No Gareth Bale, no problem. Two matches into the new Premier League season, Tottenham Hotspur appear to have found a reliable formula for winning without their Welsh talisman.
Roberto Soldado scored the lone goal as Spurs defeated Swansea City 1-0 on Sunday at White Hart Lane. The result maintained Tottenham's 100 percent record on the new season, and it came about in familiar circumstances.
Last week, against Crystal Palace on opening day, Spurs won 1-0 on Soldado's first league goal for his new side. This time, Soldado—signed in the summer from Valencia—converted confidently in the 58th minute for the only goal of the match.
(GIF h/t 101 Great Goals)
Soldado left no doubt with his finish, but the penalty decision was less clear-cut. After bursting into the box on the dribble, Andros Townsend crumpled under minimal contact from Swansea midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, who immediately protested his innocence.
(GIF h/t 101 Great Goals)
"They won a light penalty in my opinion," Swansea manager Michael Laudrup told Sky Sports. "We were punished by that penalty in the second half. It was the only time they really created something."
Spurs weren't the only team to benefit from a bad call from referee Neil Swarbrick, who failed to award a penalty late in the first half when Shelvey fouled Townsend near the edge of the Swansea box. Instead, Swarbrick awarded a free kick, which came to nothing.
The result provides Tottenham with momentum ahead of next weekend's North London Derby amid reports that Bale—who was named PFA and FWA Player of the Year last season—is set to complete a world-record transfer to Real Madrid. The Welshman has not featured for Spurs this season, but the club's new signings have made up the difference in his absence.
In addition to Soldado's scoring contribution, new signings Paulinho and Etienne Capoue linked well in the midfield as Spurs stifled Swansea's normally flowing style. Instead of the usual cohesive passing and attractive football, the visitors appeared disjointed, managing only seven shots over 90 minutes.
Despite scoring just once, Tottenham created several chances in each half, finishing with 21 shots. The hosts almost broke through near the end of the first half with an extended spell of pressure.
In the 35th minute, Michael Dawson picked out Kyle Walker on the right with a through-ball before Walker cut back into the middle. Moussa Dembele then curled a shot on target, but Swansea keeper Michel Vorm saved.
Moments later, Walker sent a cross-shot into the Swansea box, where it was tipped away acrobatically by Vorm. Then Chadli's cross found Paulinho, whose volley into the ground flew just wide. But for all their pressure, Spurs were unable to score from open play.
Swansea rode their luck in the first half, but after the break, the decisions favored Tottenham. The introduction of Wilfried Bony to the attack gave the visitors a more decisive edge, but Laudrup's side were unable to carve many clear chances.
Key Player Grades
Roberto Soldado: B
Soldado scored again, improving his record to two goals in as many Premier League matches and four strikes in three overall appearances with Spurs.
The penalty was well-taken, and the Spaniard worked hard throughout his time on the pitch before being substituted in the 81st minute. However, for the most part, Soldado suffered from a lack of service from Spurs' midfield.
Andros Townsend: A-
Townsend won the penalty for the decisive goal, and although it was a dubious call at best, he should have won another legitimately in the first half—which paid tribute to his decisive and dangerous dribbling on Tottenham's right.
Most of the talk following the match will involve the penalty decision, but Townsend was a threat throughout his time on the pitch.
Michu started the match as Swansea's lone striker. That's not his preferred role, and it showed. He was unable to assert himself in the first half, and he only looked comfortable once Wilfried Bony entered as a substitute after the break.
Tottenham host Dinamo Tbilisi in the return leg of their UEFA Europa League qualification tie on Thursday before visiting rivals Arsenal in the league next Sunday.
Swansea visit Petrolul Ploiesti for the second leg of their Europa League qualifier on Thursday before traveling to West Brom in league action on Sunday.