Tottenham move fourth place with comeback win against Brentford

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Tottenham Hotspur reclaimed a spot in the Premier League top four with an exhilarating and occasionally tumultuous home triumph against Brentford.

At halftime at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the visitors held the lead with a scrappy finish from Neal Maupay. However, Tottenham staged a rapid comeback in the second half, netting three goals in eight minutes courtesy of Destiny Udogie, Brennan Johnson, and Richarlison.

Despite Ivan Toney narrowing the gap following an errant Udogie backpass, Spurs managed to secure the victory and re-enter the top four for the first time in 2024. This comes after Ange Postecoglou’s team slipped from the Champions League positions following a 4-2 defeat by Brighton on December 28.

The match was a frenzied affair, witnessing a total of 28 shots from both teams. Tottenham found themselves entangled in disputes with Brentford during the first half but pulled away in the second with an early scoring barrage.

“It’s a young, maturing team,” Postecoglou told BBC Sport. “Friday [the FA Cup defeat by Manchester City] showed we have a long way to go and tonight was another test. Arguing with the opponents isn’t going to help us.”

Although Spurs initially dominated the game, their vulnerability was exposed by a high defensive line, allowing Toney to break through. While Gigi Vicario saved Toney’s shot, Maupay seized the rebound.

Despite Maupay unintentionally striking the ball against his standing foot, it took a fortunate deflection into the corner, securing his fourth consecutive goal.

Spurs, however, made a powerful comeback after the break, netting three goals in eight minutes. Initially, Udogie surged forward from left-back, executing an exchange with Timo Werner and converting at the second attempt after his initial shot was blocked.

Less than two minutes later, Werner provided another assist, delivering a low cross from the left for Johnson to finish from close range with just his second touch since coming on as a halftime substitute. The goal rush was completed by Richarlison, who followed up after Maddison’s shot was deflected.

Richarlison has now tallied seven goals in his last seven league appearances, surpassing his total from the previous 47 top-flight outings.

Tottenham inadvertently granted Brentford an opportunity to get back into the game in a comical turn of events when Udogie made a misguided backpass directly to Toney. The striker calmly slotted the ball past Vicario for his second goal in as many matches since his return from an eight-month ban for betting offenses.

Despite this setback, Brentford failed to find an equalizer and currently sit in 15th place, just four points above the relegation zone.

Maddison ‘sharpens his tools’ on Spurs return

Much of the pre-game attention centered around James Maddison, who earned his first start since November 6 after returning from injury as a substitute against Manchester City.

Maddison played a pivotal role in Tottenham’s dynamic early-season performances, and his last start before the injury occurred in the home game against Chelsea, which marked their first league defeat of the season.

Hoping for inspiration from the England midfielder to propel them back into the top four, Spurs fans witnessed a promising moment as Maddison embarked on a weaving run through the defense within the first 10 minutes, although he was eventually crowded out in the area.

The turnaround for Spurs in the second half coincided with Maddison’s shift to a deeper role, with Johnson entering the game at halftime, replacing Oliver Skipp as part of a double substitution.

While Maddison unintentionally assisted Spurs’ third goal by finding himself in the area, the tactical change allowed Werner and Johnson to thrive on the flanks.

“He’s been out for a while – today he showed why we missed him so much,” Johnson told Match of the Day. “He has the X-factor. Today was him sharpening his tools again.”

Their rapid beginning to the second half extends Tottenham’s club-record streak of scoring in 34 consecutive league matches.

Despite evident weaknesses, notably in defense, highlighted in second-half stoppage time when Shandon Baptiste found space in the box for a volley that Vicario acrobatically tipped over, Spurs undeniably exhibit greater strength with Maddison in the lineup, regardless of his assigned role.

Brentford rue ’10-minute blackout’

In the first half, Brentford executed a perfect strategy against Tottenham, effectively exploiting their high defensive line. Mads Roerslev concluded a smooth move moments before Maupay’s opener, although Mathias Jensen was flagged offside in the build-up. Additionally, Brentford succeeded in getting into the minds of the Tottenham players.

Maupay played a central role in provoking the Tottenham players, exemplified by his recreation of Maddison’s dart-throwing celebration after scoring the opening goal.

His celebration irked some of the home supporters and Maddison himself, leading to an exchange of unfriendly words and head pats between them.

This visibly unsettled Maddison’s teammates as well, as both Johnson and Richarlison mimicked the dart-throwing celebrations after scoring their goals. Brentford’s downfall occurred during a 10-minute spell that manager Thomas Frank lamented.

“We frustrated them with the high press, we were good with the low block, on the break and transition we were very dangerous,” Frank told Match of the Day.

“Then we had a blackout, so it is about being smarter. The second goal is the most disappointing – don’t concede from the kick-off.”

Brentford has relinquished a league-leading 23 points from winning positions in the current campaign. Furthermore, they have suffered five league defeats this season despite scoring the opening goal, a tally exceeding any other team in the division and one more than Tottenham.