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Transfer Rater: Eriksen to Real Madrid

Football Whispers

Transfer Rater: Milinkovic-Savic to Tottenham

Football Whispers
 By Dan Fitch

Spurs avenge previous West Ham struggles

As games between West Ham and Spurs go, this match wasn't particularly ill-tempered, yet it was two sendings-off that shaped the narrative. The first player to be dismissed was Tottenham's Kyle Naughton. Spurs were already heavily under pressure when Naughton hand-balled in the area.

It was an instinctive reaction to a shot that in all probability would have flown over the bar. The decision to send Naughton off seemed harsh at the time, though on reflection his hands were very high and not merely protecting his face.

As West Ham's generally reliable penalty taker Mark Noble stepped up to the spot, you couldn't help feeling that this was destined to be a typically calamitous start to the season from Spurs, but for once, luck was to be on their side. Noble's poor penalty drifted wide of the post and Tottenham remained level.

A better side than West Ham would have recovered from this setback to take advantage of their numerical advantage. They were already the stronger team, taking advantage of Spurs' lack of width to get at the full-backs. Danny Rose in particular was given a testing time from Stewart Downing, who posed problems throughout the match.

At the end of last season, West Ham manager Sam Allardyce was given a remit to improve West Ham's style of play. On this evidence, their methods haven't changed a bit. Carlton Cole and Ricardo Vaz Te might have made a promising attacking partnership in 2006, but the Hammers can't hope to cause many teams problems with them these days. They lacked invention, and Tottenham's back four weren't put under nearly enough pressure.

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With Naughton off, Eric Dier slotted in impressively at right-back, where he looked entirely at ease. Etienne Capoue also adapted well to his shift to central defence, but his physical presence was missed in midfield, as West Ham bossed the game.

The 10 men of Spurs had their moments against West Ham's 11, but it wasn't until the sides were made even that they really looked likely to win the game. With just over an hour gone, Emmanuel Adebayor dribbled towards goal, only to be recklessly brought down by James Collins. The Hammers defender had already been shown a yellow card and his sending-off was inevitable.

Shortly before the incident, Lewis Holtby and Andros Townsend had been brought on for Erik Lamela and Aaron Lennon. Townsend in particular was vital to Tottenham's revival -- full of energy and immediately peppering the opposition goal with accurate long-range shots.

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino made all the right moves with his second-half substitutions in Saturday's opening-day win at West Ham.
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino made all the right moves with his second-half substitutions in Saturday's opening-day win at West Ham.

The game began to swing from end to end. Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris once again saved Spurs, as he quickly rushed out to block a shot after a penetrating run from the impressive Downing. At this stage it was anyone's to win.

Ultimately it was another substitute and an unlikely hero who would clinch the game for Tottenham. With the match in injury time and looking destined for a goalless draw, Harry Kane played an incisive ball behind the West Ham defence that makeshift right-back Dier latched on to. He took one touch with his right foot to knock the ball past West Ham keeper Adrian, before slotting it into an empty net with his left.

It was as calm a finish as you'll ever see, yet it was one that sent the travelling Tottenham fans into frenzied celebrations. Spurs had once more beaten West Ham at Upton Park with a last-minute goal, as Dier followed Gareth Bale and Paul Stalteri into recent legend.

Having lost three times to West Ham last season, the manner of this victory made revenge all the sweeter. It will not disguise the fact that there is plenty of hard work ahead for manager Mauricio Pochettino and his players, but now is the time for unadulterated celebration, not reflection.

The summer has been rich with football, but nothing the World Cup can throw up can quite feel like this. Tottenham are back, and if this game is any indication, it's going to be another roller-coaster season.

Admit it. You wouldn't have things any other way.

Dan Fitch is the founder of TottenhamBlog and writes about Spurs for ESPN FC and football for Bleacher Report. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DJFitch.


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