The Briefing: Tottenham 2 Brighton 1 – Postecoglou's subs, Sarr return

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The Briefing: Tottenham 2 Brighton 1 - Postecoglou's subs, Sarr return

Tottenham Hotspur managed a dramatic win against Brighton on Saturday.

Brighton went ahead in the 17th minute of the first-half. Danny Welbeck was fouled in the Tottenham box and referee Sam Barrott awarded a penalty. Pascall Gross fired beyond Guglielmo Vicario to put the visitors ahead.

But the returning Pape Matar Sarr had the desired impact for Ange Postecoglou’s side. He almost teed up a goal before firing the rebound into the back of Jason Steele’s net. After being held by Roberto De Zerbi’s side, Spurs then scored a late winner through Brennan Johnson to capture three important points.

Here, Jack Pitt-Brooke analyses Tottenham’s performance on Saturday.

Did Postecoglou’s substitutions change the game?

It was Johnson who won the game for Spurs, popping up at the far post in the 96th minute to convert Son Heung-min’s perfect low cross and take all three points.

What was so striking about the winner was that for 30 minutes it felt as if the triple change, which introduced Son, Johnson and Yves Bissouma, had actually lessened Spurs’ control of the game and seen them sacrifice some of their momentum after Sarr’s equaliser.

Johnson struggled to give Spurs the same control in the opposition half that Dejan Kulusevski had provided. And yet Johnson has fresher legs and a newfound confidence in the final third.

And so with Son and Johnson racing forward in the last minute, into the space that Maddison and Richarlison had created on the break, Spurs did have the right players on the pitch at the end.

How did Sarr perform on his return?

Tottenham have missed Sarr desperately during his time away at the Africa Cup of Nations, and he proved exactly why with Spurs’ equaliser today, in his first Spurs start in 2024.

Sarr is Tottenham’s best midfielder at running forward without the ball, darting in behind the opposition defence to create havoc in the box. Pierre Emile Hojbjerg and Oliver Skipp work hard but neither has the same knack for it as Sarr does.

That is what he did for Spurs’ first goal, bursting into space to receive Dejan Kulusevski’s clever pass from the right. And while his attempted cross for Richarlison was cut out, Sarr was on hand with a sharp left-footed finish from a tight angle to make it 1-1.

Like his goal against Manchester United at the start of the season, it was a goal that few of his team-mates would have been able to score.

How did Brighton unsettle Tottenham?

Brighton are experts at working intelligently off the ball to make it difficult for the opposition to get going.

That’s what they did when they beat Spurs 4-2 at the Amex in December, Joao Pedro and Danny Welbeck pressing from the front, stopping Tottenham from building up, and they did it again here. It was especially notable that Brighton went man-to-man to stop Spurs.

Jan Paul van Hecke stepped up into midfield to press James Maddison, stopping him from running the game. Welbeck dropped back onto Rodrigo Bentancur, and the Uruguayan international found it very difficult to get anything going with Welbeck always buzzing around. And with Billy Gilmour keeping an eye on Pedro Porro, Spurs’ main routes to ball progression were blocked off from the start.

It took them a long time to get anything going.

What did Postecoglou say?

We will bring you this after he has spoken at the post-match press conference.

What next for Tottenham?

Saturday, February 17: Wolves (H), Premier League, 3pm GMT, 10am ET

Spurs have a score to settle here in the Nuno Espirito Santo Clasico, having led November’s reverse fixture 1-0 for 88 minutes, only to get beaten by two stoppage-time goals. Wolves have also won three of the past four meetings between these two.

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(Top photo: Richard Pelham/Getty Images)