Ward-Prowse caps West Ham comeback as Tottenham squander another lead | Premier League
The other four felt different: Chelsea had a numerical advantage, Wolves seemed little more than a late aberration, Aston Villa was an unfortunate freak, Manchester City a hard-fought point.
But on this occasion – a Premier League record fifth successive match that Tottenham have thrown away a lead – the excuses are starting to run thin. They were simply not good enough for too much of the match, namely the whole second half.
At the half-time break there had been a sense of when, or how many, the home side would score, so dominant were they in dictating proceedings when in possession (which was almost the entirety). But they barely came close after Cristian Romero’s early opener.
Ok, there was a sense of the unaccountable about both of West Ham’s goals: Jarrod Bowen benefitting from a wicked double deflection and James Ward-Prowse gifted an empty net to tap into. But there comes a point where Tottenham’s attractive football – of which there was plenty, as always under Ange Postecoglou – must pay dividends.
Home supporters have now endured three consecutive home league defeats for the first time since 2008 and that 10-game unbeaten run to kick off the season is a distant memory.
“It is unacceptable,” said the Spurs captain, Son Heung-min. “As a player we should take responsibility. They are tough to play against but we knew what was coming. 1-0 is not enough, you have to try and win the game.
“The fans do not deserve this. When you go 1-0 up early you should bring more energy and play with more energy but we didn’t and that is why we lost. When you have the chances to kill the game you have to play better.”
Romero’s fine looping header, muscling his way between defenders to attack Pedro Porro’s corner, looked like being the first of many Spurs goals in a first half of total dominance.
The hosts’ slick interplay and rapid progression up the pitch rendered West Ham’s attacking players obsolete for large swathes. It was all the visitors could do to boot the ball into opposition territory for a momentary breather before weathering the inevitable next wave.
That West Ham were level within seven minutes of the restart owed much to a huge dose of good fortune. A speculative Mohammed Kudus crack from range ricocheted first off Romero and then Ben Davies straight into the path of the unwitting Bowen, who could not believe his luck with the goal at his mercy. He duly smashed it past Guglielmo Vicario.
Then it happened; the type of moment that encourages opposition supporters to use that yawningly dull phrase “Spursy”.
Under minimal pressure, Destiny Udogie self-imploded by playing a woefully underhit back pass to Vicario, whose only option was to hare out and push the ball clear with Bowen bearing down on him.
Presented with the opportunity to shoot as the goalkeeper lay on the floor, Ward-Prowse’s initial effort hit the post, only to rebound straight back for him to pass into an empty net.
Despite increasingly desperate pleas from the home supporters, Tottenham rarely came close to equalising. A poor Richarlison header when unmarked six yards out epitomised their plight.
“It’s another game where we’ve dominated a game of football and we haven’t turned that dominance into something more tangible,” said Postecoglou. “We kept the opposition in the game.
“I thought we were very poor in both boxes today. Those two goals were terrible goals for us to concede.
“This is not about playing good football, this is about winning games of football. I try to set up teams to win. 1-0 up at half-time was not a good performance from us. A good performance would be three or four goals up at half-time.”
Asked what he thinks is to blame for Tottenham’s continued failure to hold on to leads, the Australian said: “It’s just not having that conviction in front of goal to finish things off. As simple as that.
“If we were out on our feet then you could factor that into it. But I don’t see that. At the moment we’re just going through this spell where we’re so-called playing good football but I don’t see that.
“What I see is us not really showing any clear conviction in what we’re doing. We’ve a long way to go as a team and today is further evidence of that.”
Despite guiding West Ham to the top half of the Premier League and the Europa League knockout stages, David Moyes has increasingly faced criticism for a series of uninspiring performances from his side. This was a victory to show the benefit of his pragmatism.
“We were up against it tonight,” he said. “We had to dig in. Thankfully we just about scraped it. The quality Tottenham showed in the first half, I don’t know if we touched the ball for eight or nine minutes.
“We gained a bit of confidence once we got some passes. We wanted to get after them a bit more but by the same breath we were cautious about them picking us off.
“We are a team who can give some of the good teams a bloody nose. We have that in us.”