Tanguy Ndombele meant it: Tottenham star’s stunning goal no fluke, says Joe Rodon

Dan Kilpatrick
·3-min read
 (Pool via REUTERS)
(Pool via REUTERS)

It was a goal so sublime, you initially had to wonder if he meant it but for Tanguy Ndombele's Tottenham team-mates, his moment of brilliance at Bramall Lane came as no surprise.

With two Sheffield United defenders shepherding him towards the touchline, Ndombele stretched to hook an improvised, inch-perfect lob over Aaron Ramsdale and into the far corner.

"The goal doesn't surprise me to be honest because he does spectacular things in training all the time," said Spurs centre-half Joe Rodon.

Jose Mourinho described the finish as "genius" and it restored Tottenham's two-goal advantage moments after United's David McGoldrick halved the deficit on the hour.

Goals from Serge Aurier and Harry Kane had put Spurs in an unfamiliar position of control at the interval but, were it not for Ndombele, they might have faced an uncomfortable 30-minute examination by the Premier League's basement club.

Ndombele has been quietly excellent since being welcomed in from the cold by Mourinho at the start of the season and for the most of the campaign the maverick Frenchman has been threatening to pull off a moment of breathtaking quality, which would make the rest of the top flight sit up and take notice.

Everyone at Tottenham, not least Mourinho, believes there is still more to come from the £55million signing and the goal felt like another step in his progression, rather than any sort of climax.

"The club bought him for a reason," said Rodon, who made only his second Premier League start as part of a back three. "He's only going to get better and better the more games he plays. Hopefully he becomes what we all think he can be – an elite player."

Ndombele's conditioning, for example, still needs work but is rapid improving and yesterday was the first time he had completed 90 minutes in the League since a draw with Norwich in December 2019 – a game so distant that Mourinho's starters included Ryan Sessegnon, Juan Foyth, Jan Vertonghen and Christian Eriksen, who have all left the club – and Dele Alli, who did not travel to Yorkshire as he continues to agitate for a move of his own.

"We pressed very, very high, so it's not easy for our midfielders to cope for 90 minutes with the intensity of the game," Mourinho said. "Tanguy did that and apart from that he was very, very good on creation, transporting the game, coming out on transitions, trying to assist attacking players. His performance was very, very complete."

Mourinho is also still working out where best to play the 24-year-old – although he insisted that "top players" can adapt to any system – and his 3-4-3 formation liberated him yesterday, just as it did at Wolves last month.

The speed and variety of Ndombele's passing added an unpredictability to Tottenham, keeping them firmly on the front foot, and at one point in the first half he found Aurier with a disguised pass with the outside of his foot, which was nearly as admirable as his goal.

It is also significant for Spurs that Ndombele has now scored twice in the four League games, and three times in the top flight this season, suggesting that he is not only their creative hub but also the likeliest player to ease the pressure on Kane and Heung-min Son for firepower.

It would increase Ndombele's importance even further if he begins chipping in with a steady trickle of goals from midfield – even if few are likely to be as eye-catching as his latest.

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