Watford vs. Tottenham: Winners and Losers from Premier League
Heung-Min Son scored a late winner as Tottenham Hotspur moved within three points of first place with a 2-1 victory at Watford on Monday in the Premier League.
The visitors took the lead in the 17th minute as Erik Lamela punished an error by Craig Cathcart, but Watford equalized via Odion Ighalo's impressive individual strike just before halftime.
The hosts went down to 10 men in the second half as Nathan Ake saw red, but they nearly took a late lead as Ben Watson came within inches of scoring directly from a corner. Moments later, though, Son flicked in the winner for Spurs.
Here, Bleacher Report selects winners and losers from the match.
Winner: Tiny Margins
For a Tottenham supporter, the 89th minute served up a sequence worth celebrating. Their counterparts at Watford will view the same 60 seconds with disgust.
At one end, Ben Watson came within millimeters of scoring for Watford directly from a corner. Replays showed that Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris kept only the smallest portion of the ball from crossing the line.
Moments later at the other end, Heung-Min Son flicked in Kieran Trippier's second cross after Heurelho Gomes could only palm away the first. Watford had been the more dangerous side in the closing minutes, despite playing a man down. But Tottenham scored the winning goal with a sucker punch.
It was cruel on Watford, but brilliant for Spurs, who pulled within three points of first place—at least temporarily. After two wins for Tottenham in two festive fixtures, the question is now whether Mauricio Pochettino's side can keep this up.
No team has been able to control the title race this season, and that means it's wide open. With Tottenham playing well, why wouldn't they be in the discussion?
Up next, Spurs face a tricky trip to Everton on Jan. 3, followed by back-to-back matches against Leicester City in the FA Cup and Premier League. The next few weeks should tell us plenty about Spurs' credentials.
"In football a lot can happen," Pochettino said, per BBC Sport. "The most important thing is we believe; we have a strong squad to squad to fight for it (the title)."
Loser: Craig Cathcart
Tottenham took the lead in the 17th minute as Erik Lamela stayed cool on the break and slotted a low shot past Heurelho Gomes. While it's true Gomes gave Lamela too much of the goal to target, Watford defender Craig Cathcart must take more of the blame.
There seemed to be no danger when Cathcart had the ball at his feet in his own half, but the defender gave away possession, allowing Tottenham to mount a quick counter. Seconds later, Watford were behind.
Cathcart simply had to be more careful in possession.
Winner: Odion Ighalo
Odion Ighalo pulled Watford level in the 41st minute with a superb individual goal. After Troy Deeney headed the ball toward the edge of the box, Ighalo muscled Eric Dier off the ball, put the ball through the Tottenham defender's legs and poked past Hugo Lloris for the equalizer.
It was the sixth straight Premier League game in which Ighalo has scored, an impressive record. And as STATS Football noted, the Watford man now has 14 non-penalty goals this season—the most in the top flight.
Not bad for a striker who was in the Championship for the first half of 2015.
"Odion Ighalo's 2015 has been astonishing," tweeted Christoper Atkins. "His Championship scoring run only really began after the New Year. I make it 30 league goals."
Thirty is correct, and according to Opta Joe, that's the best total of any player in England's top four tiers in 2015.
Spurs played three center backs in an attempt to stop the potent combination of Deeney and Ighalo, but Ighalo's strength and skill ensured it didn't mean a clean sheet for the visitors.
Loser: Nathan Ake
Watford played the final 27 minutes with a numerical disadvantage after Nathan Ake saw red in the 63rd minute for a high challenge on Erik Lamela. Though the tackle might have looked fairly tame on first glance, replays showed Ake's boot was dangerously high, and he caught Lamela's leg with his studs.
The sending-off was thus warranted, no matter how loudly the home fans howled. Coming at such a crucial part of the game, with the score 1-1 and the result very much in doubt, it was a foolish thing for Ake to do.
"Watford fans criticising the ref but his challenge was just too high. They'd have hit the roof if it had been committed on one of their men," tweeted the Daily Mirror's Darren Lewis.
Winner: Kieran Trippier
Kieran Trippier provided an attacking outlet for Tottenham throughout the 90 minutes, sending in dangerous cross after dangerous cross. In the 89th minute, it was his cross that found Heung-Min Son, who flicked in the winner.
Also deserving of a mention is Eric Dier, who was beaten for Watford's goal but made amends with a brilliant block to deny Troy Deeney in stoppage time.
Both individual contributions directly led to Tottenham securing three vital points.