Eric Dier marked his Tottenham Hotspur debut with a late winner as Spurs claimed a 1-0 victory away to West Ham United on Saturday in both teams' Premier League openers at the Boleyn Ground in London.
Dier, a 20-year-old centre-back, signed from Sporting Lisbon in the summer and marked his inaugural Premier League appearance with a memorable goal in second-half stoppage time. Running onto a pass from substitute Harry Kane, Dier displayed remarkable composure in front of goal to beat West Ham goalkeeper Adrian for the winner.
The goal gave new Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino a winning debut as well after the Argentinean joined the club from Southampton over the summer.
Both teams had a player sent off, Spurs losing Kyle Naughton in the first half before West Ham's James Collins received his marching orders for a second yellow card after the break.
For Spurs, victory will bring confidence as the club prepare to make another assault on the Premier League's top four.
But for West Ham and manager Sam Allardyce, it must be considered a missed chance. In addition to not converting on a penalty, the Hammers created—and missed—numerous opportunities to score while enjoying a numerical advantage for an extended period.
West Ham created the better first-half opportunities and could have gone ahead following a dominant spell midway through the opening period. Collins headed over from a 24th-minute corner, and Cheikhou Kouyate flicked another header just wide two minutes later.
The Hammers then won a penalty in the 28th minute as the match erupted in controversy. The visitors could hardly argue about the penalty decision itself as Naughton blocked Kevin Nolan's close-range shot in the box with an outstretched hand. But Spurs were incensed by referee Chris Foy's decision to send off Naughton in addition to awarding the spot-kick.
Regardless, Mark Noble missed the ensuing penalty, rolling his low shot carelessly wide. ESPN's Dan Fitch, via Twitter, compared the miss to Foy's decision to send off Naughton:
Noble’s penalty as bad as the decision to send off Naughton.— Dan Fitch (@DJFitch) August 16, 2014
West Ham continued to push forward, and in the 37th minute, Ricardo Vaz Te saw his powerful volley deflected wide of the target. Spurs posed a sporadic threat as well, with Aaron Lennon shooting over the bar after a quick break in the 41st minute.
The game's pattern remained the same after half-time as West Ham maintained their hold on the game without scoring. In the 53rd minute, Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris had to be alert to save Downing's fine, low strike.
But West Ham's numerical advantage wouldn't last much longer. In the 63rd minute, the Hammers were reduced to 10 men as Collins was sent off for his second bookable offence—a needless foul on Emmanuel Adebayor. Eriksen took the ensuing free-kick, but his shot curled harmlessly over the bar.
Spurs seemed revitalised and, sparked by substitute Andros Townsend, enjoyed their best spell of the match soon after. First, he forced a save from Adrian with a swerving effort from distance in the 70th minute. Moments later, Townsend rolled another shot off target.
The next opportunity fell to West Ham, however, as Noble won possession in midfield and steamed toward goal. His low shot was on target, but Lloris saved in the 73rd minute to keep the match at a stalemate.
With the match heading for full-time still scoreless, West Ham nearly nicked a win in the closing moments. Downing and Nolan combined brilliantly, with a Nolan backheel setting up Downing in the box. Downing found himself free in front of goal after slipping past Etienne Capoue, but Lloris made a fine save to keep his side level.
It proved a valuable block as Spurs found the winner in extra time. The move started as Kane took possession in midfield and slotted an angled ball through to Dier. Showing off a fine first touch, the debutant rounded Adrian before finishing coolly for the winner.
Dier wheeled away to celebrate the winner with his teammates while Pochettino enjoyed his own celebration along the touchline. For West Ham and Allardyce, meanwhile, the goal and loss will be seen as an opportunity missed.
|Ricardo Vaz Te||6.0|
|Guy Demel (for O'Brien, 62')||6.1|
|Mohamed Diame (for Vaz Te, 68')||6.7|
|Enner Valencia (for Cole, 81')||5.9|
Ratings via WhoScored.com
|Lewis Holtby (for Lamela, 61')||6.2|
|Andros Townsend (for Lennon, 61')||6.6|
|Harry Kane (for Adebayor, 83')||6.9|
Ratings via WhoScored.com
Allardyce lamented his side's missed opportunities and claimed Tottenham scored with "probably their only clear-cut chance." As quoted by PremierLeague.com, he said:
You know that this game will sometimes bite you when you don't finish off the opposition when you've created so many chances. We paid the ultimate price in the last minute because we didn't secure the victory well before Tottenham got their goal. When Tottenham did get their goal, it was with their last chance and probably their only clear-cut chance in the whole game.
You've got to be two goals up because then we could have got away with it and still taken the three points. But because we've not scored the penalty, because we've had 20 attempts at goal and haven't scored and because we allowed the opposition to equal it up to ten against ten, they were the three most important factors in why we have lost this game. It's a real shame based on the overall game and the efforts the players have given.
Pochettino hailed his team's "unbelievable effort," telling PremierLeague.com:
We are very happy, so congratulations to players and fans. They gave unbelievable effort. The support was unbelievable today as well. We never gave up. We stayed calm, we believed in our skill and our team, but we kept our offensive play. We reorganised our system and carried on. This is football and I am very happy to get three points today.