Spurs close in on top-four finish after beating Watford
Manager Pochettino praises players' 'commitment' as goals from Dele Alli and Harry Kane give Spurs a five-point cushion ahead of Chelsea
30 April, 2018 — By Dan Carrier at Wembley
SPURS 2 (Alli 15, Kane 48)
SPURS put another three points on the board to take a step closer to securing a top-four finish after seeing off Watford with a workman-like performance at Wembley tonight (Monday).
The 2-0 result, courtesy of goals from Dele Alli and Harry Kane, gives Spurs a five-point cushion ahead of fifth place Chelsea with just three games left to play. It also takes them to within a point of Liverpool in third, with a game in hand.
Manager Mauricio Pochettino admitted his team had not turned in a vintage display, but added that he was happy with the result.
“It was an important three points,” he said.
“We are in a very good position in the table and it is about winning. It is difficult to have a high level of performance at all times.”
He admitted both the players and fans were still hurting after being knocked out of the FA Cup last week by Manchester United but his team showed professionalism.
“It wasn’t great tonight but we are in a good position,” he said. “We have three games left to go and it will have been a successful season if we finish in the top four.”
Spurs visit bottom-placed West Brom on Saturday, and Pochettino warned that with Albion having to go all out to win to keep their slender hopes of survival alive, his team would have to discover their mojo once more.
“On paper we have three games we can win, but Albion are trying to survive, they are in a difficult situation and in the last few games they have been really fighting and have become a difficult team to beat,” he said.
“But I am proud of our mentality and commitment. We will keep fighting to finish in the top four. It is a massive thing for us.”
Pochettino made just one change from the disappointment of the FA Cup semi-final defeat, with Hugo Lloris coming in for Michel Vorm, and the number one was to make a few decent saves in a game Spurs dominated but still managed to appear to crunch through the gears instead of accelerate smoothly.
It feels now like it has been a long, hard season and Spurs, who will leapfrog Liverpool if they win a game they have in hand over Jurgen Klopp’s side, will not be sorry to say goodbye to this campaign.
Alli opened the scoring on 15 when a Keiran Trippier cross was spilled by Watford goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis. Christian Eriksen pounced on the loose ball, squared it for Alli and he worked the space to pick his spot and smash home.
Spurs then looked like they might run away with it, as they pushed Watford back – but each time it appeared things might open up for them, the vital ball was missing, a clunky last touch appeared or a moment of dawdling saw an opportunity fizzle out.
Watford, solid but uninspired, created three decent chances in the first half, with Andre Gray denied by Lloris each time. The game was over as a genuine contest moments into the second 45. Spurs flew at Watford as if Pochettino’s half-time pep talk had reminded them of their quality. A ball went across for Kane, who somehow slipped as he shaped to shoot. He was quickly back on his feet and when it was turned back across, he was at the ready to sidefoot neatly home from just outside the six-yard box.
Spurs continued to press but Watford held them at arms length while not producing anything of note themselves. The game became scrappier and scrappier with frequent interruptions by the referee’s whistle as little tiffs erupted across the pitch.
Spurs were content to see it out knowing they have taken another step to securing Champions League football at their new home next year, and they created half-hearted chances when Watford allowed them to. Substitute Moussa Sissoko nearly scored but blazed over from close range when the target was asking to be hit in the final 10 minutes, and Lloris made a save at the end to ensure there were no last-minute jitters.
It was a job done with out any real flair – but with the finishing line so close now, it was what Spurs needed.
Spurs: Lloris, Trippier, Vertoghen, Sanchez, Son (Sissoko, 74), Kane, Dier, Dembele (Wanyama, 62), Alli (Lamela, 81) Eriksen, Davies.
Watford: Karnezis, Mariappa, Richarlison, Catchcart, Doucoure, Gray (Deeney, 64) Hughes (Carrillo, 82) Femenia (Deulofeu 64), Holebas, Kabasele, Capoue.