THE INCLEMENT WEATHER, a lacklustre Spurs performance and VAR ensured another frustrating afternoon at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as a well-drilled Sheffield United side earned a point and piled the pressure on Mauricio Pochettino and his under-performing men.
The Blades arrived in the capital sitting sixth in the table and without an away defeat to their name all season. Indeed, Pochettino fully understood his side faced a huge challenge against the newly-promoted upstarts: “It is going to be very difficult,” the Argentine explained.
“They work so hard. What impressed me the most is the belief, the togetherness, spirit like a rugby team that fights for each other, that is fantastic to see in a football team.
“They have a good squad, great organisation, a great manager and I think to fight for each other, they have good players, of course, that is the key for Sheffield United and that’s why they are doing so well, with so many points.”
The Spurs boss hoped that a midweek hammering of Red Star in the UEFA Champions League might have signalled a turning point for his charges. However, the home faithful arrived in N17 very much questioning which Tottenham Hotspur would be joining them? Paulo Gazzaniga tipped over John Fleck’s speculative attempt as the Blades announced their own intentions. Meanwhile, Harry Kane strangely fluffed his lines after Serge Aurier had provided an opening and Giovani Lo Celso fizzed the wrong side of an upright as the hosts began to find their feet.
John Lundstram was a whisker away from a telling touch after Enda Stevens had delivered from the left, then Gazzaniga fisted clear from the same player as the Blades continued to probe menacingly.
In the freezing rain, Spurs were making heavy weather of it. Aurier’s attempt from distance drifted off target, as did Dele Alli’s left-footed effort after Heung-Min Son had teed him up.
Son was wayward immediately after the break as the scrappy nature of the contest continued. Meanwhile, Lys Mousset – who had recently found the net against both Arsenal and West Ham – was agonisingly close after leading the Spurs backline a merry dance after creating himself an opening.
Son warmed the palms of Blades stopper, Dean Henderson, with a crisp angled strike. But in truth, until this stage, the Lilywhites had looked cumbersome and awkward as the Yorkshiremen easily rebuffed their forward advances.
But then a break. Son profited from Enda Stevens’ poor backpass – sliding the ball between Henderson’s legs to open the scoring and lift the tension which had risen steadily in the stands.
But the lead and the feel-good factor lasted barely two minutes. Stevens – keen to make up for his error – put one on a plate for David McGoldrick, who fired into an empty net from four yards out. But as the Blades fans celebrated, those sat in a warm office, miles from North London, were checking their VAR screens. And after a lengthy wait, which was received with equal hostility from the two sets of fans – the goal was chalked off, once again, improving the mood amongst those of a Spurs persuasion and antagonising the visitors.
Sheffield United had done enough to suggest they were still a threat. George Baldock’s cross eluded everyone, including Gazzaniga. Anther VAR check drew further malevolence from the crowd, although the outcome left a more favourable taste with the Blades fans.
Son drilled at Henderson in the closing stages, while the Blades keeper did ever so well to keep out Lucas Moura’s stinging strike as Spurs turned the screw. But it was all to no avail. This had been another questionable performance from Spurs against a Blades side – VAR or otherwise – deserved their share of the spoils.
Tottenham Hotspur returns to Premier League action on Saturday, November 23 when they face West Ham United at the London Stadium (12:30pm).
Tottenham Hotspur: Paulo Gazzaniga, Serge Aurier (Lucas Moura 86’), Eric Dier, Davinson Sánchez, Ben Davies, Moussa Sissoko, Tanguy Ndombele (Harry Winks 46’), Heung-Min Son, Giovani Lo Celso, Dele Alli (Juan Foyth 72’), Harry Kane (Capt) Subs not used: Toby Alderweireld, Michel Vorm (GK), Ryan Sessegnon, Christian Eriksen
Booked: Eric Dier (foul)
Goals: Heung-Min Son 58’
Sheffield United: Dean Henderson, Chris Basham, John Egan, Jack O’Connell, George Baldock, John Lundstram, Ollie Norwood (Capt), John Fleck, Enda Stevens, David McGoldrick (Luke Freeman 90+4’), LysMousset (Callum Robinson 88’) Subs not used: Oli McBurnie, Billy Sharp, Phil Jagielka, Simon Moore (GK), Muhamed Besic
Booked: Ollie Norwood (foul), Chris Basham (foul)
Goals: George Baldock 79’
Referee: Graham Scott
Assistants: Neil Davies and Richard West
Fourth Official: Darren Bond
Reaction to follow…