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NICK SZCZEPANIK'S PRESS VERDICT: TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

24 April 2019

Paul Hazlewood
Nick Szczepanik reviews the media's coverage of Tuesday night's game.

It would not only have been the Albion fans in the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium press box who cursed when Christian Eriksen’s late winner fizzed past Maty Ryan.

With deadlines looming, all the representatives of the written press would have been frantically rewriting intros that had originally recorded the probability that Spurs had failed to take advantage of slips by Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United.

But praise for Albion’s display remained intact despite the loss of what would have been a hard-fought point.

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Mirror chief football writer John Cross’s verdict on Albion’s showing was typical. He wrote: “It was a priceless win for Spurs but equally a devastating defeat for Brighton who had defended so bravely and so defiantly for so long that it was little wonder some of their players slumped to the ground at the final whistle.

“Brighton defender Lewis Dunk put in the sort of heroic defensive performance which did not deserve to end up being on the losing side.

“Chris Hughton masterminded a brilliant rearguard action which showed, if there was any doubt, that the players are still with him and still fighting for survival.

“It will still take a huge effort from Cardiff to overtake Brighton but while the threat is there then you have to understand Hughton’s safety first tactics.

“They did so nearly frustrate a Spurs side which at times looked jaded, bereft of ideas and lacking inspiration.

“Ultimately, a long shot reaped rich rewards but they were shooting from long range so early that it smacked of desperation.”

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Former Albion programme columnist Paul Jiggins of The Sun wrote: “The Hollywood ending to a Cricklewood performance came in front of actor Zac Efron, who was watching from a lavish executive box.

“Efron also starred in the movie version of Baywatch, so maybe he would have appreciated the commitment of a team from the coast battling to keep their heads above water.

“But it was Eriksen who provided the latest twist in what is becoming a blockbuster of a season for Tottenham.

“For 87 minutes it looked like this episode was not going to have a happy ending as relegation-threatened Brighton frustrated them with an outstanding defensive display.

“Spurs fans know all about their manager’s defensive qualities as he spent 13 years as a full-back with the club.

“Chris Hughton was tough to get past then — and his Seagulls were tough to get past on Tuesday night.

“The Albion boss must have thought his team had done enough to earn a draw as they put their bodies on the line to keep Spurs at bay.

“But this defeat still keeps Brighton looking over their shoulders at the bottom of the Premier League table.”

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Jason Burt of the Daily Telegraph recognised that it had taken something special to pierce Albion’s back line.

“To overcome the defensive shackles of Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy, Tottenham Hotspur needed a locksmith, someone who could provide the key, someone with a little craft and guile and Christian Eriksen proved that late on as he scored the only goal to secure a win that opens the door to Champions League qualification.

“For Brighton it was a tough result even if they pushed their luck by relying so heavily on the ability of their extraordinarily resolute central defenders to head, block and clear everything that was thrown at them. They did that, though, for 88 minutes of rising frustration for Spurs.

“The result leaves Brighton just three points ahead of Cardiff City with three matches to go and their Premier League status still in severe jeopardy.”

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David Hytner of The Guardian wrote: “It was so cruel on Chris Hughton and his Brighton battlers, particularly the centre-halves Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy. The former sank to his knees when Eriksen’s goal went in; finally beaten.

“Brighton must go back to 9 March – and 660 minutes of football – for their last goal in the Premier League but this looked like being a night when what they did at the back would fire their survival hopes. But for Eriksen, it would have done.

“Brighton had started the day in 17th place, three points clear of Cardiff – who had played one game more – and under no illusions about the size of the task that confronted them. Their home match against Newcastle on Saturday already felt like a massive one because after that, they finish the season with a visit to Arsenal and a home fixture against Manchester City.

“It was plain at the outset that Spurs had to be quick with their passing and sharp with their movement because Brighton’s determination was ferocious.

“Brighton put their bodies on the line as they sought to protect the clean sheet, none more so than Dunk, who made some colossal interventions, and it was rough and ready, at times – witness Jan Vertonghen’s elbow on Florin Andone in the 25th minute. Vertonghen did not throw it; rather, he levered it into his opponent. The referee, Christopher Kavanagh, took no action.”

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Riath Al-Samarrai of the Daily Mail was unimpressed with the home side. “To get an idea of how desperate it all looked, consider this: 10 minutes from time Mauricio Pochettino did something he hasn’t done in 20 months and gave Vincent Janssen a game.

“Brighton had defended with their lives. Strangled everything out of Tottenham, put faces in front of balls, tackled within an inch of the laws, and limited Spurs to those pot shots. And then up popped Eriksen from 25 yards and a low driller past Ryan. The keeper might have done better, but who from Spurs will care?

“Pity Chris Hughton, though. He nearly pulled it off. Nearly might not save them, though. And that is a shame, in the scheme of this game anyway.

“They were up against it the minute the team sheets dropped. Pochettino had gone big. All in, really. With five changes to the side beaten by Manchester City on Saturday you could argue it was his strongest available 11, certainly his most aggressive.

“Brighton, for their part, came with a rather more familiar look. Not so much in personnel, with Hughton making six changes, but the message to defend and chase and hold ground was the same as it was Wolves on Saturday.

“They didn’t want to go forward and they didn’t really try, either. But it was reasonable enough as a strategy, so credit to Brighton, a team that had a gameplan and kept to it.”

 


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