Match report and free highlights as Davinson Sanchez's 96th-minute winner for Tottenham flattens Watford at Vicarage Road; Harry Kane and Joshua King both have penalty appeals turned down as Hornets are dramatically denied first clean sheet of season
Sunday 2 January 2022 07:00, UK
Davinson Sanchez's 96th-minute header sparked jubilant scenes from Antonio Conte as Tottenham continued their resurgence under the Italian with a dramatic 1-0 win over Watford at Vicarage Road.
In a game that was delayed during the second half after a supporter was taken ill in the Graham Taylor Stand, both sides were left feeling aggrieved by the decisions of referee Rob Jones, who turned down penalty appeals in either half involving Harry Kane and Joshua King.
Watford had conceded 15 goals during a five-match losing streak, but Kane and company were frustrated by an inspired Daniel Bachmann before Sanchez's very late intervention.
It looked like being another case of two points dropped following the 1-1 draw against 10-man Southampton, but Sanchez rose to glance home Heung-Min Son's free-kick as Watford were once more crestfallen and wondering if their first Premier League clean sheet of the season will ever arrive.
Following West Ham's 3-2 win at Crystal Palace, Spurs remain in sixth place on 33 points, two points adrift of Arsenal in the final Champions League berth with two games in hand on their north London rivals.
The result means Antonio Conte stretches his unbeaten run to eight games as manager while Watford remain in 17th position, two points above the relegation zone having played two games more than Burnley in 18th place.
Watford: Bachmann (8), Troost-Ekong (7), Sierralta (7), Cathcart (7), Masina (7), Sissoko (6), Sema (6), Kucka (7), Louza (7), King (6), Dennis (5).
Subs: Cleverley (n/a), Joao Pedro (6), Cucho (n/a)
Tottenham: Lloris (7), Sanchez (8), Dier (7), Davies (7), Reguilon (7), Royal (6), Skipp (7), Hojbjerg (7), Moura (6), Son (7), Kane (6).
Subs: Winks (6), Gil (n/a), Lo Celso (n/a).
Man of the match: Davinson Sanchez.
"I think at the end it was good to find a way to get three points," Conte said. "The Southampton game, we were unable to find a way but we created the chances to score today.
"The opponent was well organised defensively with nine or 10 players behind the ball so it wasn't easy. We found the space to attack and when we find a narrow team like this, we need to improve. I know we have space for improvement and also to improve the quality in the final pass."
Watford manager Claudio Ranieri made three changes from the side which lost 4-1 to West Ham on December 28. William Troost-Ekong returned to the side, along with Ken Sema and Imran Louza while Tom Cleverley returned to the bench after a slight hamstring problem.
Antonio Conte made two changes from the Tottenham side who were frustrated by Southampton. Lucas Moura and Oliver Skipp were named in the team with Harry Winks and Dele Alli among the substitutes.
Ahead of the game, Conte revealed he is planning a meeting with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy and football managing director Fabio Paratici to discuss the plans for January, having made his initial assessments on his squad. The Italian has been vocal about extra quality being required despite lifting an under-performing squad into the top-four race.
Several key additions over the next few weeks could help Spurs push towards Champions League qualification, but Conte is discovering that creating a more ruthless streak is a priceless commodity. Here, they couldn't have left it any later.
Watford received a boost on the eve of the encounter after Emmanuel Dennis was omitted from Nigeria's squad for the Africa Cup of Nations, with the country's federation accusing the club of "baring fangs".
But in the opening 45 minutes, the Hornets were toothless, as Dennis' tame effort having been released by Joshua King inside the opening exchanges was one of two inconsequential efforts before the break.
The other fell to Ken Sema on the transition, but it drew another routine save for the underworked Hugo Lloris. It was Tottenham who dictated proceedings, smart in their striking N17-inspired purple third strip, they navigated their way around Vicarage Road with ease.
What will have frustrated Conte in the opening 15 minutes was that his side had 75 per cent possession and 40 per cent of the game had been in Watford's defensive third, but there was not a single half chance to show for their efforts.
That changed when Lucas Moura's cross was only half cleared by the returning William Troost-Ekong with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg's rising half volley clearing the crossbar.
Kane had a sighter when he expertly swivelled inside Craig Cathcart to test Daniel Bachmann before Hojbjerg invited Sergio Reguilon to arrow his shot hard towards the far corner, bringing a fine two-handed save from the Watford goalkeeper.
It preceded a flashpoint as moments later, Spurs felt they ought to have a penalty when Troost-Ekong appeared to barge Kane in the back inside the box, and while referee Jones was unmoved, replays showed Kane might well have been offside when he was picked out by Moura.
As so often this term Watford hadn't heeded the warning in any case, as a slack pass out from Bachmann was gobbled up by the excellent Oliver Skipp to set up Kane. Just about everyone inside the stadium expected the net to bulge but the England captain's curled effort veered just wide of the left-hand post.
Tottenham were in complete control and were left scratching their heads that by the time the interval arrived they were still level. Yet there was little change upon the restart as after Reguilon's deflected strike rippled the side-netting, Kane renewed his battle with Bachmann with his left-footed dipper tipped over.
Dennis was withdrawn at the break and replaced by Joao Pedro but Watford would come close to taking the lead against the run of play when Sema dispossessed Royal and set up King as his precise strike from the edge of the box was brilliantly tipped around the post by Lloris at full stretch.
It was Watford's turn to feel aggrieved when Pedro did brilliantly to find a route to goal despite the attentions of Sanchez and Skipp, whose late shirt-tug led Jones to instinctively blow his whistle instead of playing the advantage. Skipp was booked and Pedro's resulting free-kick cleared the bar.
Son had been quiet, but the South Korean had his head in his hands when he was unable to get greater purchase on a backheeled effort from Royal's inviting low cross at the midway point of the second period.
Five minutes later, Son was already wheeling away thinking he had scored when he ran onto Moura's pass to guide a controlled volley on target but the alert Bachmann followed it all the way to paw it to safety.
Watford had a shout for a penalty with less than 10 minutes to go when Pedro looked to have touched the ball before being brought down by Lloris in the box, but there was no VAR review.
Then came the moment of concern which led to eight minutes of stoppage time as paramedics raced across the pitch to provide medical treatment for a supporter in the Graham Taylor Stand. It was the second time Watford have had a game paused for a medical emergency this season.
After a lengthy delay, it felt like the contest was petering out when Sanchez provided a final twist in the tale as the Colombian rose to flick Son's free-kick beyond Bachmann in the sixth minute of stoppage time.
Conte led the celebrations on the touchline. It was a cruel blow in a season of struggles for Watford as it confirmed a sixth straight loss. At this rate, it surely can't be long before they are in the relegation zone.
Watford boss Claudio Ranieri: "Never I like to speak about the referee's decision. He saw it and said it wasn't a penalty and nor did the VAR. I think we made a good match because we knew Tottenham like to play on the counter-attack and they didn't have one counter-attack. They had a lot of crosses but my tall players were very calm. I thought Joao Pedro had a very good match and Joshua King had a fantastic shot which Lloris saved very well.
"What I didn't see was us conceding a goal with a header with all my tall players. To concede so late is a real pity but I was proud of my players and so should our fans. We are alive, and we will survive. We were much better than we were last time against West Ham.
"Dennis already before the match he wasn't 100 percent and I saw him a little nervous during the game. I decided then to change it and Joao Pedro had a very good match. We are now going to lose players so we have to do something. We are speaking every day with the board, and I'm sure they will do something for us.
On Dennis' withdrawal from the Nigeria squad for the Africa Cup of Nations: "I think Nigeria have to speak to the board and not the manager. I am the manager, I am happy he is here, and that's the end of the matter."
Tottenham boss Antonio Conte: "We have young players with room for improvement. I have seen good hunger in my players today and to play every two or three days is not easy. I'm delighted with the commitment of the players and it's another clean sheet. We are showing solidity in this aspect."
Conte was asked about Lloris' future, whose contract is up in the summer: "For sure [Tottenham looking to renew]. We can see the level of the goalkeeper in this circumstance when for the whole game he doesn't need to do much but he continued to be focused with the team and for me it's very important because when I speak with him and the team, the connection between the goalkeeper and the team is very important.
"When you play very high with a defensive line, the 'keeper has to follow the game and not just stay on the line. Hugo today showed that he's a top goalkeeper.
"For us, he's very important and I'm sure in a short time the club will find a solution because he loves Tottenham and Tottenham loves him."
Sky Sports' Paul Merson:
"If Tottenham had scored early, they'd probably have gone on and won 3-0 or 4-0. But making the substitution at half-time, bringing Dennis off for Pedro, it made the difference. Pedro was an absolute handful. He caused problems.
"Watford were better second half but Tottenham kept on probing and probing. You thought it was fizzling out, he was bringing on substitutes like for like but then they scored in the last minute.
"It was a silly foul to give away and then the free-kick is whipped in and Sanchez can't miss. Watford have set the bar now. They defended very well today. Still no clean sheet but it was better defending.
"Even though Tottenham dominated it wasn't like the goalkeeper was making world-class save after world-class save.
"Dele Alli didn't get on. I think he'll probably go in the January window. That's up to Dele Alli if he wants to go. They were searching for a goal and you want a midfield player that's going to bomb into the box and they were too predictable in the end."
Davinson Sánchez has scored two goals in his last five Premier League games for Tottenham, more than he had netted in his first 108 games in the competition (1).
Sánchez's header was the latest winning goal Spurs have scored in a Premier League game since Opta have exact times of goals in the division (from 2006-07), timed at 95:45.
Watford visit Leicester City in the third round of the FA Cup next Saturday; kick-off 3pm.
Tottenham face Chelsea in the first leg of the Carabao Cup semi-finals on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge; live on Sky Sports Football and Main Event; kick-off 7.45pm.