x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Remy’s early strike lifts Newcastle over Tottenham

Loic Remy scored in the 13th minute and Newcastle took three points away from a trip to White Hart Lane on Sunday.

Loic Remy has seven goals in nine matches for Newcastle this season. Eddie Keogh / Reuters
Loic Remy has seven goals in nine matches for Newcastle this season. Eddie Keogh / Reuters

LONDON // In its own way this was a result as freakish as Tottenham Hotspur’s defeat to West Ham United last month, and yet the home side’s failings were familiar enough that a second home defeat in three matches cannot simply be written off as one of those days.

The immediate cause of the defeat was a failure to protect the space behind the back four and an inspired display by the Newcastle United goalkeeper Tim Krul, whose performance was of such quality he was even hugged by Tottenham’s goalkeeping coach Tony Parkes at the final whistle. But more fundamental was a continuing lack of incisiveness in the final third that meant a game in which Tottenham had enough possession to have won comfortably became a trial.

Ultimately this was a match decided by the goalkeepers. Hugo Lloris had played on against Everton after suffering concussion, but he was omitted from the match-day squad against Newcastle on medical advice.

His value to Spurs was immediately apparent, not just for his shot-stopping ability but for the way he sweeps up behind the high-line that Andre Villas-Boas, the Tottenham manager, likes his side to play. Three times in the opening 12 minutes Spurs were caught out by simple balls through or over their defence, with Brad Friedel, Lloris’s replacement, slower off his line than the Frenchman would have been. On the third occasion, after Yoan Gouffran had dispossessed Paulinho, Loic Remy darted round Friedel and rolled in his seventh Premier League goal of the season.

Thereafter it was all about Krul. He dived to his right to claw away a flicked Roberto Soldado header, threw himself to his left to push away a Paulinho snapshot, reacted brilliantly to twist and paw out a deflected Gylfi Sigurdsson free kick, kept out a Christian Erikson shot with his feet and then, with eight minutes to go, deserved his good fortune as a close-range Paulinho shot struck his body and bounced to safety. Jan Vertonghen hit the bar six minutes from time and, on another day, Tottenham might have won comfortably: 31 shots at goal to eight tells its own story.

“It was difficult to take,” said Villas-Boas. “Obviously we have to look at ourselves and recognise our first half was poor. The positive is we reacted so strongly and think the result is unfair, bearing in mind what we created. Tim Krul was the key to the game. I think we were extremely unlucky today.”

But the Spurs manager has rolled out that excuse too often this season. No team has had so many shots in the Premier League this term yet no team in the top half has scored so few goals. Particularly against massed defences — as Newcastle’s became in the second half — there is a lack of penetration, a missing spark that might create simply chances.

Andros Townsend has had 45 shots in the league this season and scored just one goal; too often he simply swings a boot from improbable distances. In part that is perhaps a result of his own impatience, but it also speaks of a lack of movement off him.