Antonio spoils Pochettino’s party

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Spurs were stung by a seventh-minute header by Hammers winger Michail Antonio, but despite several goal-scoring chances in a much-improved second-half display, they couldn’t get past Adrian in the West Ham goal in a fiercely competitive London derby.

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino celebrated his 44th birthday on Wednesday, but the Argentine didn’t get the present that he wanted from his players. A Spurs victory would’ve seen them level on points with Leicester, but leading the standings due to a better goal difference.

But they were shook up by Antonio early on, as the 25-year-old Englishman drifted expertly away from Spurs’ Nacer Chadli and rammed home a powerful header at the near post off a superb swinging corner by Dimitri Payet, which had Tottenham captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris diving to his left, but the Frenchman was too late to keep it out.

The result meant that Leicester City maintain their three-point lead at the top of the standings, while the defeats suffered by Arsenal and Manchester City on Wednesday also favoured the Premier League leaders.

The Antonio goal seemed to inspire the Hammers to greater heights, as skipper Mark Noble’s pile-driver from 25 yards was well-saved by Lloris in the 16th minute.

It didn’t stop there for Slaven Bilic’s side, as the impressive French midfielder Payet directed a long-range free kick towards goal, but it didn’t have enough power to trouble Lloris this time.

Then the home side, urged on by an expectant crowd on a rainy night at the East End of London, went into overdrive as they laid siege to the Spurs penalty area, with Noble and Antonio firing in shots, the second of which was deflected for a corner, while defender James Collins headed wide from another Payet corner.

The 28-year-old Payet was in full flight, showing off his audacious skill by looking in one direction and passing in another, while he had another shot that was turned away for a corner before halftime.

But Spurs showed their pedigree that had seen them maintain an unbeaten away record this season with a much better performance after the break.

Argentine Erik Lamela’s header went just wide, Toby Alderweireld rifled a shot through the defence that forced Adrian into a top save low to his right, and Christian Eriksen tested the West Ham goalkeeper once more after the hour mark.

Spurs’ best chance of the night was probably the one that came the way of striker Harry Kane, with the influential Eriksen again got in a square ball from the right, which was missed by West Ham defender Cheikhou Kouyate.

Kane anticipated that Kouyate would reach the ball, which saw him just stop his run for a vital second, but when Kouyate missed it, Kane’s outstretched left leg was too late to bury the ball into the net.

Not even the introduction of exciting English striker Dele Alli changed the course of Spurs’ night, and despite a late scramble for the equaliser in the last few minutes – as Eriksen’s inviting corner wasn’t tucked away, and Eric Dier’s floater into the West Ham box flew too far and into the hands of a grateful Adrian – Bilic lapped up the screams of jubilation at the final whistle.

But Spurs would’ve been pleased to find out that North London rivals Arsenal suffered a shock 2-1 home defeat to Swansea at Emirates Stadium, which means that the Gunners stay in third place on 51 points.

In another upset, fourth-placed Manchester City were walloped 3-0 by Liverpool at Anfield, with goals from Adam Lallana, James Milner and Robert Firmino, which sees the Reds move up three positions to eighth.

But they are a point behind Stoke, who scored a late winner from Xherdan Shaqiri to condemn struggling Newcastle United to a 1-0 loss to keep the Magpies rooted to second-from-bottom.

And the pressure on Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal eased further as the Red Devils were rescued by captain-on-the-night Juan Mata to get past Watford 1-0 at Old Trafford for their fourth successive victory.

Mata curled in a dazzling free kick with his left boot that beat Heurelho Gomes in the Watford goal, and ensured United stayed within touching distance of a Champions League spot. They are level on points with neighbours City, but are fifth on goal difference.

ashfak.mohamed@inl.co.za

@IndyCapeSport

Wednesday’s Results

West Ham 1 (Michail Antonio 7’) Tottenham 0, Arsenal 1 (Joel Campbell 15’) Swansea 2 (Wayne Routledge 33’, Ashley Williams 72’), Stoke 1 (Xherdan Shaqiri 81’) Newcastle 0, Manchester United 1 (Juan Mata 83’) Watford 0, Liverpool 3 (Adam Lallana 34’, James Milner 41’, Roberto Firmino 57’) Manchester City 0.

Premier League Top 8

1 Leicester City – Played 28, Points: 57

2 Tottenham Hotspur – Played 28, Pts: 54

3 Arsenal – Played 28, Pts 51

4 Manchester City – Played 27, Pts: 47

5 Manchester United – Played 28, Pts: 47

6 West Ham United – Played 28, Pts: 46

7 Stoke City – Played 28, Pts: 42

8 Liverpool – Played 27 Pts: 41

Original source: Antonio spoils Pochettino’s party

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