Tottenham grind out win over West Ham the Antonio Conte way with reserves finally pulling their weight

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  • West Ham United
    West Ham United
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Antonio Conte
    Antonio Conte
    Italian association football player and manager
  • Lucas Moura
    Lucas Moura
    Brazilian association football player
 (AP)
(AP)

Tottenham took another step forward under Antonio Conte with a battling win over rivals West Ham to reach the Carabao Cup semi-finals.

Having gone toe-to-toe with Liverpool in Sunday’s pulsating 2-2 draw, Conte’s side proved they can also grind out results as they stood firm against a spirited second-half assault by the visitors.

If Sunday was about Conte's tactical acumen and his players newfound belief and purpose, this victory was built on Spurs' growing resilience and grit, as the Italian reverted to a 3-4-3 system and went back to basics.

The derby was decided by three well-taken goals in five first-half minutes, with Jarrod Bowen cancelling out Steven Bergwijn’s opener after an Eric Dier mistake, only for Spurs to hit back immediately through Lucas Moura.

Goals for Bergwijn and Lucas, who were among six changes from the draw with Liverpool, further underlined the increasing competition for places in Conte’s squad, which feels like a significant change from just a few weeks ago.

Suddenly, everyone at Spurs is stepping up to be counted and the perception of Conte's squad depth is gradually shifting.

A year ago, Spurs reached the semi-finals of this competition under Jose Mourinho but collapsed in the second half of the campaign, losing the final to Manchester City a few days after the Portuguese was sacked.

This year, they are only going from strength to strength. With rivals Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool making up the last four, Spurs are guaranteed a tough two-legged semi-final against the Blues at the start of the New Year.

But if they maintain their rapid uplift under Conte, they will have momentum and confidence, as well as more than one way to win.

Lloris stands up

Spurs were given a tough examination by David Moyes’ side, particularly from crosses and set-pieces, and they had Hugo Lloris to thank for a hard-fought win.

Twice in quick succession at 1-0, the goalkeeper made acrobatic, one-handed saves to keep out Tomas Soucek headers after the Czech had towered above his marker.

The Spurs captain was also quick off his line to deny Bowen when the forward, who was deputising for Michail Antonio up front, got between Dier and Davinson Sanchez in the second-half.

As the end of 2021 approaches, it is worth reflecting that Lloris is surely the leading contender to be Tottenham’s player of the calendar year.

 (PA)
(PA)

No-one has been more consistently impressive, even if his contributions often go unheralded.

There is also no-one who deserves to win a trophy with Spurs more than Lloris, who is in his tenth season with the club and out of contract in the summer.

Lloris is expected to agree an extension but if this is to be his farewell campaign, how he would love to cap it by lifting some silverware. As it stands, the League Cup is looking like Spurs’ and Lloris’ best chance.

Bergwijn takes his chance

Bergwijn took his chance and may have taken a step towards saving his Spurs career.

The Dutchman is among the players who could leave the club in January and you felt he needed to make an impression on his first start under Conte.

And he could hardly have done much more, opening the scoring and laying on the winner for Lucas in a decisive display.

His 29th-minute goal was a scrappy finish but he held off Craig Dawson excellently in the build-up, before exchanging passes with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

His assist was more eye-catching, a burst into the box which was finished at close range by Lucas.

Bergwijn has showed flashes of quality since joining Spurs but he has rarely looked like a killer and his confidence has tended to drain following bad moments – notably after his two big misses at Anfield last season.

He was visibly lifted by his goal and assist and looked full of confidence in the second-half before being replaced to a standing ovation.

This may prove a turning point. At the very least, Bergwijn has demonstrated he can be a useful option for Conte in the games ahead, and further increased competitions for places in the squad.

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