Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Watford: Llorente's anguish ends with winner at Wembley
(Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Watford: Llorente's anguish ends with winner at Wembley

Heung-Min Son and Fernando Llorente scored second half goals for Tottenham to secure a comeback after Craig Cathcart had put Watford in front.

harry-robinson
Harry Robinson

An impassioned Fernando Llorente ran into his manager's arms. He and Mauricio Pochettino have had it hard in the last week for injury-stricken Tottenham Hotspur.

But this Spurs side remains well clear of the bitter battle for top four, thanks to the powerful late header of Llorente that saw him finally beat Ben Foster and secure another comeback for Tottenham, just like they managed at Craven Cottage 10 days ago.

Llorente put the ball in his own net in that fixture. He redeemed himself on Wednesday.

Pochettino's Tottenham are now seven points clear from fourth and equally as far from the top of the league. In a league of their own.

Watford had led thanks to Craig Cathcart and Spurs were poor in their response. The returning Heung-Min Son equalised with a powerful left-footed drive.

Story of the match

In a stadium fully furnished with seats, but only somewhat inhabited by fans, Heung-Min Son’s touches on the ball provided a rare sense of anticipation. The early stages of Wednesday evening’s fixture saw Son in possession frequently, and a collective intake of breath was the response.

Cathcart dealt with the South Korean, returning from international duty at the Asia Cup earlier than anticipation, well on his first surging run forwards. The later attempts were more subtle; slower, more controlled and deeper dribbles on the ball. He provided Eriksen with an outlet once more. The Dane has been bereft of options since Son, Alli and Kane left him as sole creator.

Son created space with a quick Cruyff-turn back on himself and unleashed a left-footed drive wide of the left post. Not too long after, he’d test Foster with a right-footed effort, too.

Yet Spurs still look like a mildly malfunctioning side. Son’s return couldn’t hide that. Unlike Kane, Fernando Llorente doesn’t drop deep regularly. As more of a pure goalscorer, he stays where he is. Spurs haven’t adapted to that style properly. With Kane’s hold-up play, Eriksen and Son can quickly turn from creator to goalscorer. It’s not quite the same with Llorente.

When Llorente was involved in the build-up, Tottenham looked far more dangerous. The Spaniard, playing with his back to goal, poked a hip-height ball into the feet of Eriksen. His right-footed stroke of a pass moved into Son’s path but the forward’s touch was too heavy and Foster collected it.

Again, 10 minutes later, Llorente helped to create, a job he often does better than scoring goals. The 33-year-old controlled the ball beautifully on the right, escaped his marker and clipped a ball over the top for a peculiarly far-forward Jan Vertonghen. Foster came out to meet him outside the area, just like he met Son inside the box.

Tottenham’s frustration grew. The fans took it out on the referee. The players took it out on the ball, pumping crosses in for Llorente.

Yet, in their own box, they cannot cope with crosses. Watford earned themselves a corner after a quiet 37 minutes. Hugo Lloris came out. And then stopped and waited. He watched the ball float over his head for a millisecond and in came Craig Cathcart, throwing his body in front of Davinson Sanchez and heading into an empty net, rather uncleanly. Lloris was once ahead of his peers in the top 6. Now he is quite glaringly, and worryingly, behind.

An instant response was mustered, very briefly. Son fired a cross from left to right through the six-yard box. Aurier failed to reach it.

Half-time came and went with a groan. And what followed only induced further grumbles. Llorente kneed over the crossbar. Kane was wished for. Aurier had crossed in well and Llorente’s initial effort was parried back by Foster. The striker quickly tried to adjust his feet but before the ball could fall down onto his boot, it struck his knee and rose up like a drop-kick.

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Foster’s right foot flew out to keep out a deflected free-kick shortly after. Llorente’s header went over from the follow-up cross.

Pochettino’s side miss their talisman so much. They are not a one-man team, but they failed to confirm that in the second half. Llorente will be blamed, but the quality of Tottenham’s crossing was woeful.

Watford had little of the ball, and few of the chances, too. Yet they found space centrally. Substitute Isaac Success shot wide into his own away support as the ball fell to him on the penalty area.

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Tottenham finally did find space centrally, and not with a cross. The shin of Llorente kindly provided Son with the ball and, with beautiful technique, he powerfully struck an equaliser. It was the emphatic shot style of the ‘60s. There were fewer than 30,000 inside the Wembley, but the roar that greeted Son was loud. A display of relief. Out of two Cups in midweek. A third defeat could not follow.

And nor would a disappointing draw. Fernando Llorente played the villain with own fans for much of Wednesday. And yet, as the ball floated across Foster's goal, powered by the head of Llorente, and as it landed into the bottom corner to win Tottenham the game, he was the hero.

His celebration told it all. A fierce sprint over to Pochettino, a look of a man who has endured deep anguish in the last fortnight after replacing Kane.

Llorente left the pitch with two clenched fists. Pointed in the direction of the Tottenham fans, they imitated him, some with scarves gripped inside those fists. It was so nearly another evening of torment for the striker. Instead, redemption.

Takeaways from the match

Pochettino's side have character

While Spurs may have been knocked out of both domestic cups within a week, they have now come from behind in two consecutive Premier League games.

10 days ago, Pochettino was asked in his post-match press conference about the new-found spirit within this Tottenham team. A side so often belittled as 'bottlers' have shown time after time that they can respond late on in games under Pochettino.

That has not yet stretched to winning semi-finals and Cup success, but it is true in the league.

Without Kane and without Alli, Spurs managed another comeback. 

Llorente repays Pochettino faith

It was a celebration typical of a strong relationship. Llorente has been rightly criticised for his poor performances at Tottenham. He's been unfairly hammered for not being Harry Kane.

Pochettino has defended him publicly and Llorente celebrated his late winner at Wembley by running immediately to celebrate with his boss.

Watford defence needs quality

Javi Gracia's side spent their second-half defending, and doing little else. That's expected. Tottenham would have likely opened them up if they had focused on finding a second goal.

But their centre-back pairing of Cathcart and Mariappa doesn't have the quality to see out a game in such a manner. Holebas and Janmaat did well to force poor crosses out of Spurs, but when, finally, a good ball was delivered, Llorente steered a winner home.

Watford fans have called for defensive reinforcements before. That'll be on their minds again after this defeat.

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