley.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men had taken the lead through a magnificent Harry Kane strike and seemed to be cruising to another win. But in a strangely muted second 45, Wolves gained confidence and took advantage of a leggy looking Spurs to chalk up a well-deserved win.
Speaking after the game, a disappointed Pochettino said he recognised his players were suffering from games coming thick and fast.
“We did not dominate the ball in the second half,” he said. “We were wrong in the way we tried to play – too much long ball, and our energy dropped.”
He also noted how his players’ confidence drained away after they conceded, and found it hard to drum up the necessary response.
He added: “It was difficult to come back into the game after their equaliser. But that is football. We have had a very good run in the last few weeks and to keep that level is difficult.
“We started to pay for the effort in the other games. We are not machines. We need to understand that we cannot get ourselves in this situation.”
It was, all in all, an odd performance as it started like it was going to be another fairly straightforward win. Heung-min Son and Christian Eriksen tested Wolves keep Rui Patricio with decent efforts, Eriksen’s drive from distance on 20 conjuring a magnificent one-handed save from Ru Patricio. Then it was Kane’s turn to step up. On 22, he strode forward, shrugged off the attentions of two Wolves players, cut onto his left and rifled a beautiful shot home.
With Eriksen pulling the strings, Spurs looked dangerous every time they were in possession, but Wolves proved adept at the last-ditch interception when chances were created.
The second half saw Wolves come out and enjoy more possession. Yet Tottenham’s defence didn’t look too troubled and seemed happy to keep their opponents at arms length. The two times Wolves found space early in the second period – and chances that should have rung alarm bells – Toby Aldeweireld and then Davinson Sanchez glided back to snuff out the trouble.
Then came the breakthrough. Wolves had had some decent pressure and Willy Boly headed them level on 72 when Spurs failed to get near him as he rose to meet a corner. It was all the visitors deserved. The Wolves team then caught Spurs with a sucker punch. Just as Tottenham looked like they were shaking off a strange torpor and would conjure up a winner, Wolves scampered forward and struck again through Raul Jimenez on 83. His weak shot slipped past the despairing Hugo Lloris, who might have done better.
Desperate to find an equaliser, and with Spurs players committed forward, a loose pass by Kieran Trippier set Wolves off again in the last five and the classy Helder Costa killed any faint hopes of a comeback.
Spurs will recover and come back, but any talk of a genuine title push seems to be a long way off tonight.
Spurs: Lloris, Trippier, Sanchez, Alderweireld, Davies, Winks, Sissoko, Alli (Moura, 67) Son, Eriksen, Kane.
Subs: Gazzaniga, Rose, N’Koudou, Walker-Peters, Foyth, Skipp.
Wolves: Patricio, Doherty, Bennett, Cavaleiro (Gibbs-White, 84) Neves, Jimenez, Boly, Coady, Jonny, Dendoncker, Traore (Costa, 58).
Subs: Ruddy, Saiss, Moutinho, Vinagre, Bonatini.