Early Dier goal enough as Spurs top 10-man Cardiff

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  • Dier puts Spurs ahead
  • Lloris has up-and-down clean sheet
  • Cardiff has lost five-straight

Eric Dier scored as wasteful Tottenham Hotspur ground out a win against Cardiff City on Saturday.

Spurs go third with 18 points, while Cardiff is 20th with two points.

Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town, and Newcastle United are all winless this season.

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Hugo Lloris had a dodgy first half but goal line clearances and poor decisions from Cardiff served Spurs well, and Dier’s early goal helped alleviate too much concern against the basement-dwelling Bluebirds.

Lucas Moura denied his own fine form with a 42nd minute miss of a Heung-Min Son cutback at the near post, though Neil Etheridge might’ve had the post covered either way.

Eyes were defied in the 46th minute, as Moura blasted a shot that was cleared off the line before it crossed. As Moura and seemingly all of us waiting for the Goal Decision System to call the score line 2-0, it never came to Wembley.

Joe Ralls essentially called it a day for Cardiff with a reckless leg sweeping foul just before the hour mark.

As if to deny our statements on the match and Lloris’ early game, the French goalkeeper made a sprawling save in the 64th.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Three things we learned: Tottenham v. Barcelona

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LONDON — Barcelona beat Tottenham Hotspur 4-2 in their UEFA Champions League Group B clash at Wembley on Wednesday, with Lionel Messi putting on a show at the home of soccer.

[ MORE: Messi’s masterclass a joy ]

After going 2-0 up Barcelona threatened to run away with things but goals from Harry Kane and Erik Lamela pulled it back to 2-1 and 3-2 before Messi finished off Spurs late on.

From Ivan Rakitic’s mind-boggling goal to Messi’s brilliance and the grit of Kane, this game had it all.

Here’s what we learned from a thrilling encounter at Wembley which will go down as a classic.


MESSI, KANE PUT ON A SHOW

Ahead of the game Harry Kane was ridiculed for saying he’d like to score more goals than Lionel Messi. Yes, Kane is still only 25 years old and has time on his side, but he will have his work cut out to get on Messi’s level.

Everybody who will play the game in the future will also be struggling to match him.

Messi scored twice at Wembley to cap off a fine individual display as he petrified Tottenham’s defense every time he dropped deep to pick the ball up and set off on yet another mesmeric run. He hit the post twice with near identical efforts at the start of the second half and it was one of those nights where the 31-year-old proved, once again, why he’s the best player on the planet.

He also loves to play against Premier League teams, as he’s scored more goals and provided more assists versus English teams than against teams from any other nation in European competitions.

At the other end Kane tried his best without his usual support acts of Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen (both injured) and he did an admirable job. He held the ball up, tracked back and ran around like a man possessed in the second half to try and get his team back in the game. What Messi had in skill, Kane matched in grit.

And, in case you are wondering, Messi has scored 562 goals in 647 games for Barcelona, with 105 in the Champions League. He has five goals in two UCL games this season, at a rate of one goal every 36 minutes. Kane has 146 for Spurs but has scored 10 goals in his 12 UCL appearances to date.

Still a long, long, long way to go for Kane, but Tottenham’s talisman stood tall on Wednesday. But unfortunately for him, so too did Barcelona’s.


RUTHLESS BARCELONA STILL HAVE ISSUES

In recent weeks there have been murmurs that Barcelona have been struggling after three games without a win in La Liga.

They were obviously saving themselves for this game. At least in terms of their attacking prowess.

Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho pressed Tottenham’s shaky back line early and they never stopped. The pressure was relentless and Barcelona’s finishing was ruthless. This looked like it would be a lesson in how you kill off a game as quickly as you can, then continue to force your opponent into awkward defensive situations.

Coutinho finished with poise after Hugo Lloris‘ rush of blood to the head early on to sprint out for a ball he was never going to get to. Then Davinson Sanchez’s cheap giveaway led to Coutinho keeping the ball in play as Rakitic hammered home a stupendous volley which will live long in the memory. Messi twice hit the post after mesmerizing runs, then finished calmly for Barca’s third as that looked to be it.

But question marks do remain about their ability to seriously challenge for the Champions League title this season, despite making it two wins from two to open up group play.

The main area Barcelona can improve is defensively. Sure, they missed the pace and dominant aerial ability of the suspended Samuel Umtiti as Harry Kane in particular bullied their back line in the second half. Marc-Andre ter Stegen came up with a big save in the first half and, generally speaking, you can assume they’d still win plenty of games even if they conceded an average of one per game due to the prowess of their attack.

Messi and Co. have been written off by many already, and after going three years without winning the Champions League, they will have to clean up their defensive deficiencies to have a real chance of winning it all in Madrid in May.


TOTTENHAM’S INJURIES ERODE FLUIDITY

It is easy to blame Spurs’ haphazard display on having key players out injured, but there’s no doubt that had a huge impact on their fluidity at both ends of the pitch as they’ve started up their UCL group stage with defeats to Inter Milan and Barcelona.

They have a tough job to get out of the group now with both Barca and Inter having six points on the board.

Kane did his job, as he usually does, in holding the ball up and trying to bring others into play, but when he dropped deeper to lay balls off, neither Eriksen or Alli were there to link up with him. Heung-Min Son, Lucas Moura and Erik Lamela were all looking for the ball in-behind and nobody was there to slot them in, even though Harry Winks put in a fine display to try and shut Barcelona down.

Losing Eriksen, Alli, Mousa Dembele and Jan Vertonghen through injury ahead of such a big night was a cruel blow for Pochettino. Yet, Spurs had chances and took two of them, and they showed real desire to try and drag themselves back into the game.

But the damage was done due to defensive errors from Lloris and Sanchez as they badly missed Vertonghen’s calming influence and Dembele’s presence in front of the back four.

Had Spurs had a fully fit squad to choose from, they could have nicked a point against Barcelona, or maybe even more.

Kane double puts Spurs in fourth

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  • Kane bags brace
  • Lucas Moura lively in win
  • Huddersfield remains 20th

Harry Kane scored a pair of goals to lead Tottenham Hotspur past Huddersfield Town at the John Smith’s Stadium on Saturday.

Spurs were without Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen in the win.

Spurs climb fourth, ahead of rivals Arsenal on goal differential, while Huddersfield sits dead last with two points.

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Jonas Lossl stopped Harry Kane 1v1 in the 10th minute in the best early chance, a sequence which saw an injury Huddersfield star defender Terrence Kongolo.

Kane found the score sheet in the 25th minute, rising to nod a perfect Kieran Trippier cross past Lossl moments after Lucas Moura was denied a penalty cry.

Danny Rose drew a penalty kick in the 33rd minute, and Kane left little doubt with his rocket chance.

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Tuchel: Traditional No. 10s struggle against Liverpool

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If Thomas Tuchel is willing to move one of the best players in the world out of a preferred position on the pitch, then perhaps we’ll see Premier League teams do the same in a bid to break down Liverpool.

[ RECAP: Liverpool 3-2 PSG ]

The Paris Saint-Germain boss admitted that he used Neymar at left wing and Kylian Mbappe on the right — neither a grand departure for the electric attackers, but a departure — despite his desire to line Neymar up as more of a traditional central playmaking No. 10.

The reason? Liverpool. And reading between the lines, Tuchel probably thought Neymar would get butchered by Jordan Henderson and Virgil Van Dijk if he was played centrally. From The Liverpool Echo:

“There wasn’t much space for Neymar to play number 10. Liverpool try to get you to play in that area and then close that area well, our plan was to utilize the space on the flanks and use the space of Neymar and Mbappe.

“We wanted to use our full-backs to control the ball and slow things down. We tried to play well. It’s time to emphasize the mental strength of my players and their quality on the ball.

“You have to remember that Liverpool’s closing down is second nature, it’s automatic to them. They do it naturally.”

West Ham deployed 4-2-3-1 and lost 4-0. Palace went straight 4-4-2 and put a scare in the Reds but lost 2-0.

Brighton’s 1-0 loss came with a 4-1-4-1, while Leicester also went 4-2-3-1 in a 2-1 loss.

Oddly enough, Spurs didn’t get much done with their 4-3-1-2, but their No. 10 scored in the match and Lucas Moura was a danger trying something similar.

Then again, Klopp said he “changed the system” to thrive in the match, which could mean Tuchel’s initial plan could’ve been more successful.

Stars and Duds from Spurs 1-2 Liverpool

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Tottenham Hotspur had almost nothing to offer aside from Lucas Moura, while it’s hard to find a criticism of Liverpool as the Reds cruised to a 2-0 win on Saturday at Wembley Stadium.

[ MORE: Recap | 3 things ]

Stars

Virgil Van Dijk — There are times I believe I could keep a clean sheet for Liverpool with the big Dutchman back there. He simply nullifies any cross that isn’t magical, and makes life significantly easier for his center back partner and accompanying fullback.

Sadio Mane As usual, the Senegalese attacker was a pace merchant who caused problems with dribbles and tricks, but on Saturday he also pulled the strings at times in leading the attack. Now should he have conceded a stoppage time penalty kick? Perhaps VAR would’ve moved Mane off our list.

Lucas Moura — If Spurs had a star, it was the Brazilian, who was one of the few players relativley unbothered by the absence of Dele.

Naby Keita — Missing on a 64th minute bid to make it 3-0 almost stopped us short of keeping his name on this list, but he made a first-half star intervention in his own box to keep Spurs from a dangerous chance.

Jurgen Klopp — Opinion alert: Liverpool is a more complete team against possession-oriented squads when Jordan Henderson isn’t included as a key piece. Sitting his captain just after Henderson signed a new contract was a brave and smart move.

Duds

Mauricio Pochettino — Before we lay out Tottenham’s individual player failures, it’s important to note that a few of them were inspired by decisions of Spurs management. Playing Harry Winks wide in place of the injured Dele Alli had the entire unit out of whack and stopped Winks from doing what might’ve helped battle Liverpool’s 4-3-3: actually clogging the middle. That said..

Harry Winks — Better once moved into the middle of the fray, but still gave the ball away cheaply at times. Not a good day even considering he was put in a poor position by Pochettino.

Harry Kane — We know Dele wasn’t out there and Eriksen was playing a bit deeper, but this was not a performance befitting one of the best strikers in the world.

Eric Dier — Just sloppy. Rarely can you fault Dier for effort, which makes it hard to fault him, but he didn’t have his A or B game in the locker today and it was not going to be enough against the Reds.