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By Ben Pearce, Tottenham correspondent, at St Mary’s Stadium
Sunday, December 22, 2013
Premier League: Southampton 2 Tottenham 3
If Tim Sherwood’s brief is to deliver entertaining victories then he can reflect on a job well done today after Tottenham came from behind to beat Southampton in a five-goal thriller.
The interim head coach took charge of his second Spurs match – and his first away from home – following Wednesday’s Capital One Cup defeat against West Ham at White Hart Lane.
Having gone for a “gung-ho” 4-4-2 formation against the Irons, there was a strong argument for Sherwood adopting a more reserved approach against the Saints at St Mary’s Stadium – and a lot of fans would have taken a point against a side who recently held Manchester City to a 1-1 draw on the south coast.
However, Sherwood kept the shackles off, picking an extremely attacking line-up featuring two strikers - Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado - in addition to Christian Eriksen, Erik Lamela and Gylfi Sigurdsson while leaving the only available defensive midfielder, Etienne Capoue, on the bench.
The result was an exhilarating Premier League encounter – and the result was an impressive away win which will certainly help to lift the recent gloom around White Hart Lane.
Southampton took the lead in the 13th minute through Adam Lallana, but Spurs’ strikers then combined as Soldado set up Adebayor – and that was followed by a breathless spell featuring three goals inside 10 second-half minutes.
Danny Rose forced Jos Hooiveld into an own goal and Rickie Lambert equalised before Adebayor scored his second of the day – and his third in two games – to wrap up three points for Spurs, and give Sherwood a very welcome Christmas present.
The question is whether chairman Daniel Levy will give him the gift he really wants - a long-term contract to manage the team.
Spurs started brightly, with Adebayor holding the ball up effectively and getting involved in central and wide areas.
However, it was the Saints who produced the most meaningful efforts on goal in the opening exchanges, and Lloris was required to save a Lambert free-kick before the hosts took the lead as Lallana turned on the edge of the box and fired accurately into the bottom corner.
The Lilywhites had another scare as Lambert robbed Rose and found Lallana, who freed Jay Rodriguez, but he whipped the ball over the bar.
It proved to be a costly miss because Tottenham levelled soon afterwards. The impressive Adebayor seemed to have put too much pace on the ball when playing it wide to Soldado, but the Spaniard delivered an inch-perfect cross from the left and Adebayor finished from four yards.
The Togo forward was soon advancing again, slipping the ball to the overlapping Kyle Walker, whose low cross fell to Sigurdsson – and his shot was well blocked, saving an almost certain goal.
Sherwood was forced into an early substitution in the second period as Mousa Dembele limped off, and he overlooked Lewis Holtby and Capoue, introducing Nabil Bentaleb for his debut instead.
Just four minutes after his arrival, the 19-year-old was twice involved in the move that produced Spurs’ second goal, helping to keep possession as the visitors attacked down the left, and Eriksen ultimately freed Rose, whose low cross was deflected into the net by Saints defender Hooiveld.
Spurs’ lead did not last long though. Southampton were level within five minutes as Lallana ran in behind the defence and, when Lloris unnecessarily came out to the left to meet him, he squared for Lambert to finish into the empty net.
Yet Tottenham hit back again moments later, with Adebayor turning sharply in the box following a throw-in and slotting into the bottom left corner.
Spurs should have gone on to extend their lead, with Soldado missing three chances in quick succession.
The Spaniard shot wastefully wide when clean through on goal and then slid in to meet substitute Nacer Chadli’s cross, seeing the ball bounce agonisingly over the bar before getting in behind and firing into the side netting from a tight angle.
At the other end, Lallana got in behind again but Lloris came rushing out and bravely smothered the ball at his feet.
The Frenchman had to withstand more late pressure, punching a few balls in his box, but Tottenham held on to move up to seventh in the table.
Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Chiriches, Rose, Dembele (Bentaleb 50), Lamela (Chadli 61), Eriksen, Sigurdsson, Adebayor, Soldado (Defoe 85).
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs