EPL

Tottenham back into top four after second-half comeback sees off Brentford

By Sports Desk January 31, 2024

Tottenham moved back into the Champions League places after three goals in eight second-half minutes fired them to a chaotic 3-2 win at home to Brentford.

Spurs were sluggish in the first half and trailed to Neal Maupay’s 15th-minute opener but Ange Postecoglou’s half-time team talk seemingly did the trick.

Destiny Udogie and substitute Brennan Johnson scored within 72 seconds of each other at the start of the second period before Richarlison grabbed his seventh goal in his last seven Premier League games.

There was still time for Ivan Toney to score again on his second appearance since his return from a betting ban but Tottenham held on to leapfrog Aston Villa and reclaim fourth spot.

Spurs were eager to bounce back after exiting the FA Cup last Friday and James Maddison was handed a start but Brentford also had their returning hero involved with Toney leading the line again.

While all eyes were on Toney, it was the Bees’ other forward who broke the deadlock.

Udogie gave away possession to Christian Norgaard who sent Toney clear and while goalkeeper uglielmo Vicario thwarted the England international, Maupay was on hand to bundle in to score for a fourth consecutive match.

Maupay and Toney celebrated by mimicking Maddison’s dart throw celebration but it was a deserved opener after Mads Roerslev had a goal ruled out for offside minutes earlier.

Postecoglou’s side initially reacted well to going behind with Timo Werner testing Mark Flekken after a fine Rodrigo Bentancur run before Werner headed wide from a Pedro Porro corner.

Richarlison then flashed an effort past the post from range but Spurs started to get sucked into Brentford’s gameplan that has earned them multiple wins at Chelsea and success at Man City during the past two seasons.

Frustration began to boil over at the away side’s pedestrian pace at set-pieces and the Bees nearly doubled their advantage when Ethan Pinnock backheeled wide after another dangerous ball into Tottenham’s penalty area.

Dejan Kulusevski and Maupay were booked by David Coote for a shoving match soon after before Vicario punched away a Toney header to ensure it was 1-0 at the break.

Postecoglou made a double change at half-time with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Johnson introduced.

Werner and Udogie lacked cutting edge in the first half but combined to equalise three minutes into the second half.

Udogie carried the ball forward, played a quick one-two with Werner and, after his first effort had been blocked by Pinnock, he was on hand to slot home to make it 1-1.

The Brentford players had barely got back into position when Tottenham grabbed another.

Kulusevski sent Werner away and the RB Leipzig loanee showed a clinical edge with a fine ball to the back post where substitute Johnson tapped in.

Johnson celebrated by copying Maddison’s darts celebration and Richarlison followed suit in the 56th minute.

Tottenham were at their free-flowing best now with Udogie finding Maddison, who cut back and had a shot blocked by Pinnock but Richarlison was on hand to steer home.

Brentford remained a threat and after Toney had sent two efforts wide, he made it third time lucky in front of England manager Gareth Southgate with 67 minutes played.

It was another gift from Udogie, who failed to look up and sent his pass back straight to Toney and he rifled into the corner to set up a grandstand finish.

Maddison’s night ended early with what appeared to be cramp before the Bees created one final chance but Vicario tipped over Josh Dasilva’s close-range volley to earn Spurs a precious three points.

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    Episode three of the four-part series focuses on a match which proved the nadir of a sorry season for Tottenham and subsequently resulted in the appointment of Postecoglou in June.

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    “Nah, unless you want a cure for insomnia, mate. Put it on late at night and dream yourself away,” Postecoglou replied when asked if he would feature in a behind-the-lens documentary.

    “I’ve probably watched… I watched Sunderland ‘Til I Die, it was good.

    “(Not Tottenham) because I just think it becomes a bit manufactured. I’d be very surprised if you get a real sort of glance.

    “Look, who am I to say? I’m no movie critic. Maybe people like them, but not for me. I love documentaries, but nah.”

    The Newcastle documentary is not the only footage Postecoglou has no interest in viewing.

    He has also declined to watch back Tottenham’s five-goal humbling away to Eddie Howe’s team last season, which resulted in Spurs dismissing Cristian Stellini after he had stepped up on an interim basis to replace Antonio Conte, who left a month earlier.

    Postecoglou added: “I might have watched individual players in that game but I wouldn’t have watched the game as a reference point because it’s totally different.

    “It’s a different set of circumstances, different manager. I’m really reticent to judge and try to figure out what someone else thinks because I’m not in their shoes on a daily basis.

    “I have never used those kind of things and also, irrespective of what has happened in the past, I have more than likely been brought in to do something differently.

    “I watched all the players individually through the whole season to do my research on the players I was inheriting, but there wasn’t a lot for me to be gained from watching matches and trying to get some reference points as to how that’s going to affect what I am going to do.”

    Spurs travel to Newcastle in pole position to claim Champions League football after they leapfrogged Aston Villa last weekend to take control of the battle for fourth.

    Postecoglou has often cited the Magpies as an example of why qualifying for Europe’s elite competition is not a guarantee of long-term success, but was happy to talk up the potential of the Tottenham squad on Friday.

    “That’s the exciting thing for me with this group – we’ve got a real core and there’s still so much growth in them,” he explained.

    “Invariably, it’s their first season in the Premier League or they’re young in age and they’ve adapted so well at a big club where there are expectations.

    “It’s not like they’re going to fly under the radar by doing two or three years before moving to a big club. They’re under the spotlight straightaway.

    “I have been pleased with that, with the way the guys have accepted the challenge of playing for the club and challenging them to play in a certain way – and it’s going to expose them in many respects – but they’ve not shied away from that.”

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    “We know what we have to do,” Guardiola said. “We’ve done it. The people say, ‘you’ve done it, so you’re going to win’. No, it’s not about that. But we have done it and know exactly what we have to do.

    “The players will be ready. There is no doubt about that. We know what we are playing for.”

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    “I’m pretty sure Rodri will be ready. I know him. After the game he was tired because it was tough, the game against Real Madrid. He came from Crystal Palace and it was really tough as well.

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