Three things we learned from West Ham v. Tottenham
LONDON -- West Ham beat Tottenham 1-0 under the London Stadium lights on Friday night to deal a hammer blow to Spurs’ Premier League title hopes.
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The only goal of the game arrived just after the hour mark as Manuel Lanzini pounced to finish and a sluggish Spurs side never recovered.
Here’s what we learned from the London derby which has put a huge dent in Spurs’ title hopes.
CRUCIAL PK CALL CORRECT
There’s been plenty of talk about the new video assistant referees (VARs) which are being trialed in many leagues around the world but I’m not sure an official watching 50 replays of a first half collision between Manuel Lanzini and Hugo Lloris would have been able to make the correct call.
Andre Ayew clipped the ball through to Lanzini but as he raced through on goal he didn’t get the first touch on the ball before Lloris clattered into him with a tackle. Referee Anthony Taylor waved play on but Cheikhou Kouyate’s tame effort on goal was shanked wide and everyone stopped. Hammers fans, players and management expected a penalty kick. It never arrived.
If West Ham had not won, they would’ve pointed towards that call as costly. In the end it wasn’t, but it also pointed towards just how tough some of these penalty decisions are for referees and even VARs. Even with the technology in place, it’s hard to get these calls 100 percent correct.
TIRED TOTTENHAM LOSE GROUND
Spurs just didn’t look correct throughout this game. A sluggish start to both halves gave West Ham hope and Mauricio Pochettino’s men weren’t energetic in attack of pressing high to win the ball back.
Much has been made of Spurs playing before Chelsea this weekend to try and cut their lead atop the PL table to one point, but there wasn’t much chatter about the three days less rest for Tottenham after their North London derby against Arsenal on Sunday.
Look at the stat below just before Lanzini put West Ham ahead. How often are Spurs, or any of Pochettino’s sides outrun?
Spurs were sluggish and even when three glorious chances arrived on the 21-minute mark they couldn’t make the most of it as Adrian denied Harry Kane brilliantly following Dele Alli’s shot was blocked.
In the second half Heung-min Son’s shot was tipped wide by Adrian but it was Spurs who ran out of steam and looked under pressure. West Ham had several glorious chances to extend their lead with Jonathan Calleri forcing a wonderful stop from Lloris and Spurs’ usually watertight defense looked incredibly susceptible on the break.
Spurs lost at West Ham last March under the lights at Upton Park as their title bid took a huge hit. This time around a defeat to their fierce London rivals just about ended their title hopes.
LANZINI STEPS UP ON DERBY DAY, AGAIN
With Dimitri Payet gone in January, this was supposed to be Lanzini’s time to shine.
He’s cut a frustrated figure in recent weeks but he turned up when it mattered on Friday, buzzing around behind the energetic Calleri and reacting first to a loose ball in the box to slot home the winner.
The Argentine playmaker, like most of West Ham’s current squad, had a fine campaign last season and despite glimpses of his genius in 2016-17, he’s struggled.
Lanzini will grow into this central role after playing second fiddle to Payet last season and the first half of this and often shunted out wide. He’s now scored eight goals in 33 appearances this season, surpassing his seven in 32 appearances last season.
He received a standing ovation and the man of the match award for his performance which led West Ham to safety as they cannot be relegated. This performance may have just saved Slaven Bilic his job, too.
Finally, West Ham’s new home at London Stadium has a marquee win as the Hammers momentarily rose to ninth place in the table.