HAPPY DAYS: Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino
A LATE goal from the debutant Eric Dier ensured Mauricio Pochettino’s tenure at Tottenham got off to a winning start at Upton Park today (August 16).
The central defender Dier, who had been shifted to the right following the first-half dismissal of Kyle Naughton, broke through in the manner of a striker in second half stoppage time and took the ball beyond the advancing Adrian to roll home the winner.
Just three minutes earlier Hugo Lloris superbly denied Stewart Downing a goal following a drive into the Tottenham penalty area. Such are the margins.
For all their second half exertions the visitors started slowly and had lost Naughton within half an hour. There was little evidence of Mauricio Pochettino’s lauded pressing game as Christian Eriksen, Erik Lamela and Emmanuel Adebayor failed to test Adrian in West Ham’s goal.
The ineffective Lamela departed after an hour but there were renewed efforts from Eriksen and Adebayor, who were supplemented by the efforts of substitutes Andros Townsend and Lewis Holtby.
From a manager in Pochettino, who has been instructed to impose his style on Tottenham, to Upton Park, where the opposite is expected of Sam Allardyce.
West Ham co-owner David Sullivan may have voiced his desire for a more expansive approach from his manage but there was little of that evident as the east Londoners edged the first half in a solid but unspectacular fashion.
Allardyce gave debuts to Aaron Cresswell, who impressed at left-back, and Cheikou Kouyate, who added bite to West Ham’s midfield, but the familiar story of a struggling Carlton Cole and the frantic efforts as the match wore on indicated that little had changed.
Summer signing Enner Valencia was a late substitute here and his full match fitness cannot come soon enough for a side that still look short of creativity despite their general defensive resilience.
West Ham cannot rely on their defence to bail them out when they are unable to register goals. The east Londoners were given a wonderful opportunity to take the lead on 28 minutes when referee Chris Foy awarded them a penalty and sent off Naughton. As the right-back attempted to cut out Kevin Nolan’s close-range shot his arms were dangerously extended.
Mark Noble waited for Hugo Lloris to dive to his left before slotting the penalty to his right but only succeeded in dragging his effort wide. The midfielder had scored his last 10 Premier League penalties and his miss was unexpected.
Pochettino’s side actually improved as they were reduced to 10 men and enjoyed superiority after the interval without breaking the deadlock.
Danny Rose became more prominent in attack and when Andros Townsend and Lewis Holtby replaced the ineffective Lamela and Aaron Lennon respectively as the visitors looked the more likely victors.
It was pressure from Spurs that led to Foy reaching for his red card a second time. James Collins had already been booked on 55 minutes and he needlessly clattered into the advancing Adebayor eight minutes later.
A draw seemed likely until Dier’s surprise winner.