Son calms Wembley nerves, while Erik Lamela looked sharp in Spurs return
A goal late in each half gave Spurs the 2-0 victory Wednesday over Brighton & Hove Albion that takes them back up to fourth place in the Premier League. Tottenham started brightly but soon got bogged down against a Brighton side that had come to Wembley to defend. The deadlock was only broken in the 40th minute when an attempted cross from Serge Aurier surprised the keeper and landed in the far corner. The second half followed a similar pattern, and the home fans began to get jittery that Brighton might somehow steal a point. But Son Heung-Min settled the nerves with a near-post header from a Christian Eriksen free kick.
With both Arsenal and Liverpool dropping two points, it was important for Spurs to capitalise by grabbing a home win. The game itself was messy, and Tottenham often looked short of ideas, but they got the job done. If you can't win pretty, make sure you win ugly. Mauricio Pochettino will also be glad to have gotten Erik Lamela nearly 75 minutes of football in his first start since returning from injury.
After an encouragingly fast first 10 minutes, Spurs allowed themselves to be controlled into playing at Brighton's tempo. There was far too much sideways build-up play that fizzled out, and few signs of players running into pockets of space. As a result, Tottenham frequently became frustrated with players firing hopeful crosses into the box rather than looking to play the telling pass to feet.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Pochettino will be pleased his team managed to get the job done but disappointed in the manner in which it was achieved. Spurs have yet to look comfortable against teams that set out to put 10 men behind the ball, and they won't be able to get away with that level of performance against Manchester City at the weekend. On the more positive side, Pochettino was still able to squeeze out a result while giving Kieran Trippier, Ben Davies, Mousa Dembele and Dele Alli some much-needed rest.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Hugo Lloris, 7 -- Had almost nothing to do all game, only being called on to make a couple of straightforward saves in the course of the 90 minutes. Was slow to distribute when Spurs had the chance of a break.
DF Serge Aurier, 7 -- Made some useful runs down the right flank and was rewarded with his first club goal when his attempted cross deceived Brighton keeper Maty Ryan. Less secure in defence and was twice exposed in the second half. Managed to complete 90 minutes without getting booked.
DF Eric Dier, 7 -- With Davinson Sanchez still suspended, Dier was again asked to play out of position on the right side of the central defence. Looked in control throughout and was rarely troubled.
DF Jan Vertonghen, 7 -- Has settled in well alongside Dier at the heart of the defence, and the two appear to have developed a good understanding. With Brighton offering little in attack, Vertonghen had a quiet night.
DF Danny Rose, 7 -- Worked hard and appeared to be more accepting of his role as second-choice left-back than he had against Apoel in the Champions League last week. Solid in defence and made some good runs, though his crossing lacked its hallmark accuracy.
MF Moussa Sissoko, 5 -- It's hard to remember a game in which Spurs have looked a better side for having the France international in it. His touch continues to be heavy, his passing is too predictable and he seldom runs into space.
MF Harry Winks, 7 -- Was twice caught in possession early on and thereafter seemed to lose confidence. His passing lacked vision and he failed to stamp his authority on the heart of the midfield. His worst game of the season by a distance.
MF Christian Eriksen, 7 -- Played very deep in the first half and seldom managed to link up the attack. Came more into the game after the interval when he began to forage forward and take up threatening positions. Supplied the free kick for Son's goal.
MF Erik Lamela, 7 -- Started brightly and was one of the few Spurs players who actually appeared to want the ball in the first half. Also made some interesting runs off the ball. Understandably faded in his first start in more than a year and was substituted. But showed enough to hint at what Spurs had been missing.
MF Heung-Min Son, 8 -- Yet again Spurs' brightest player, with his pace and touch on the ball giving the Brighton defence plenty to think about. Went close early on and might have been given a penalty later in the first half. Though he faded in the second half, his energy was rewarded with a late headed goal.
FW Harry Kane, 7 -- Nearly made it onto the score sheet when his low free kick rebounded off the far post, but this was one of those days when Kane didn't look wholly on his game. Had few touches in the first half and was reduced to taking speculative shots from distance.
MF Mousa Dembele, 7 -- Came on midway through the second half to replace Winks and Spurs immediately began to look more coherent in midfield. His strength on the ball opened up space but his final ball wasn't good enough.
MF Dele Alli, NR -- Given a 15-minute run but struggled to find any fluency.
DF Ben Davies, NR -- An injury-time replacement for Son.
John Crace is one of ESPN FC's Tottenham bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @JohnJCrace.