Mauricio Pochettino's men salvaged a point but problems remain
Saturday 19 October 2019 22:55, UK
Dele Alli scored a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw Watford but confusion surrounded it as a VAR review awarded the goal on the field but disallowed it on the big screen.
Alli's leveller (86) - after Abdoulaye Doucoure (6) had given Watford the lead - was reviewed by VAR for a potential handball and referee Chris Kavanagh signalled for a goal but the big-screen message, which is controlled by Stockley Park, stated that the goal had been ruled out.
After some confusion, the goal was eventually given.
The VAR controversy took centre stage but it could not mask another very flat performance from Tottenham, who had only mustered one shot on target before Alli's late reply - a goal which means Watford remain winless this season.
Alli's goal saved Spurs from a third straight loss in all competitions but this latest setback still leaves boss Mauricio Pochettino under pressure, with Tottenham falling further behind in the race for the top four.
Tottenham: Gazzaniga (6), Aurier (5), Alderweireld (6), Sanchez (4), Vertonghen (6), Rose (4), Sissoko (6), Winks (6), Alli (6), Moura (6), Kane (6)
Subs: Son (8), Lamela (6)
Watford: Foster (6), Janmaat (8), Dawson (8), Kabasele (8), Cathcart (8), Holebas (7), Pereyra (8), Doucoure (9), Cleverley (8), Chalobah (7), Welbeck (6)
Subs: Deulofeu (8), Hughes (6)
Man of the match: Abdoulaye Doucoure
The days of Tottenham being a reliable outfit where they would press, play with quality and defend well are a thing of the past now as you felt a sense of nervousness in the home stands at kick-off. Watford sensed it too and started brightly, taking the lead inside six minutes.
Maurico Pochettino switched to a 5-3-2, making seven changes from the defeat at Brighton. Paulo Gazzaniga started in goal in replace of the injured Hugo Lloris, while there were also recalls for Serge Aurier, Davinson Sanchez, Danny Rose, Harry Winks, Dele Alli and Lucas Moura.
Quique Sanchez Flores made two changes from the 0-0 with Sheffield United. Craig Dawson came back into the back five to replace Sebastian Prodl while Nathaniel Chalobah got a rare start in midfield.
Just like for England in Prague last weekend, Danny Rose was targeted as a weakness by the opposition and was slow to react to a burst by Daryl Janmaat down the right flank. The full-back remained cool, calm and collected and delivered a fantastic ball into the middle which was turned home by Doucoure - his first goal since April.
It was an impressive start by Watford, especially considering Danny Welbeck hobbled off injured after two minutes, bringing Gerard Deulofeu off the bench.
Watford remained the more dangerous team as Spurs' tactic of trying to work the ball wide to their full-backs was not troubling Watford's well-organised back five.
Deulofeu had a strong penalty claim turned down by Kavanagh after Jan Vertonghen went to ground - a decision that was reviewed by VAR but not overturned despite there appearing to be contact.
Heung-Min Son was unleashed from the bench at half-time by Pochettino and his introduction sparked Spurs into life for a 10-minute spell after the break. The South Korean charged down the right but his powerful effort from a tight angle came crashing back off the crossbar.
Watford responded with some clever play on the counter but a lack of quality with their final pass, from Janmaat and Deulofeu allowed Tottenham to stay in the game.
With the game seemingly fizzling out in a way that Watford desired, Tottenham snatched an equaliser with four minutes remaining, although it was clouded in controversy.
A long ball caused confusion for Ben Foster and his defence which allowed Alli to latch onto the loose ball and he fired home from a tight angle. However, a VAR review was initiated as Alli's first touch to control the ball into his path came via the top of his arm.
Kavanagh was in touch with his VAR assistant and signalled for the goal but an error from the base at Stockley Park triggered a message of 'No Goal' on the big screen.
Confusion reigned but after another quick chat with the VAR, Kavanagh confirmed that the goal had been awarded.
Phil Thompson was in the Soccer Saturday studio to analyse the match and the late goal caused huge confusion as he tried to explain what was happening.
He said: "It was so confusing it was untrue. We're all laughing but this is serious business. Dele Alli puts it into the net and straightaway you feel it's going to go to VAR. You're wondering if Dele Alli has pushed Femenia, but he hasn't.
"When you see the real reason why, you see that Alli catches the ball at the top of his arm. I thought it wouldn't be given as he moved his arm to the ball. We know that anything like that where it hits the arm it's no goal. I'm waiting and thinking this has got to be disallowed.
"The I saw the referee has pointed to the centre-spot, while up on the big screen the VAR check says it's 'No Goal'. I was so confused. This was shambolic, and you can tell from Dele Alli's demeanour that he thought this was going to be chalked off.
"How they haven't come to the correct decision I do not know. This should've been about the incident and the goal should've been ruled out for handball. That should've been the end of it."
Quique Sanchez Flores said the situation was "weird," while Dele Alli felt relief.
Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino: "The performance wasn't great. It wasn't great, but again when you concede an early goal of course in the momentum of the team it's always tough. Of course it's a difficult situation because when you want to build your confidence again and be solid and to have the calm to play, because you always need to be calm to play, we started to take rash decisions."
Watford boss Quique Sanchez Flores: "Sometimes we were defending a little bit deep but they have very good players. Sometimes when the central defenders could drive and get into positions close to box it was very difficult. But I thought the team was really safe and always with the possibility to create opportunities on the counter-attack.
"I saw many teams playing against Tottenham when we were analysing in the week. Newcastle, how they won here, Southampton, how they played, and I think we played much better but we could just draw. Just draw sounds a little bit weird because they got the goal with four minutes left, but if we are realistic and thinking before the match, to draw here is a good result."
For someone that has been linked with some of Europe's biggest clubs, Doucoure's performances so far this season had been distinctly average. However, he was back to his aggressive best in the heart of Watford's midfield. The 26-year-old - aided by Tom Cleverley and Nathaniel Chalobah - ran all over the Spurs midfield, making some brilliant breaks that put a shaky Spurs defence under pressure - as shown by his goal. He also gained possession for his team a match-high 12 times.
Spurs have an important home Champions League clash with Crvena Zvezda on Tuesday before travelling to take on Liverpool next Sunday, live on Sky Sports. Meanwhile, Watford are back at Vicarage Road next Saturday when they welcome Bournemouth.