Mercifully for Andre Villas-Boas’s team, though, it didn’t see them conceding in the closing minutes this time. And, mercifully for Michu, more importantly, the incident which sparked all the controversy didn’t lead to any serious injury other than a bit of “grogginess”, according to Michael Laudrup.
As Swansea City attempted to exploit Tottenham’s weakness in the last few minutes, Hugo Lloris was forced to come to the edge of his box and clear. Although he managed that, he also caught Michu on the head, leaving the forward prone on the ground. Inexplicably though, referee Mike Dean refused to blow the whistle, inciting a lot of anger at Andros Townsend’s subsequent surge forward. Villas-Boas even ended up on the pitch, as a furious Chico Flores remonstrated with a number of Tottenham players.
It was Laudrup though, who was most agitated. He later described the decision as “dangerous” and said he feared a repeat of Toni Schumacher’s collision with Patrick Battiston in the 1982 World Cup.
“I don’t want a red card, penalty or free-kick. I just want the game stopped in that moment and had it been the opponent I would have said exactly the same. When it happens, the referee is watching, the linesman is watching, and still they let the game go on. I think it was so poor a decision, and very dangerous as well.
“In the beginning, I think some of the Tottenham bench thought we wanted a red card or whatever. That’s not the issue here. The issue is to stop the game.
“I want to [speak to the referee]. It would be nice to hear his explanation, and the linesman as well because they are always connected and sometimes it’s the linesman who makes the decision. I want linesman and referees to be like players and managers: learn from their mistakes.”
Tottenham, at the least, seem to be learning from theirs. One-nil up from Jan Vertonghen’s 74th-minute strike, they were finding themselves under increasing pressure. But, had Townsend actually scored from the run which caused such ructions, then it would have been the home side’s first goal after the 80-minute point in any game this season. By contrast, they have conceded nine such strikes — the most in the Premier League. Villas-Boas even mentioned it in his programme notes and, after the game, explained what he was doing to remedy it.
“We address it by stimulating concentration in the last parts of training.
“It doesn’t mean that the problem is solved but the players are conscious that we have conceded in the past and we want to get it right.”
That Tottenham eventually did so though, probably ensured the right result. Although Spurs weren’t exactly sparkling without Gareth Bale, they did provide a composed, accomplished display that generally smothered Swansea’s passing game.
Even more impressively, after missing a handful of good chances in open play, Spurs exploited one of Swansea’s own weaknesses: deadball situations. Kyle Walker curled in a free, Ben Davies tried to head it clear, but that only allowed the excellent Vertonghen to steer it home
“We knew Swansea were in the teams who concede more from set-plays so we had the chance to break the lock,” Villas-Boas said.
“Swansea were defensively very, very good. It was difficult to break them down but, still, we had so many chances that it would have been extremely unfair to come out only with a point from this game.”
Similarly, a calmer Laudrup couldn’t complain about the outcome. His anger was saved for the officials.
TOTTENHAM: Lloris; Walker, Gallas, Vertonghen, Naughton; Lennon, Dembele (Parker 90), Sandro, Dempsey (Sigurdsson); Adebayor (Townsend 72), Defoe.
SWANSEA CITY: Tremmel; Tiendalli, Williams, Chico, Davies; Britton, Ki (Moore 75); Dyer (Graham 86), De Guzman (Augustien 60), Routledge.
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral).