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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Another late winner shows Spurs have captured the essence of Angeball

“Now, sometimes that feels counter-intuitive when you’re winning 1-0, but I think it helps you in games like this, when you’re chasing the game, because you don’t have to change anything. There’s no instructions from me, the players know what we do anyway, so it doesn’t mean a major shift.

“If you’re trying to become a team that’s dominant and wins games of football, I just felt I’d rather err on that side, rather than trying to protect things that you have.”

It’s dying on your feet, rather than living on your knees – until one day, you’ve suddenly got the hang of it and you’ve figured out how to keep standing up no matter what life or football throws at you.

Micky van de Ven of Spurs clashes in the air with Jason Steele of Brighton.

Micky van de Ven of Spurs clashes in the air with Jason Steele of Brighton.Credit: Getty

That day is surely coming soon for Tottenham, now that the cavalry is returning. The injury list is clearing and everyone is back from the Asian Cup and African Cup of Nations, which means Postecoglou’s squad is in the healthiest place it has been since the first few weeks of the season. And the opportunity to build consistency is finally here.

Days after putting Graham Arnold’s Socceroos to the sword in Doha, Son Heung-min came off the bench to supply a brilliant assist for Johnson’s 96th-minute strike at the back post.

“It maybe looks simple but that ball that Sonny plays, that’s a world-class player in a clutch moment, finds the right pass. You can’t do that if you can’t bring him on, if it’s somebody else,” Postecoglou said.

Roberto De Zerbi’s Brighton trounced Spurs 4-2 in the reverse fixture and looked in the mood to complete the set. Danny Welbeck forced a terrific save out of Spurs goalkeeper Gugilermo Vicario in the first minute, and they were the ascendant side in the first half, taking the lead through Pascal Gross’ penalty in the 17th minute after Welbeck was fouled in the box.

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Postecoglou accused his players of taking “liberties” with their style, effort and workrate, and presumably let them know in brutal terms during the interval, because they were much better after that.

Pape Sarr, who started in his first match since representing Senegal at AFCON, added some much-needed impetus in midfield and crafted the equaliser in the 61st minute. He tried to square the ball for a teammate but his cutback was blocked and then bounced off the post, so he took the rebound and squeezed it in from a tight angle.

Postecoglou immediately sent on Son, Johnson and Yves Bissouma, also back from AFCON, and the changes helped them win it.

Next up is Wolverhampton Wanderers at home, and there is a score to settle: last time they met, right in the thick of their mid-season wobble, Spurs let in two goals in stoppage time to fall 2-1. The rematch probably won’t be boring.

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