Full Time: 0 – 0
Half Time: 0 – 0
The cross bar and a Big Pole ensured Swansea City kept a record breaking fourth consecutive away clean sheet, a precious point a deserved reward for frustrating a slightly off key Spurs.
The North Londoners dominated the contest but couldn’t break through a resolute rearguard as the Swans put up the shutters. Harry Kane came closest, rattling the bar early in the second half, and Fabianski made a number of good saves with Kane and Son both frustrated by Fab. Even more frustrating for the home fans was Mike Dean’s refusal to award a penalty on no less than three occasions – and that is why I’ve always like Mike Dean…
Tottenham’s thumping midweek win over Dortmund in the Champions League had seemingly dispelled any suggestion of a Wembley jinx, but it was held up as a reason for their failure to put away a Swans side supposedly there for the taking. In truth, whilst Tottenham had plenty of the ball and a glut of efforts on goal, they were largely contained by Clement’s tactics and a resolute performance by his players.
The trade off though was another sterile attacking performance and the Swans failed to have a shot on target for the third time in five games this season.
That sort of statistic won’t dampen down enthusiasm for a hard earned point away to a side that has punished us mercilessly in the Premier League but it is a source of concern and it must be addressed sooner rather than later this season. In truth, without Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente – who made minimal impact as a Spurs sub yesterday – its hard to see where the goals and creativity will come from in this Swans squad. It places huge responsibility on Tammy Abraham, who fought and battled valiantly yesterday, as well as the semi-fit Wilfried Bony; but even with those two firing on all cylinders they are restricted in what they can do without some genuine quality service.
There’s genuine quality between the sticks for Swansea though and Fabianki was forced to prove it twice in a couple of minutes as a slow start began to gain momentum ten minutes in. The confidence following through Kane at the moment meant a free kick 35 yards out was an opportunity he couldn’t resist, and the confidence was justified as he curled a superb effort around the wall. With the ball speeding towards the bottom right hand corner Fabianski reacted sharply to turn the ball around the post.
The Big Pole was called into action again when Renato Sanches lost the ball allowing Sissoko to play in Son, who smashed the ball at the near post, forcing Fabianski to flash out a hand and divert it into the side netting.
Sanches did look a bit more comfortable in the changed formation though, and there were again glimpses of the close control and vision he possesses, but it’s clear that he will need time to adapt to the fast pace of the Premier League.
Spurs continued to dominate possession but with Clucas stifling Erikssen in the middle and Mawson, van der Hoorn and the excellent Fernandez dealing with anything coming into the box, the Swans seemed comfortable to defend and hit Abraham long whenever feasible.
The ploy nearly brought a goal too, but it wasn’t just a long ball hit and hope, it was actually a lovely footballing move that deserved more at the end.
Sanches started it deep in his own half, picking up the ball before spraying a beautiful long pass into the path on Abraham wide on the right. The bustling young centre forward made a mug of Davinson Sanchez, leaving him trailing in this wake as he powered towards the by-line. Spotting the run of Carroll Abraham pulled the ball back perfectly, but the former Spurs player was tackled from behind just as he connected and the ball flew harmlessly wide.
Spurs shrugged off that momentary diversion and quickly went back to dominating possession and chances but there was no way through a disciplined rearguard and the first half finished all square.
Within four minutes of the restart Spurs were stating their first claim for a penalty as Toby Alderweireld’s surging run was stopped by Olsson, however referee Dean correctly judged that the former had simply run into the latter and it was play on.
Ten minutes later and Olsson was at the heart of another penalty claim and this one could easily have been given; a Trippier cross sailed over the heads of Mawson and Alli and hit a surprised Olsson clearly on the hand. Both Mike Dean and his assistant had a clear view and they must have seen that the ball actually took a slight nick off Mawson’s head, diverting it onto Olson’s hand which was down at his side. The Swans defender had no time to react and so it clearly wasn’t a deliberate hand ball and once again Dean got it right!
Immediately after came the period where all Spurs fans must have come to the conclusion it wasn’t going to be their day as their side came close to scoring on three occasions in quick succession, without succeeding from any of them.
Son had the first two attempts, Fernandez thwarting his initial elaborate effort and then Fabianski denying him from an acute angle before Kane slightly leaned into his shot when all alone on the penalty spot, the ball thumping back off the crossbar.
It was turning into a siege with the Swans unable to get out and Spurs peppering the area with crosses; despite the pressure though the Swans looked capable of repelling what came their way and when needed, Fabianski was in top form as the last line of defence. He proved it again when Eriksen flicked his header towards the top corner, another diving save tipping the ball to safety.
Heading into the last fifteen minutes and it was a case of “old meets new” for Swans fans as first Bony and then Llorente entered the field of play. Bony replaced Tammy Abraham who had run himself into the ground, covering the hard yards and battling hard against Spurs’ tough trio of centre halves all game.
The changes did little to alter the pattern and it was mostly Tottenham attacking with the odd Swans breakaway – usually stopped by a Spurs foul. Again though, delivery into the box from a set piece wasn’t good enough from the Swans and so chances for a “smash and grab” goal never really materialised.
Spurs continued to push forward in search of a breakthrough and perhaps it should have come for them in the last few minutes as their third – and best – claim for a penalty rang out.
Dier’s cute pass was chased down by substitute Serge Aurier, and when the Spurs man chested the ball on inside the box he was clipped by Jordan Ayew. To the dismay of Spurs players and fans alike the decision went the other way, Mike Dean mistakenly thinking Aurier had knocked the ball on with his arm. To be fair to Dean (that hurt to write!) from his angle it was easy to come to that conclusion and he really should have had better support from his assistant.
The Swans though had earned their luck and deserved the clean sheet that was confirmed after four nervy minutes of injury time. Clement came with a game plan and it was implemented perfectly by his players. Five points from three games on the road is very satisfactory indeed, whilst a league placing of 14th leaves us merely looking over our shoulder rather than being in direct trouble.
Another game where we’ve been murdered in the stats but retained parity in the scoreline. Clement has a knack for frustrating opponents in their backyard with a defensive set of tactics that stifle and repel even the most talented teams. That’s great in itself and will prove handy when we visit the likes of Spurs and Chelsea etc, but Clement has to show that he can grow and come up with something going the other way. Nobody was expecting us to go for the jugular yesterday but again when we had the chance to counter we failed to do so quickly or accurately enough. It doesn’t matter so much here as everyone will gladly sacrifice attacking flair for a well earned point away to a title challenger – but sooner or later Clement has to develop our attacking game plan because our inability to even get shots on target will hurt us in the long run. That’s an issue for training next week though…for now, Clement can rightly pat his young charges on the back for a job well done keeping Spurs at bay.