Tottenham turn in lifeless performance at West Ham as title beckons
Tottenham arrived for their final game at Upton Park with an enticing chance to go top of the Premier League, but they left with their tails between their legs after a hugely disappointing 1-0 derby defeat.
Much of Spurs' success this season has been based on a high-energy pressing game but they were hassled, harried and outfought against a powerful West Ham side who looked determined to win their last duel against their London rivals at the Boleyn Ground.
Mauricio Pochettino's side fell behind after just seven minutes as Michail Antonio headed home from a corner and, while Spurs have earned 17 points from losing positions this season, there was no comeback this time.
Instead, the visiting supporters witnessed their side's worst display of the season. The bumpy surface was clearly a factor but, nevertheless, Tottenham managed only two shots on target, and one of those was a 30-yard attempt from a centre-back.
The fact that Arsenal and Manchester City were also defeated softened the blow and exacerbated the sense of a missed opportunity, but Spurs and their rivals all squandered the chance to take a big stride forward in the title race.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Hugo Lloris, 5 -- Made a typically fine diving save from Mark Noble in the first half but was nearly caught on the ball in front of his goal on two occasions, and his distribution was poor.
DF Kieran Trippier, 5 -- Was hassled into mistakes, lost confidence and looked vulnerable. On one occasion, he lost the ball before clumsily missing the chance to retrieve it, ending in two blocked shots from the hosts in quick succession.
DF Toby Alderweireld, 5 -- Usually a paragon of power and poise, the Belgian was rattled this time and struggled to win his duels both in the air and on the ground, getting a yellow card for bringing down Dimitri Payet in the first half. But Alderweireld had Spurs' best shot on goal with a 30-yard strike, which speaks volumes in itself.
DF Kevin Wimmer, 5 -- Uncomfortable throughout and received a booking for tugging back Emmanuel Emenike after a routine ball over the top. The Austrian was also guilty of being too direct a few times, although he was certainly not alone in that respect.
DF Ben Davies, 5 -- Another Spurs defender to receive a yellow card in a below-par performance, which was summed up in the closing stages. An underhit pass down the line was intercepted and he then mistimed a header, sending it up in the air without much pressure.
MF Eric Dier, 5 -- Usually excels at doing the simple things very well but was chasing shadows for much of the game and lacked poise on the ball, particularly when he volleyed it straight up in the sky on the edge of his own penalty box in the second half.
MF Ryan Mason, 5 -- Impressed in his previous start against Fiorentina but looked off the pace here and struggled to make an impact, with and without the ball. Spurs must hope Mousa Dembele is fit for Saturday's showdown with Arsenal.
MF Erik Lamela, 6 -- Looked up for the fight at least, getting a bloodied head after an aerial challenge from Aaron Cresswell. There were a few bright moments on the ball: a neat flick to tee up a shot for Mason, a cross that was nicked away from Adrian and a diving header that was off target. But it says much about Spurs' performance that such incidents provided cause for cheer and, like many of his teammates, the Argentine was largely crowded out on a frustrating night.
MF Christian Eriksen, 6 -- The Dane wasn't immune to the loose passing that afflicted so many of his teammates, but at least he created a few opportunities. Delivered a dangerous early cross, breaking into the box and shooting at Adrian in the second half before whipping the ball across the box to Harry Kane, who was unable to get his foot round the ball beyond the far post.
MF Nacer Chadli, 4 -- Culpable for the goal on two counts. First, conceding the corner with an over-hit back pass and then compounding the error by being outmuscled by Antonio and allowing the Hammers man to head home at the near post. The Belgian also made a hash of a rare opening by overhitting his through ball to Kane. It was no surprise when Chadli was subbed on the hour mark.
FW Harry Kane, 5 -- Got precious little service, but when the chances came his way, he failed to capitalise: first from the rebound when Adrian saved Alderweireld's long-range shot and then when Eriksen sent in a low cross.
MF Dele Alli, 5 -- Initially gave Spurs a lift after replacing Chadli but then emulated his colleagues by making poor decisions and lacking quality.
MF Heung-Min Son, 6 -- Came on for Lamela in the 70th minute and injected some energy, but his main contribution was inside his own box as he stopped Payet from going through on goal in the closing stages.
MF Tom Carroll, NR -- Replaced centre-back Wimmer for the final 13 minutes. Usually a tidy passer, the 23-year-old swung the ball over Son's head for a throw-in and was unable to improve Spurs' fortunes.
Ben covers Spurs for Ham & High, the local weekly newspaper for Hampstead and Highgate, and the Hackney Gazette. Twitter: @BenPearceSpurs.