A quick look at the result of the match between Bournemouth and Tottenham Hotspur may lead one to conclude that the match was cautious, even dull. Instead, it proved to be an intense and pulsating contest, featuring two enterprising teams playing aggressive, uncompromising football. There was very little time and space for the players on the ball, as both teams desperately looked to hound each other to suppress the other.
The quaintly named Dean Court was anything but as the match got underway. The lack of size in the stadium, one of the last remaining relics from Bournemouth’s time in lower league football, amplified the noise and the pressure. Bournemouth started the game with pace and purpose, and almost immediately had Spurs on the back foot.
The game had barely started when left back Charlie Daniels had a perfect opportunity to open the scoring for Bournemouth. Jack Wilshere’s corner was flicked on by Callum Wilson in the direction of Dan Gosling, whose ball travelled through Erik Lamela to find Daniels in a wonderful position. The chance was straightforward, but Hugo Lloris was there, the Tottenham goalkeeper miraculously deflecting the ball off the bar and out. The game went on.
Bournemouth continued to press forward as the game progressed, using the pace of Jordon Ibe and Wilson to unlock holes in the Tottenham defence. Spurs had no space on the ball, and most of their moves seemed to result in Lloris clearing the ball up field. Lamela hit the bar after Dele Alli nutmegged two opponents to open up space, and then committed a frustration foul mere seconds later. There were to be no more chances in that run of play.
Physical: Jack Wilshere (left) challenges for the ball with Victor Wanyama.
Son Heung-min, red hot during Tottenham’s recent run of form, was completely out of the game. The Korean looked out of his league, and the delivery he received was poor to say the least. When he finally received the ball in the box, he fell over and hit a panicky pass to no-one in particular. It was intercepted.
Erik Lamela’s day was hit and miss, with very little hit. He rarely passed, and was lucky not to receive a second yellow card minutes before half time after he left his feet and fouled an opponent. His attempts to take on his opponents didn’t really work, and he lost the ball more than any of his teammates. Bournemouth were coming from every direction and every angle, hounding Spurs with every chance they had.
As the half neared the close, play became increasingly physical and referee Craig Pawson’s book started to fill up. A hold here, a bodycheck there, but the end result was the same. By the end of the half, five had been cautioned, the scene set for a tense second period.
Spurs came out after half time quickly, looking to stamp their authority on the game. They moved the ball well, pinning Bournemouth into their defensive half, but they kept breaking down with the final pass. Alli attracted two or three whenever he received the ball, and while Christian Eriksen was elusive as ever as he sauntered around in attack his skill was not enough. Son could not really get the ball at his feet, and he was soon substituted.
Bournemouth were not yet done, however, and they responded to Tottenham’s onslaught by regaining their counter-attacking ability. They put the pressure on, and as Spurs made use of the extra space it became an end to end affair. Attacks came close on both sides, but both defences were ready to do anything to keep the deadlock, throwing themselves around and making plenty of key challenges.
Controversy: Players from both sides remonstrate after an incident between Moussa Sissoko (second from left) and Harry Arter (far right).
Then came the incident, one which set the fans off and created an incredible atmosphere. Harry Arter tackled Moussa Sissoko, who was desperate to quickly take the resultant throw-in. Sissoko sought out contact in an attempt to claim the ball, yet what looked like a relatively innocuous little bump turned out to be an elbow to the head, setting Arter off and bringing in a posse of Bournemouth players to remonstrate.
It was as clear a red card as one could imagine, but Sissoko stayed on the pitch despite the proximity of three officials, none of whom could quite see enough to force Pawson’s hand. Either way, the incident reinvigorated the crowd, who were on their feet and only stopped their cheering to boo Sissoko when he touched the ball.
The game was pulsating to the close, as Bournemouth fought hard to find their winner in injury time, putting plenty of pressure on Spurs and their defence. They held firm to keep the scores level, ensuring that an even game got the result that it deserved. It was scoreless, but it was anything but boring.
Bournemouth – Dean Court
Tottenham Hotspur 0
Referee: Craig Pawson
Bournemouth (4-2-3-1): Boruc – Smith, Francis, Cook, Daniels; Gosling, Arter; King (Fraser 88), Wilshere, Ibe (Gradel 60); Wilson (Afobe 82).
Tottenham Hotspur (4-2-3-1): Lloris – Walker, Dier, Vertonghen, Rose; Wanyama, Dembele; Lamela, Alli (Sissoko 71), Eriksen; Son (Janssen 62).
1. Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur)
Walker was excellent defensively, but it was his attacking input that really stood out, pushing forward to create plenty of problems for Bournemouth. His pace and ability to get back after losing the ball was incredible, and it saved a number of goals along the way. An excellent effort.
2. Simon Francis (Bournemouth)
Francis was never really beaten on the day, winning every aerial duel and shutting down plenty of Tottenham’s attacks. His skill on the ball created some chances in attack when he pushed forward for set pieces, and he showed plenty of composure under pressure throughout.
3. Christian Eriksen (Tottenham Hotspur)
In a game where Spurs had almost no space whatsoever, Eriksen looked a cut above on the ball, untouchable while his teammates floundered in possession. He skipped out of the way of tackles and made incisive passes, and while he was unable to break through he played a very strong game.
4. Adam Smith (Bournemouth)
Smith was excellent throughout as an attacking right back, creating chances when he pressed forward and defending solidly all game. He was never really caught out, and he shut down Lamela with his ability to put pressure on and make effective tackles.
5. Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur)
Vertonghen was a rock at the back for Spurs, making key tackle after key tackle and ensuring Bournemouth were kept at bay. He saved a goal late in the game with a perfect sliding tackle on Max Gradel, and was one of the main reasons the scores were level at the end.