Sub Johnson strikes late for Spurs

Dave Bishop
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Tottenham Hotspur 2 Brighton & Hove Albion 1

Substitute Brennan Johnson’s winner in the sixth minute of stoppage time saw Spurs come from behind to clinch victory in a thrilling finish against Brighton at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Spurs welcomed Son Heung-min and Yves Bissouma back from Asian and African Cup of Nations international duty respectively and both took their places on the substitutes bench as Ange Postecoglou made two changes to his starting line-up following the 2-2 draw at Everton, with Dejan Kulusevski and Pape Matar Sarr replacing Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Johnson.

With head coach Roberto De Zerbi serving a three-match ban, assistant Andrea Maldera was charged with taking his place on the sideline. Brighton made five changes following their 4-1 win over Crystal Palace last week with goalkeeper Jason Steele, Adam Lallana, Kaoru Mitoma, Danny Welbeck and Pervis Estupinan coming into the side to replace Bart Verbruggen, Igor Julio, Jack Hinshelwood, Evan Ferguson and Joao Pedro.

With just eighty seconds gone, Micky van de Ven slipped trying to intercept the ball on the half way line, a mishap that allowed Danny Wellbeck to break away down the right wing before cutting inside and powering a curling drive towards the top left hand corner – only for the former Manchester United and Arsenal striker to be spectacularly denied by Guglielmo Vicario tipping the ball past the post at full stretch.

Brighton, who had pushed forward confidently since the start, were awarded what appeared to be a rather soft penalty when following hesitancy in the Spurs defence, van de Ven was adjudged to have fouled Welbeck in the box. Pascal Gross stepped up to send Vicario the wrong way – burying the spot-kick deep into the corner to give the Seagulls the lead in the 17th minute.

With their first real chance of the game, Spurs had a fantastic opportunity to draw level just before the half hour mark when James Maddison broke free in the centre before gliding into the box and firing inches wide of the right post with Steele well beaten.

After trying to play out from the back, Bentancur lost possession in the centre of the area with the ball being fed through to Mitoma, whose fierce effort tested Vicario again – with the Italian going full stretch once more to claw the ball away at the near post for a corner.

Despite Spurs having their fair share of possession and looking lively in attack, they lacked a clinical finish in front of goal and with the Seagulls back line equal to everything thrown at them in the first forty-five minutes they were able to keep their noses in front with some ease to go in one goal to the good at the break.

Just after the resumption, Maddison’s twenty yard curling free kick over the defensive wall was well held by Steele as Spurs continued to press forward for the elusive equaliser and just shortly after, the dangerous Timo Werner showed a fine burst of speed to cut in from the left before seeing his shot take a deflection and trickle just wide of the near post.

After Kulusevski’s cross into the box came back out of defence to Sarr, whose first shot bounced off the post only for the ball to rebound straight back into the path of the Senegalese international once more to fire home into the centre of the net from an acute angle on the right to make it 1-1 in the 59th minute.

With Postecoglou making a triple change two minutes after the goal, with Son – who was immediately given the captain’s armband by Cristian Romero, Johnson and Bissouma replacing Bentancur, Werner and Kulusevski, there was a renewed air of expectation from the crowd that the game was finally starting to swing Spurs way, however it was Brighton who had the chance to take the lead in the 76th minute when Mitoma cut back to steer the ball through to Ansu Fati, whose shot trickled agonisingly past the post.

Brighton went close again just two minutes later when with the Spurs defence in some disarray, Facundo Buonanotte’s shot was blocked only to roll inches past the upright and away for a corner with Vicario beaten.

Six minutes before the end, Spurs had a shout for a penalty after Johnson’s shot appeared to strike the arm of Brighton skipper Lewis Dunk. Referee Sam Barrott’s decision to immediately turn down their appeals being backed up by VAR shortly after.

With the clock ticking down and in the dying stages of stoppage time, with Spurs continuing to probe, Richarlison cut the ball back for returning talisman Son on the left to run on strongly and jink inside, before squaring a pinpoint ball across the box for fellow sub Johnson to fire high into the roof of the net to seal the points in the most dramatic and heart stopping fashion.

With ‘Glory Glory Tottenham Hotspur’ blaring from the loudspeakers and the fans ecstatically celebrating the win at the end, Spurs are left to happily reflect what is undoubtedly a massive victory for them and one that moves them up into fourth place as they continue to keep the pressure on Aston Villa in their quest for a Champions League berth come the end of the season. .

Next up for Spurs in the Premier League will be the visit of Wolverhampton Wanderers to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday February 17 (3.00pm)

Tottenham Hotspur: Vicario, Richarlison, Maddison, Werner (Johnson 62’) Romero (capt.) Kulusevski (Bissouma 63’) Porro, Sarr (Davies 80’) Bentancur (Son Heung-min 62’) van de Ven, Udogie (Hojbjerg 80’) Subs not used: Forster, Skipp, Dragusin, Royal.

Brighton & Hove Albion: Steele, Lamptey (Baleba 90+1’) Dunk (capt.) Gilmour Baker-Boitey 90+1’) Gross, Lallana (Ansu Fati 57’) Welbeck (Ferguson 83’) Mitoma, van Hecke, Estupinan, Buonanotte (Veltman 83’) Subs not used: Verbruggen, Webster, Moder, O’Mahony.

Referee: Sam Barrott

Assistants: Neil Davies, Wade Smith

Fourth Official: Keith Stroud

VAR: Jarred Gillett

Attendance: 61,445