Tottenham prepared themselves for the Carabao Cup final with a 2-1 win over Southampton in Ryan Mason’s first game as caretaker manager.
The Saints took the lead in the first half when Danny Ings headed in from a corner, but Spurs fought back in the second half in a much improved performance. Gareth Bale scored a wonderful curling effort from a tight angle to equalise, before Heung-Min Son scored a late penalty to seal all three points.
The win moved the north London side to within just two points of the top four, having played a game more and with five games remaining in their season.
It was a mixed performance from Tottenham, who for the first time this season failed to register a single shot on target in the first half.
Their passing was sloppy and Southampton threatened them several times, with Hugo Lloris making a huge double save early on in the game. It was clear they missed their star man Harry Kane on the pitch but Mason made some slight positional changes at half-time too help get his side higher up the pitch and it worked a treat.
Having started with Giovani Lo Celso in the 10 and with Tanguy Ndombele in the double pivot alongside Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, he opted to move Ndombele higher to essentially have two options between the lines and Lucas Moura dropped deeper to almost create a diamond. Bale and Son made their inverted runs like centre-forwards and Southampton couldn’t cope with the way Spurs were able to move the ball around.
It was the first time that Spurs have come from behind to win a game they were losing at half-time this season and there seemed to be a togetherness at the end of the game between the players that we haven’t seen in a while.
While Kane is described as 50/50 as being available for Sunday’s cup final, the likelihood that he sits out is low. With that said it means Lucas Moura is likely to be the man to step out of the lineup, while Moussa Sissoko or Dele Alli could come in for Lo Celso too to beef the midfield up a bit.
With just a handful of games left plus the cup final, Mason is unlikely to be able to earn himself the role of manager on a permanent basis. But he has kept his side in with a chance of the top four should teams around them continue to drop points randomly, while also affording himself the chance to win the club a trophy for the first time in 13 years.
Tactically he seems astute with the changes he made in this game and Bale was quick to comment on the “great team talk” at half-time that he gave them to prep them up and improve them.
Obviously it’s just one game and I don’t think he ripped up any trees to beat a team who have now lost 12 of their last 15 games in the Premier League, but it’s a start to get them back to winning ways after just two wins in nine prior to the game.
The cup final now is a huge moment for the club, but a pressureless moment largely because of the decision made by Daniel Levy to sack Jose Mourinho prior to it. Nobody now expects Spurs to even challenge Manchester City on the pitch, but if they show up and perform well they have every chance of causing the upset.