Neil Humphreys: Shelvey's moment of madness hands Spurs victory
Newcastle midfielder throws game away with red card as Tottenham nick lucky win
|(Dele Alli 61, Ben Davies 70)|
Jonjo Shelvey raised his studs and presented Tottenham Hotspur with their first win of the season.
The three points came gift-wrapped around his thuggish boots as the Newcastle midfielder kicked his side to a 2-0 defeat last night.
Rafa Benitez's men were enjoying their return to the English Premier League, basking in the unexpected sunshine and well on their way to a creditable draw.
But Shelvey had other ideas.
In fact, he had no ideas. His brain left the building, moments before his body did.
In the 48th minute, Dele Alli went down in central midfield and certainly made the most of an innocuous challenge, flapping around like a performing seal.
But Newcastle could not have anticipated Shelvey's rush of blood to his boots.
He was not impressed with Alli's gamesmanship. So he stamped on Alli's ankle, playing up to the darker stereotypes that have often overshadowed the Englishman's mercurial career.
His nasty stamp was as spiteful as it was sneaky, fully deserving of the three-game ban that will now follow.
On the touchline, Benitez shook his head in disbelief. His master plan had been ripped to shreds by one of his own.
Naturally, Alli popped up to score Tottenham's opener. The victim turned the victor. There was going to be only one winner after that.
But the outcome should've been so different.
Until Shelvey's ridiculous red card, the Magpies had successfully manacled the visitors, suffocating whatever life remained from a desperately dull encounter.
After the fireworks of the first couple of days, Newcastle and Tottenham conspired to bring us all down to Earth.
The hosts could hardly be faulted. Benitez has a tiny piggybank to play with, and his starting XI was a rugged bunch of youngsters, cast-offs and Championship campaigners.
The Spaniard's straightforward 4-2-3-1 was swiftly compromised as he lost two defenders in the first half, with Florian Lejeune and Paul Dummett going off injured.
But Tottenham failed to capitalise on Newcastle's defensive vulnerabilities.
Clearly, all is not well at the club.
Last season's title contenders already have the whiff of this season's also-rans, despite last night's victory.
Their chairman's reputation for driving the hardest bargain is well deserved and Daniel Levy is likely to wait until the final hours of the transfer window before making his move on reinforcements.
But Mauricio Pochettino needs them now.
He's already lost Kyle Walker to Manchester City. He's probably going to lose Danny Rose to greed and hubris.
Rose's unexpected criticism of the club's lack of spending was calculated, as the fullback seeks a lucrative move, but he wasn't wrong either.
Pochettino continues to perform miracles with a limited budget, but he can't be expected to pull off his acts of financial escapology forever.
At St James' Park, Tottenham's need for speed was as obvious as it was galling. With the Magpies happy to peck away on scraps, the onus was on Spurs to find a breakthrough.
But Christian Eriksen's pedigree has never really been complemented with pace and Moussa Sissoko was once again anonymous.
Harry Kane rarely saw the ball in the first half and the hosts looked a safe bet for a point, until Shelvey re-wrote the narrative with a twist of his ankle.
Ironically, the midfielder's studs acted as a defibrillator for Tottenham, effectively waking the visitors from their slumber.
With an extra man, Spurs made the most of the extra space, going ahead in the 61st minute.
Kane and Eriksen swopped passes before the latter floated a deft pass towards the galloping Alli. He wasn't going to miss from close range.
Kane, Eriksen and Ali all combined again just nine minutes later, when Ben Davies arrived in the box to sweep a low finish past Robert Elliot, effectively ending the contest.
Tottenham were content to coast to a victory that was anything but certain until Shelvey's idiocy.
But Pochettino cannot afford to lose any more players.
And Benitez cannot afford to let Shelvey lose the plot again.