Late drama as Llorente nets Spurs’ winner against Watford
After going out of two cup competitions in a week, losing run is brought to an end as Mauricio Pochettino's men put themselves back in touch with the Premier League's top two
30 January, 2019 — By Dan Carrier at Wembley
SPURS 2 (Son 80, Llorente 87)
WATFORD 1 (Cathcart 38)
IT did not, for 80 minutes, look good. Mauricio Pochettino’s men were staring at their third defeat in three as Watford stubbornly defended a one-goal lead.
After exiting both cups in the past week, this looked like it may be a costly defeat as things heat up in the race for a top-four finish. Now was not the time to get the collywobbles on a freezing night at Wembley in front of a crowd of just 29,000 – but that was the story until late, late on.
It all changed for Spurs when Heung Min Son, returning from international duty with South Korea, smashed home an equaliser with 10 minutes remaining, followed by the much criticised stand-in striker Fernando Llorente popping up with a peach of a winner at the death.
It was a dramatic turnaround, the mood shifting from a performance that looked flat and one-dimensional into a dogged and gutsy win.
For manager Mauricio Pochettino, the relief to be talking about a victory afterwards was tangible. He began by identifying his side’s ability to find a way to up their game when things weren’t going well.
“The effort was fantastic,” he said. “We started playing how we usually play – we fully deserved it.”
He was forthright in his praise for matchwinner Llorente, who looked utterly distraught when he kneed the ball over the bar with the goal at his mercy when his side were still chasing an equaliser.
“I want to congratulate Fernando,” he said. “He has worked so hard in the last four games on behalf of the team. It is a massive thing for him and his confidence. It is difficult for him to come in but he has always been a fantastic professional.”
Watford inflicted Tottenham’s first defeat of the campaign back in early September when they won 2-1 at Vicarage Road. Tonight, they showed a battling spirit and frustrated Spurs for long periods. When the home team got a sniff of goal, a combination of poor finishing, luck and Ben Foster kept them out.
Javi Gracia’s team took the lead as the first half trundled towards its close. On 37, a corner was bundled in from close range by Craig Cathcart, with Hugo Lloris getting lost in a thicket of bodies instead of claiming the ball.
Spurs dominated in the second half but were lacking that bit of magic – and it felt like it was going to be one of those nights when Moussa Sissoko swung a cross in and Watford defender Adrian Mariappa prodded the ball towards his own goal. Foster got something on it and it fell for an off-balance Llorente – who missed from close range.
With 13 minutes left, Jan Vertonghen departed for Erik Lamela and the Argentine’s first touch found Son moving in space and making no mistake with a clinical finish.
Spurs went for the jugular. On 87, Rose’s cross picked out Llorente. He got up highest under pressure and directed a header back into Foster’s far corner.
With Liverpool drawing, Manchester City losing and Chelsea thumped at Bournemouth, tonight went from being an unmitigated disaster to a spectacular triumph. It means Spurs sit two points behind City and can overtake them if they beat Newcastle at home on Saturday.
Despite various trials and tribulations, they have not let the January blues knock them too far off course.
Spurs: Lloris, Rose, Alderweireld, Vertonghen (Lamela, 78) Sanchez, Son, Winks, Sissoko (Trippier, 68) Llorente, Eriksen, Aurier (Moura, 45).
Subs: Gazzaniga, Dier, Walker-Peters, Skipp.
Watford: Foster, Janmaat, Mariappa, Deulofeu (Success, 60) Cleverley (Wilmot, 65) Deeney, Cathcart, Hughes, Holebas, Capoue, Pereyra.
Subs: Gomes, Britos, Masina, Sema, Quina.