Ten-man Tottenham Hotspur continued their bounce back from a nightmare November with a hard-fought 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest at the City Ground.
Spurs opened the scoring through Richarlison just before half-time as he rose high to meet a superb cross from the exceptional Dejan Kulusevski. And it was Kulusevski himself who made it 2-0 on 65 minutes, latching onto a rushed clearance from the goalkeeper and finishing off his run with a lashed finish in at the near post.
Tottenham, who had earlier lost Brennan Johnson to a head injury, suffered a suspension setback when Destiny Udogie picked up a yellow card, ruling him out of their next game at home to Everton. And Spurs’ card-happy season continued when a yellow card for a high tackle by Yves Bissouma was upgraded to a straight red after a VAR review, leaving the holding midfielder set to miss the whole of his club’s Christmas schedule.
Forest pushed hard in a far-from one-sided match, seeing an Anthony Elanga goal ruled out for offside and another golden chance for Harry Toffolo superbly saved from close-range, but Steve Cooper’s wait for a Premier League win stretches to six games.
Talking Point – Tottenham’s discipline problem
Spurs’ style of play produces some astonishing spectacles, with end-to-end matches yielding plenty of entertainment for even neutrals.
But the knock-on impact is that the defensive players are put under huge pressure, and that has yielded a high-quantity of suspensions and red cards so far this season.
Bissouma has already served one red-card ban, and now is set for another after going in hard to try and win a loose ball from his defensive midfield spot. Udogie was left with a lot of work to do on one occasion to track back and clear up a Forest break, with any foul always likely to result in a booking, as it did, earning him a one-game ban too.
Spurs need to work out how to limit their card count, particularly with so many players also missing through injury. But the situation is not likely to be eased any time soon, with Cristian Romero just the one yellow away from his own one-game ban.
Player Of The Match – Dejan Kulusevski
Tottenham’s Swedish star was superb on the night, creating chances as a number ten and then playing a starring part in both goals after moving right to fill the gap left by Brennan Johnson’s departure to injury.
His cross for Richarlison’s opener was pure quality, cutting in onto his left as he so often does, and whipping in a cross that was begging for a finish, that the Brazilian delivered.
And he clinically punished a loose clearance for his own goal, surging in on goal, finding space with a dart of movement and then finishing with great power.
With Kulusevski in this sort of form Spurs don’t feel the absence of James Maddison quite so much, which is a massive compliment.
Nottingham Forest: Turner 5; Boly 6, Murillo 5, Niakhaté 6; Williams 6, Yates(C) 6, Mangala 7, Kouyaté 7, Toffolo 6; Elanga 6, Gibbs-White 7. Subs: Danilo 6, Wood 6, Hudson-Odoi 6.
Tottenham Hotspur: Vicario 8; Porro 7, Romero 6, Davies 8, Udogie 6; Sarr 7, Bissouma 5; Johnson 6, Kulusevski 9, Son(C) 7; Richarlison 8. Subs: Skipp 7, Hojbjerg 7, Veliz 6.
45+2’ – GOAL, RICHARLISON!
It’s a goal for the visitors just before the break. Kulusevski cuts onto his left and whips in a superb cross that Richarlison rises high to meet and head home. 1-0 Spurs!
59’ – DISALLOWED GOAL
Forest think they have the equaliser as a lovely ball across the face of goal is turned home by Elanga. But hang on, there’s a hint of offside in that, VAR is checking. Four Forest players were in an offside position as that delivery came in, with Elanga being one of the furthest back. But he was still offside and VAR rules the goal out. Cooper urges his fans for more support anyway.
65’ – GOAL, KULUSEVSKI!
Son presses Turner on the ball and the keeper’s rushed clearance can only find Dejan Kulusevski. He glides into the box, goes outside onto his right, and absolute thunders a shot beyond the keeper from an angle. Turner is furious with himself, but that is a fearsome finish and Spurs have a semblance of control now.
Bissouma is initially booked for a high boot on Yates, but VAR calls the official over to the big screen. It’s very high, it’s late, and it catches the knee. It’s one for debate because the studs flick off the leg rather than going straight through, but that sort of challenge is something that officials are trying to get out of the game. It’s a straight red for Bissouma and a three-game ban.
A deep cross is headed down from point-blank range by Toffolo. It seems destined to be a goal, but Vicario makes a ridiculous reaction save with his feet to turn the ball off the line. The ref checks his watch but it didn’t cross the line.
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