by Dan Davis (@dan_davis20)
The South Coast holds something of an affinity for villains. The world famous Punch and Judy show, held in front of the masses on golden sands, takes a more humorous approach to the classic slapstick role, while the many touring Christmas pantomime performances will have crowds filled with a light-hearted holiday spirit. But today, the crowd at the Vitality Stadium were hurtling out of their seats, yelling obscenities at a figure who seemed to revel in the abuse pouring from all four stands, as he meticulously helped craft a convincing Tottenham comeback against Bournemouth.
Dele Alli’s equaliser stunned the home faithful, after Eddie Howe’s side raced tirelessly around the pitch, seized upon every loose ball and numbed Spurs into ineffectual, staccato passages of play. But just as it looked as though the Cherries threatened to race into a commanding early lead, Alli cropped up with a crisp volley, sneaking away from the attentions of Steve Cook and Simon Francis.
The slight lapse of concentration from the Bournemouth backline was all the England international needed to find a crucial yard of space, his left knee cap applying the punishment after Serge Aurier flashed a dangerous drive across the penalty area. Alli would celebrate by racing behind the rippling net, his hand cupped to his ear in front of an increasingly hostile main stand crowd, sparking contrasting scenes of emotion at either end of the ground.
The change in outlook from the Cherries’ dugout was visible, the Howe and Tindall double-act pondering how to hold out until the interval. It had started so well for the highly-regarded managerial team, with the home side penning Tottenham in with a relentless display of pressing from forwards Callum Wilson, Lys Mousset and Junior Stanislas. And it was the latter who fired the Cherries in front after only seven minutes, a low strike finding the bottom corner after Adam Smith’s inch perfect cutback across the box – the Englishman’s fourth goal of the season.
Stanislas’ revival in a red and black shirt has arrived at the perfect time, coinciding with Bournemouth’s strong run of form that has seen the Dorset side only defeated twice in 11 league games. The tricky winger could have ended the game with a brace to his name, having also cracked a chip against the woodwork with Hugo Lloris prostrate, after Mousset’s charge towards the penalty area and unselfish pass.
Harry Kane’s substitution further dampened Spurs’ afternoon. The English talisman picked up a knock to his ankle, a historically problematic setback having missed two spells out with a similar injury last season. Kane’s mood turned from ecstasy to agony, beating Begovic but having his stabbed finish correctly chalked off for offside, before being unable to avoid clattering into the Bosnian shot stopper. The frontman was withdrawn as a precaution, with Mauricio Pochettino moving Son Heung-Min into a central spot and introducing Erik Lamela to the right flank.
The substitution proved to a masterstroke from the Argentine tactician, as Spurs shrugged off a languid first half and ruthlessly put the Cherries to the sword. In a cruel twist of fate, it would be Dele Alli who fashioned the goal that fired Tottenham into the lead a shade after the hour mark. A looping delivery to the far post was met by Son, whose lack of clean contact caused the ball to bounce onto the turf, above the sprawling Begovic, and into the roof of the net.
From there, it never looked as though the home side would be able to drag themselves back level. Howe had been seen giving outcast Harry Arter a lively pep talk on the sidelines, before the Irish international shuffled back to his seat as the away supporters erupted in noise. Perhaps if Arter had been sent into the fray a few minutes earlier, Bournemouth may have been able to gain a better result that matched their levels of effort. A change of plan from the Cherries’ manager saw Josh King, who had missed out on a start with a neck problem, and Jordon Ibe brought on – Charlie Daniels and the largely ineffectual Mousset the players replaced.
But the quartet of Eriksen, Lamela, Son and Alli, before he too was hooked off by Pochettino after a slight knock, proved to be too much for the dogged home side. Delightful combination play carefully picked apart the Cherries’ increasingly gung-ho midfield, and Bournemouth’s defensive frailties were on show for all to see as Tottenham neatly wrapped up a convincing three points just days after their Champions League elimination at the hands of Juventus.
Son was denied by a plunging stop from the unconvincing Begovic, before Eriksen’s follow-up was stabbed wide of the post by the veteran Bosnian international. But the South Korean would not be denied his brace, after capitalising on Lewis Cook’s stray pass, racing clear from the half-way line, rounding Begovic and slotting home for the visitors’ third.
Jermain Defoe’s introduction was warmly received by both sets of supporters, but any slight hope of a Cherries comeback was put to an end by Serge Aurier, the Ivorian nodding home at the back post after Begovic failed to palm away Kieran Trippier’s teasing cross.