Spluttering Tottenham held at home by Sheffield United

For Tottenham this proved to be a case of one step forward and two back. After Wednesday’s 4-0 victory over Red Star Belgrade came a result and a performance that continues to suggest all is not well for Mauricio Pochettino and his men. 

They were outthought, outfought and outplayed by a Sheffield United side who left north London with a result to be cherished but also a sense of injustice given this proved to be another occasion when VAR made its presence felt in maddening fashion.

The visitors thought they had cancelled out Son Heung-min’s 58th minute goal on the hour when David McGoldrick found time and space at the back post to convert Enda Stevens’ cross. On first glance there certainly appeared to be nothing wrong with the goal but then referee Graham Scott put his finger to his ear and everyone in attendance knew what was coming. 

First a delay of 3min 47sec, then the creating of lines on the screens available to everyone here except the supporters and, finally, word from the VAR Jon Moss at Stockley Park that the goal had been ruled out. Why? Because John Lundstram’s big toe had been offside in the build up. Cue relief among the home supporters, outrage among those in the away end and a sense of despair among neutrals.

Fortunately for the visitors there was to be a deserved equaliser – a glancing header from George Baldock on 78 minutes that meant Chris Wilder’s men moved up to fifth. For Spurs this was a fifth league game without victory and the cue for more introspection for everyone involved with the club.

Pochettino made two changes to the Tottenham team that won on Wednesday – both at full-back. That meant no return to the fold for Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld as well as another start -–and a first in the Premier League – for Giovani Lo Celso. Son also started after the red card he was shown at Goodison Park overturned. Yet, along with his teammates, the South Korean cut a bewildered figure during the early stages as United came at them in typically fearless fashion.

That pressure also led to Wilder’s side having the first couple of chances of this game – a fizzing long-range shot from Oliver Norwood on three minutes that forced Paulo Gazzaniga into a save and, soon after, a love drive from John Fleck that also tested Tottenham’s goalkeeper.

The hosts were panicked, none more so than Eric Dier who having been booked after just two minutes for a foul on Baldock was lucky not to see another yellow card from Scott on 15 minutes after colliding with Lys Mousset on the left flank.

Just prior to that Harry Kane had gone close to scoring after connecting with Serge Aurier’s low cross, but there was little threat from Spurs amid what was proving to be a excellent display away from home by United – organised in defence and positive in attack – and they would have ended the first half ahead had Lundstram been more clinical with the two chances that came his way in quick succession.

Tottenham went into the break having failed to register a shot on target in the first half of a home league game for the first time since defeat to Manchester United at Wembley in January. Something had to change and, in that regard, it was no surprise to see Harry Winks come on for Tanguy Ndombeleat half-time. 

That also led to a change in system, with the hosts in a 4-4-2 formation with a diamond in midfield and Son in attack with Kane.

And it took the South Korean 13 minutes to make a telling impact in his advanced role. Lo Celso, Dele Alli and Kane were all involved in the build-up but it was Stevens who made the telling move – a loose pass to Jack O’Connell that Son intercepted and, from eight yards out, converted with a low shot through the legs of Dean Henderson.

It was a moment of relief for Spurs that evaporated in the space of two minutes after McGoldrick struck to secure a deserved equaliser for the visitors – or so everyone thought.

It was a sickener for United but, ultimately, and after six minutes of added time, they had made their point.

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