West Ham were a matter of seconds from a third successive victory at White Hart Lane on Sunday, but Harry Kane’s 96th minute leveller snatched the three points from their grasp.
The Hammers were a class above their lethargic-looking London rivals for 70 minutes of the match, with brilliant goals from the Senegalese duo Cheikhou Kouyate and Diafra Sakho reflecting their superiority.
However, West Ham are prone to letting leads slip and against a Spurs side that have now earned 16 points from losing positions the outcome was inevitable. Danny Rose’s miss-hit shot from the edge of the area fooled Adrian to give the hosts some hope on 81 minutes, before Kane was clumsily brought down for a penalty by Alex Song in the final few seconds of added time.
Kane’s spot-kick was saved but in fortuitous fashion the ball fell kindly back to the Spurs striker to tap home and devastate the Hammers.
Here we take a look at what we learned from the match.
1. WEST HAM’S STRONGEST SIDE
With key players such as Winston Reid and Mark Noble returning to the starting line-up, and Kouyate pushed back up into his preferred midfield position, the Irons looked back to their pulsating best following the dismal display at West Bromwich Albion last week.
The diamond system and the personnel selected was spot-on from Sam Allardyce, the whole team clicked and there was a much better balance to the side. The full-backs were allowed more attacking freedom which saw Aaron Cresswell register another assist, the midfield were dominant and the striking duo of Sakho and Enner Valencia ran them ragged.
This is by far the strongest Hammers line-up.
2. MIDFIELD TRIO OOZE CLASS
Mark Noble, Song and Kouyate are a formidable force in the centre of the park and they outperformed Spurs’ midfielders in every aspect. The energy, athleticism and tenacity they bring to the side is invaluable and they seem to bring out the best in each other as a trio.
Noble had one of his best games of the season as he tried to make amends for his missed penalty in the reverse fixture, setting up Sakho for his goal, creating four chances and winning possession 11 times. He was everywhere.
Kouyate once again demonstrated he’s a big-game player by popping up with another important strike to go with his commanding performance. He now has goals against Arsenal, Manchester United and Spurs.
Song didn’t have his best game in a West Ham shirt, giving away the penalty and playing a few sloppy passes, but he provided a great shield to the defence and kept the team ticking over.
3. SAKHO’S BACK IN BUSINESS
The Irons striker hadn’t scored in the Premier League since New Year’s Day but his goal on Sunday was his ninth in 17 appearances. It was a phenomenal strike, too, volleying into the side netting from a seemingly impossible angle.
Allardyce will be overjoyed to see his top scorer back amongst the goals but Sakho could well have put the game beyond doubt had he squared the ball to Valencia for a tap-in earlier on in the match. The 25-year-old elected to go for goal himself, and he had every right to, but it was saved by Hugo Lloris at the near post.
4. REID’S PRESENCE MAKES HUGE DIFFERENCE
The return of Reid to the side was hugely important as he and James Tomkins consistently sniffed out any danger, particularly in the first-half. Kane latched onto a ball through on goal and looked certain to score until Reid just did enough to put him off as he struck it, eventually seeing the ball come back off the post.
Tottenham are reportedly admirers of the New Zealand international and his excellent performance against them was perhaps a great audition for the centre-half.
5. HAMMERS MUST STOP SITTING ON LEADS
If West Ham are leading with less than 25 minutes to go they have a tendency to sit back and invite pressure which they have once again been punished for. Against Liverpool, Manchester City and West Brom they have gotten away with it but the same strategy versus Everton, Manchester United and now Spurs has seen them concede late, important goals.
It’s a risky tactic and one which needs to be avoided if they are to get back to winning ways; they are without a victory in their last four league matches now (three draws, one defeat) and something needs to change ahead of Crystal Palace’s visit.