Football Features

Toothless Tottenham fall to back-to-back defeats as Wolves strengthen Fortress Molineux

By Harry Edwards

Published: 15:07, 11 November 2023

Tottenham Hotspur were left ruing a toothless attack as they were beaten 2-1 by Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League.

Ange Postecoglou’s side went into the game off the back of their first league defeat of the season, hurting due to the circumstances of the loss to Chelsea. As well as losing Cristian Romero and Destiny Udogie through suspension after their red cards, Spurs were also without James Maddison and Micky van de Ven due to injury.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Eric Dier, Ben Davies and Emerson Royal came into the team, but it was three starters from Monday’s game that combined early on to give Tottenham the lead.

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Dejan Kulusevski had the ball in the box but couldn’t advance, face-to-face with the defender. Pedro Porro’s run into the box wasn’t tracked properly, which meant Kulusevski’s clever flicked pass found him in space. Porro’s ball across the face of goal was dangerous and there was Brennan Johnson to tap in his first Tottenham goal, getting ahead of the defender.

Scoring after just two minutes and 14 seconds, it was Tottenham’s earliest goal in the Premier League this season, and looked set to be enough to seal the three points. Looking to absorb Wolves’ pressure, Tottenham allowed their hosts to attack with the intent of catching them on the counter, but it just didn’t work.

After Johnson’s opener, Tottenham had to wait 85 minutes for their second and final shot on target, with just six attempts overall and an xG of 0.68. Son, on so many occasions the man for Tottenham this season, continued his poor run of form against Wolves, now goalless in 12 appearances with 20 shots — just one of Saturday. The South Korean in particular was on the periphery, having 36 touches, fewer than any of the Tottenham starters.

But it wasn’t just Son struggling. Kulusevski had 45 touches in 90 minutes, only five more than Johnson who came off with 15 left to play, and wasn’t really involved after his role in the opening goal. Johnson was the only Tottenham player to have more than one shot, though his second did not trouble Jose Sa at all as he took a first-time effort on the counter.

In contrast, Wolves had 17 attempts, continuously peppering the Tottenham defence, though for a long to it looked as though their wastefulness in front of goal would cost them again. But they kept knocking on the door and the goals eventually came.

It was testament to the changes that Gary O’Neil made to get at the Tottenham back line, with Pablo Sarabia scoring the equaliser. The Spaniard had only been on the pitch four minutes before he raced onto Matheus Cunha’s beautiful pass, taking the ball down expertly before finishing on the half volley.

Wolves have scored six goals via substitutes in the Premier League this season, with only Brighton and Arsenal (both seven) having more. It was also the first goal scored by a Wolves player this season that wasn’t scored or assisted by one of Pedro Neto or Hwang Hee-chan.

But Wolves, and Sarabia, weren’t done there. In the seventh minute of injury time, the Spaniard played in a great pass of his own into the box for Mario Lemina to net the winner, the latter a starter on his last legs. And we shouldn’t really be surprised.

In 2023, Wolves have won five of their six home league games against the so-called Big Six sides. They have beaten Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham twice, while only losing to Jurgen Klopp’s side.

For Tottenham, it’s the first time they have lost consecutive Premier League games after scoring the first goal since November 2012, when they lost leads to Arsenal and Man City. And while Postecoglou admitted his side could have been less conservative after scoring, he wasn’t looking to blame the absence of Maddison in their attack.

“It is always a tough game here,” he told TNT Sports.

“Wolves are always going to come on strong and we ran out of legs at the end. It is understandable, a lot of those guys haven’t played. They scored a couple of good goals, a hard one for us take. It is what it is.

“Wolves like it here at home, they’re tough to beat and they came at us. We could have been more positive first half, I thought we had some good opportunities to create some good chances. Scoring early, we sort of played a little bit conservatively. Second half we a couple of decent opportunities we could have taken.”

“The game is the same, 11 vs 11. We’ve got to keep playing our football and the chances will come from that.”