Former Spurs midfielder Mason, the Premier League’s youngest head coach at the age of 29, succeeded Jose Mourinho after the Portuguese was sacked on Monday. Son Heung-min’s late penalty capped a Tottenham fightback against Southampton that handed interim head coach Ryan Mason victory in his first match in charge.
He made a winning start to his tenure after Gareth Bale curled in a superb equaliser and then a late VAR intervention saw Son score after a Moussa Djenepo foul on Spurs midfielder Harry Winks was shown to be just inside the Southampton penalty area.
Until Bale’s composed finish on the hour mark the hosts had been second best to a slick Southampton side, who went in front when Danny Ings glanced in James Ward-Prowse’s corner.
With Harry Kane missing and still a doubt for Sunday’s Carabao Cup final, Spurs were flat for long periods and appeared to have been affected by their tumultuous few days, with Mourinho departing fewer than 24 hours after the club announced they were to join a new European Super League.
Chairman Daniel Levy has since expressed regret over the “anxiety and upset” caused by the proposal, which has now collapsed following widespread condemnation.
Signs of that backlash were evident prior to kick-off as groups of Spurs supporters gathered outside their club’s stadium calling for Levy and owners the ENIC group to leave the club. Despite the unrest and an unsettling start to the week, this result moves Tottenham up to sixth – two points outside the top four – while the Saints remain 14th in the table.
Spurs bounce back
Already out of the Europa League and having collected just five points from the last 15 available, Spurs came into this match in acute need of a victory to boost their hopes of finishing in the top four.
While they eventually got a result that suggested an immediate bounce from their managerial change, there was little urgency to their play in the first half and Mason will know a similar lethargy will be more heavily punished against Manchester City this weekend.
In fact, only the excellence of Hugo Lloris prevented the hosts from falling behind inside three minutes, with the France goalkeeper repelling Mohammed Salisu’s header and reacting superbly to push Che Adams’ follow up to safety.
Kane’s absence also meant there was a distinct lack of leadership and more importantly a cutting edge despite Bale’s reintroduction to the starting XI for the first time in over a month.
That lacklustre opening 45 minutes was epitomised by a wild Lucas Moura effort just before the break that flew well over the bar and ensured Spurs ended the first half without registering a shot on target in a top-flight home game for the first time this season.
They improved after the break and looked to have found a winner after 75 minutes when Son stroked home Sergio Reguilon’s cut back.
However, a VAR review concluded Moura had obscured the view of Saints goalkeeper Alex McCarthy from an offside position, but Son and Spurs were not to be denied with the South Korean making no mistake from the penalty spot in added time. Saints falter at the last
While Southampton appeared weary in Sunday’s defeat to Leicester City, they quickly dispelled any ideas they might be suffering from a post FA Cup semi-final hangover.
Brimming with energy and benefitting from five changes made by boss Ralph Hasenhuttl, the Saints took control early on. Nathan Tella’s marauding run and cross from the left set the tone and should have been rewarded by an opening goal from either Salisu or Adams.
James Ward-Prowse, who drove his side forward at every opportunity, was the busiest player on the pitch as he covered nearly 12km, while Kyle Walker-Peters and Stuart Armstrong were also industrious.
But an evening that had started so promisingly began to go wrong after Ings appeared to tweak his hamstring attempting to curl a shot past Lloris. The sight of Southampton’s top goalscorer limping off was an invitation for Spurs to push forward, take control of the match and ultimately take all three points.
‘Win important for many reasons’ – what they said
Tottenham interim manager Ryan Mason speaking to Sky Sports: “Fantastic – so proud of the boys. They had so much energy and bravery, especially after the first 20 to 30 minutes. Southampton came out of the blocks – they were good. We showed belief and stuck to the plan so full credit because the energy and commitment was great. I thought there was only one team going to win it. The disallowed goal was disappointing but that didn’t affect the boys.
“I thought we were excellent. We found it difficult, Southampton built up momentum and Hugo [Lloris] pulled out some excellent saves early on. We had full control second half and we were creating chances.
“At half time it was about giving the players confidence. We planned and prepared for everything – we’ve only had a short amount of time but for me the biggest thing was commitment, energy and bravery to do good things and express ourselves and take risks at times. The boys gave everything and fully deserved it.
“Tonight was important for many things, the change in manager, a lot has gone on at the club in the last 48 hours and it was important to get back to winning ways. Thankfully we won but the performance and energy were outstanding.”
Southampton boss Ralph Hassenhuttl speaking to BBC Match of the Day: “I can’t say we had less energy than on Sunday. We still had a good game but were better today with the ball, we had a clearer plan and we had more movement and more chances. In the first half we had chances for three goals and scored one. It’s not enough to score one goal because we always concede one – clean sheets are missing. The way we defended was not good enough.
“We have eight substitutes and normally should be able to replace him [Danny Ings] but today we couldn’t really push our game with the subs and the opponents were stronger.
“If it’s a foul it was a penalty. But I have seen the same thing in first half in the middle of the pitch and we didn’t get a foul. It’s hard to take but we have to.”
Saints’ stuttering form – the stats
- Ryan Mason (29y 312d) became the youngest manager in Premier League history, while he is only the second person since the Football League resumed in 1946-47 to manage a top-flight game while in their 20s after Frank Sibley, whose first game was in August 1977 vs Aston Villa, also at the age of 29, as QPR boss.
- After losing each of the previous six Premier League games in which they found themselves behind at half-time this season, Spurs have won a top-flight match from such a position for the first time since December 2019 (2-1 vs Brighton).
- Since the day following Southampton topping the Premier League table for the very first time (November 7th), only Sheffield United (13) have won fewer points in the division than the Saints (P24 W5 D5 L14 – 20 points).
- Southampton have now dropped more points from winning positions than any other Premier League team this season (21).
- As a Southampton player, Danny Ings has scored more goals against Tottenham than he has versus any other side (six). Since he joined the Saints in 2018-19, no player has more top-flight goals versus Spurs than the Englishman (five, alongside Roberto Firmino).
- In Premier League history, only Matt Le Tissier (63) has more assists for Southampton than James Ward-Prowse (28) – this season alone he has delivered more assists via set-pieces than any other player (six).
- Gareth Bale has had a direct hand in 11 goals in his last 11 starts in all competitions for Tottenham (nine goals, five assists), while he’s scored in each of his three Premier League games against former club Southampton.
- Tottenham’s Son Heung-min has scored 15 Premier League goals in 2020-21, his best goalscoring season in the competition. His five goals against Southampton this season is the most by a player against a single side since Mohamed Salah v Watford in 2017-18 (also five).
Tottenham face Manchester City in the EFL Cup final on Sunday, 25 April (16:30 BST) before resuming Premier League action against Sheffield United on Sunday, 2 May (19:15 BST).
Southampton are next in action when they host Leicester in the Premier League on Friday, 30 April (20:00 BST)