It was seconds after Raheem Sterling had put Manchester City 2-1 up against Arsenal in the 71st minute that the White Hart Lane scoreboard coordinator decided it was time for a score-flash from the Etihad Stadium.
Tottenham Hotspur had needed a lift. They were the dominant team in this entertaining tussle but it was locked at 1-1 and they were struggling to prise apart Burnley, to create the moment for the knock-out blow. Perhaps the news that their north London neighbours were down might spark them? The home support roared.
Shortly afterwards, whether by coincidence or not, the game’s outstanding performer, Danny Rose, fashioned the winner. It came with a sledgehammer swing of his left boot after the substitute Moussa Sissoko had put him through on a quick break. Tom Heaton was beaten at his near post but it was no goalkeeping error. The power of the shot was too much.
The Burnley manager, Sean Dyche, was devastated afterwards and not only because he felt that a gritty and aggressive performance from his team had deserved reward. To him, Sissoko should not have been on the field after he had been guilty of an ugly high kick on Stephen Ward one minute before the goal.
Sissoko lunged in on Ward with his studs up as he chased a bouncing ball, and he raked them down the front of the full‑back’s leg. He was only booked. “It was a head-scratcher,” Dyche said. “It was not a close one, it’s a sending-off. You cannot go in blind, with your hands over your face and do a high foot like that, and stay on the pitch.”
Dyche said the decision of the referee, Kevin Friend, had been the “sixth game‑changer of the season” against Burnley and he wondered aloud whether the lack of a reaction from Ward had saved Sissoko. Had he writhed about on the floor, Dyche suggested, and his players then moved to surround Friend, perhaps the colour of the card would have been darker. Then again, Dyche said he and the club’s supporters did not want to see their players engaged in what he diplomatically called “simulation”.
Tottenham had most of the game, certainly in terms of shots on goal and the territorial advantage, but Burnley were stubborn opponents who had their moments. Andre Gray, for example, was denied at close range in the early running by Hugo Lloris after Ward had robbed Kyle Walker and crossed. Lloris’s save with his feet was an excellent one.
Burnley’s record on their travels remains dismal but they fashioned a sight for the sorest of eyes midway through the first half – an away goal, only their second of the season. Once again the inroads came up the Tottenham right after Harry Winks had sold Walker short and Scott Arfield nipped in to win possession. His flick hit Winks and broke for George Boyd and when his cross ricocheted off Mousa Dembélé, Ashley Barnes was on hand to poke past Lloris.
From a Tottenham point of view it was a mess and Mauricio Pochettino fumed on the touchline. By then his team had created the openings to have “killed the game” in his words, and none of the chances had been clearer than the one that Dele Alli botched in the second minute.
Harry Kane’s pass had set him through on Heaton’s goal, from an angle on the left, but he ballooned the attempted curler high. Kane and Christian Eriksen went close while Alli found the angle was against him after a Victor Wanyama headed flick. There had also been pain for Alli after Matthew Lowton caught him with a nasty tackle. The Burnley full-back was not booked for that one.
Spurs found a swift response to Barnes’s goal and it came from Alli. Wanyama rolled the ball wide to Walker and, from his low cross, Alli darted across some static Burnley defending to sidefoot low into the near corner.
Tottenham pressed on to the front foot, with Walker and Rose catching the eye with their forward thrusts from the full‑back positions. Pochettino said Rose’s performance had been arguably his best of the manager’s time at the club.
The soundtrack to the game was provided by the guttural noises from Pochettino and Dyche in the technical areas, which threatened to summon previously unsighted wildlife to N17. Who knew what either manager was barking but the sense of urgency was palpable.
Dyche was beside himself at a number of Friend’s decisions and there was also the moment on 54 minutes when Eric Dier lunged into a penalty-box challenge on Gray. Dier just about got a piece of the ball, together with other bits of the Burnley striker. “I thought that was a good foot in,” Dyche said.
Spurs, who missed Toby Alderweireld because of a back spasm, threatened but without creating too much of clear-cut note. Kane had worked Heaton from Alli’s lovely through-ball in the 42nd minute while, in the second half, Eriksen headed at Heaton after good work from Rose; Alli curled narrowly wide and Eriksen was again denied by Heaton. Rose, though, cut through the tension.TG