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Son sends us top with winner against Watford - report and reaction

Spurs 1-0 Watford

Sun 29 August 2021, 15:54|Tottenham Hotspur

A first-half strike from Heung-Min Son was enough to give us victory against Watford at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and take us to the top of the Premier League table with three consecutive wins in the division.

It means we are the only side in the league with an unblemished record this season and we are yet to concede a goal in the competition, all three victories coming by a 1-0 scoreline. Son was the match-winner once again on Sunday, as he was against Manchester City in our season opener, netting his sixth goal in 10 league matches against the Hornets on what was his 200th Premier League appearance.

After a first-minute opportunity for the visitors, Eric Dier heading away Juraj Kucka’s goal-bound drive, we dominated most of the first half with Steven Bergwijn, Japhet Tanganga, Son and Dele Alli all having chances. And that superiority eventually paid off three minutes before the interval when Son stepped up to take a free-kick out on the left and hit a right-footed curler into the box which evaded everyone, including goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann, and the ball nestled in the far corner.

It was a more even affair after the interval with the visitors seeing more of the ball and having occasional chances, the best falling to Ismaila Sarr which Davinson Sanchez did well to block. But it was at the other end that the better opportunities came, Dele side-footing just wide, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s deflected free-kick testing Bachmann before Harry Kane almost got on the end of a Lucas Moura cross with the goal gaping, only for a late defensive touch to thwart him adding our second.

The final minutes saw Bryan Gil come on for his Premier League debut and we negotiated the closing stages without too much trouble to maintain our perfect start to the league season. There was a lovely touch at the final whistle as our former players Danny Rose and Moussa Sissoko – both now with Watford – received a standing ovation from the Spurs fans to thank them for their services with us down the years.

Perfect start continues

Much of the talk after this game will be about our perfect opening to the Premier League campaign and we’ll certainly enjoy sitting top of the table for the next couple of weeks, but this was another hard-fought win which needed maximum concentration from the whole team. We had much more of the ball than we did in previous wins against Manchester City and Wolves but couldn’t find that second goal to kill off the game and while it was only 1-0, Watford were always in the contest.

Defensively though, we were solid once more and as the Hornets pressed for a late equaliser, the back line stayed strong and our midfield in front of them mopped up any potential danger.

The game itself opened up with a crazy first minute as we had claims for a penalty after Peter Etebo clumsily bundled Kane over in the area but Andre Marriner waved play on before Watford went straight up the other end, Sissoko laying the ball off for Kucka whose shot was going in but Dier headed away inside the six yard box.

We quickly took control and enjoyed the majority of possession, with the Hornets swarming back in numbers to defend, meaning space was at a premium. But we fashioned a number of chances, the first on 13 minutes when Tanganga did well to keep the ball in play, it fell to Bergwijn whose half volley was deflected over by Craig Cathcart.

Sarr fired straight at Lloris at the other end before we threatened again, a goalmouth scramble ending with Bachmann saving Tanganga’s effort with his legs. Son dragged wide and Dele’s low shot was easy for the goalkeeper before the opening goal arrived on 42 minutes. A foul was awarded out on the left after Cathcart had impeded Bergwijn and Son’s teasing free-kick missed everyone before finding the back of the net.

Kucka fired well over before Sanchez did well to block Sarr’s effort with Hugo Lloris gathering the loose ball as Watford opened up the second half in determined fashion. But we could have doubled our lead on 67 minutes following a great move, Son and Kane combining for Dele but he pushed his effort just wide from 12 yards out. Six minutes later, Hojbjerg’s low 25-yard free-kick flicked off Tom Cleverley in the wall and had Bachmann scrambling to his left to push it away for a corner, while substitute Lucas showed great pace to burst away from Adam Masina down the right, sending a low cross to the far post where Kane was waiting but the slightest of touches from a Watford defender took the ball away from him at the last second. From the corner, Bachmann did really well to keep out Kane’s shot.

With the game still in the balance, Watford applied some late pressure and threw a few crosses into our box, but we refused to give up that third straight clean sheet and did what was needed to secure the three points.

Son scores in milestone match

Not only did Son score the winner, but he did so on the occasion of his 200th Premier League appearance. That was his 284th game in our colours and it was also his sixth goal in 10 Premier League matches against Watford.

For the first time in our history, we have won our opening three top-flight matches without conceding a goal. And Head Coach Nuno Espírito Santo has become the first manager to win his first three top-flight games in charge of the Club. Arthur Rowe was the first to win his first three league matches in charge, but we were a Second Division side when he did so in August, 1949.

We have now lost just one of our last 17 league games against Watford (W10 D6), last going down in a 2-1 defeat at Vicarage Road in September, 2018.

Nuno made one change from our last Premier League outing at Wolves, with Kane coming in for his first league start of the season in place of Lucas. It was nine changes from Thursday night's win over Pacos de Ferreira, with only Kane and Dier retaining their places in the starting XI.

Meanwhile, Sissoko made the swiftest of returns to N17 as he started for Watford, having completed a transfer to the Hornets on Friday. Our former Academy player William Troost-Ekong also started for Watford, with Rose named among their substitutes.

Reaction on Spurs TV

'It was very hard to find the spaces'

Nuno told Spurs TV afterwards: "We knew the threat of Watford, we managed it well, controlling the deep (areas), but we should be better on second balls. On the offensive aspect of the game, it was very hard to find the spaces, the gaps. In the first half we didn’t have enough dynamic or mobility, but in the second half we improved much more. We had clear chances to kill the game and transform the result. So, with all that, I'm very happy because the players worked very, very hard."

Highlights on Spurs TV

Spurs 1-0 Watford

Spurs (4-2-3-1): Lloris (c), Tanganga, Dier, Sanchez, Reguilon, Hojbjerg, Skipp, Dele, Bergwijn (Lucas 68), Son (Bryan 88), Kane. Substitutes (not used): Gollini, Doherty, Romero, Davies, Sessegnon, Winks, Lo Celso.

Watford (4-1-4-1): Bachmann, Cathcart (c) (Ngakia 51), Troost-Ekong, Sierralta, Masina, Etebo, Sarr, Sissoko (Cleverley 71), Kucka, Dennis, King (Hernandez 65). Substitutes (not used): Elliot, Rose, Louza, Sema, Fletcher, Kabasele.

Match data

Goal: Spurs – Son 42.

Yellow cards: Spurs – Kane, Dele, Skipp; Watford – Etebo; Sissoko, Dennis.

Referee: Andre Marriner.

Venue: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Weather: Light cloud, gentle breeze, 20 degrees.

Attendance: 57,672.