Last-gasp Spurs leave it late against Brighton
An 88th minute Christian Eriksen strike earns Spurs all three points against a battling Brighton side
23 April, 2019 — By Dan Carrier at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
SPURS 1 (Eriksen 88)
A CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN thunderbolt at the death was enough to secure three valuable points for Mauricio Pochettino’s charges tonight (Tuesday) against a stubborn Brighton side.
The result keeps Spurs in third, and three points ahead of their nearest rivals Chelsea – with just three matches remaining.
Chris Hughton’s Seagulls team had defended solidly until the 88th minute – when Eriksen rolled the dice one last time and his powerfully hit effort beat keeper Mat Ryan at last.
This Spurs side, with one eye on the Champions League semi final first leg next week against Ajax, can see the finishing line of this punishing season in sight. And with the squad stretched so thin, outcast Vincent Janssen was introduced with 10 minutes to go – a remarkable volte face from Pochettino, who has consistently said the Dutch forward is not in his plans.
But needs must, and with a fresh way needed to beat the deadlock, Janssen came on to add extra bustle alongside a well marshalled Fernando Llorente. And in a way, his introduction had the desired effect: with an extra target man for the Albion centre-backs to cover, the tiny bit of space Eriksen needed to really pick his place was created. His late drive means Spurs have moved one step closer to another top-four finish with just three league games to go.
Speaking after the game, which saw Spurs dominate so much they completed 717 passes to Albion’s 200, goalscorer Eriksen said he had expected their pressure to tell – eventually.
He said: “I had a few warm-up shots before the first one, and I had the confidence to go again. I hit it really well and it flew in. Confidence is good, but it’s difficult to play against ten or 11 men in their own box.”
He added he and his teammates knew with sides around them stuttering over the weekend, tonight there was no margin for error.
He said: “We saw the results the other day, so we needed to put the pressure on. It was a tough and long game. We got a win, there was no option. We need to focus on the league and keep our spot.”
And he praised the fans for their contribution. He added: “ I really like the new stadium, it’s given everyone at the club a big boost.”
In a first half that saw Brighton rarely venture forward, Spurs were restricted in the most part to long-range shots. Victor Wanyama and Toby Alderweireld had strikes blocked, Eriksen and Jan Vertonghen drove well over, while a multitude of crosses from Lucas Moura and the Spurs full-backs were dealt with by the Albion defenders and Ryan. It was frustrating stuff for the most part, and a testimony to Hughton’s schooling in the defensive arts as the Seagulls tried to repeat their clean sheet against Wolves at the weekend.
It was the same for the second 45. Brighton felt no need to do anything but defend their goal, and Spurs were increasingly having difficulty conjuring up the answers.
On 72, a cleverly worked short corner saw Alderweireld spin his marker on the edge of the box and trickle a shot through a thicket of legs – but with the keeper beaten, he could only watch as the ball struck the inside of the post and spin across the face of the goal with no teammate quite close enough to get a decisive touch. Moments later, Dele thumped over from close range. Theirs were two of 29 unsuccessful shots on goal.
But just as it seemed Spurs were going to run aground against Brighton’s 90-minute rearguard action, Eriksen found the missing gap and his superb drive from the edge of the box left Ryan with no chance. It might have been cruel on Hughton’s relegation-threatened team after the shift they put in, but this Tottenham team look determined to drag themselves over the line.
Spurs: Lloris, Trippier, Rose, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Son (Foyth, 89), Wanyama (Davies 81), Llorente, Dele, Eriksen, Moura (Janssen, 79).
Subs: Gazzaniga, Sanchez, Dier, Skipp.