Tottenham paid the perfect tribute to the passing of their fitness coach Gian Piero Ventrone with a gritty 1-0 win over Brighton.
Spurs were playing just three days after the sudden death of the man nicknamed ‘The Marine’ because of his rigorous training regimes and it was Harry Kane who popped up with the first-half winner heading home Heung-Min Son’s cross.
Kane celebrated his goal by pointing to the sky in tribute to Ventrone in what was an emotional occasion, with the stadium standing to applaud him before the game.
“It’s been a difficult week and it was nice to get the win,” said Kane, who was holding back the tears at full-time.
When asked if the performance was for Ventrone, man of the match Ryan Sessegnon said: “Yes, 100 per cent.
“We knew we had to perform today and obviously we wanted to win because of him, and thankfully we did that.”
Spurs head coach Antonio Conte added: “I think he was in the hearts of every single player and my players were really devastated by the pain but life sometimes, you know it happens many situations not only to us. Life sometimes is not good. At the same time you have to cope with the situation in the best possible way. And then I am sure Gian Piero will stay with us forever. I am sure about this.”
A mixture of suspension and perhaps some tired legs with this being Tottenham’s third game in seven days triggered Conte to switch his formation to play a 3-5-2 with Yves Bissouma making just his second start in a midfield three. The switch worked well with Tottenham dangerous in attack and assured at the back.
It was a disappointing start to life at the Amex for new Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi, whose team had 14 shots but rarely troubled Hugo Lloris as the Tottenham defense stood firm.
Brighton:Sanchez (6), Veltman (6), Dunk (7), Webster (7), March (6), Caicedo (6), Mac Allister (6), Estupinan (6), Gross (6), Trossard (6) , Welbeck (6)
Subs: Mitoma (7), Lallana (6)
Tottenham:Lloris (7), Romero (8), Dier (8), Davies (7), Doherty (7), Hojbjerg (7), Bentancur (7), Bissouma (7), Sessegnon (8), Kane (7), Sound (6)
Subs: Perisic (7), Richarlison (7)
Player of the match: Ryan Sessegnon
How Spurs paid the perfect tribute after a tough week…
Tottenham’s players warmed up in shirts with the words ‘Always in our hearts, Gian Piero’ written across it and they did him proud with a fast and energetic start.
Matt Doherty raced in behind down the right but took too long with his finish and then he wasted an even better chance moments later when blazing over a fantastic cross from the impressive Sessegnon.
Rodrigo Bentancur then tested Robert Sanchez from range and Kane really should have picked out Sessegnon with a better ball when well placed. You sensed a goal was coming and the source was not a surprising one when it did arrive on 22 minutes as Son and Kane linked up for the 43rd time in the Premier League.
Son kept a half-cleared set piece alive before reversing a fierce ball into the box that Kane reacted brilliantly to and flicked a header into the bottom corner. It was Kane’s 12th goal in his last 12 Premier League appearances.
Brighton came to the party after falling behind but never truly managed to open up a Spurs defense led impeccably again by Eric Dier and Cristian Romero. Solly March went the closest before the break but his low drive from the edge of the box flew inches wide of the post.
Spurs had won 21 of their last 22 games when leading at the break so they looked to have plenty of confidence in their defensive set-up, pushing Brighton wide of the goal at every opportunity and then defending their box with great authority.
Danny Welbeck escaped into space on a couple of occasions but his best chance fell on 78 minutes which he wasted, pulling a shot from 15 yards wide of the post. Up the other end, it was Spurs that carried the greater threat with Kane also firing wide from a decent opening and Son’s curling effort from range being chalked off because of a slight offside.
Conte: Gian Piero will stay with us forever
Antonio Conte said: “Tomorrow is the funeral. We are going with the staff. I want to give big hugs to them, to tell his son and daughter that they need to be strong because Gian Piero was strong, a strong character. He doesn’t want to see us unhappy. It’s difficult to make him happy because we are really devastated by the pain.
“I have to be honest, it was really, really difficult for us to be here and to focus on the game because what happened in the last three days was incredible, was incredible. I knew that the situation was really problematic after the game against Frankfurt but no one could have expected this situation because no one knew something this illness. It was an illness but under control and then it is very difficult because the situation hit me a lot in the emotional aspect. When it happens it is very difficult to cover your feeling with the players and with the people that work in Tottenham. At the same time I have seen a lot of solidarity. The players were really devastated by the pain and the whole Tottenham environment, the feeling was really bad because in only 10 months I think Gian Piero got through the heart of everybody.
“They appreciated because we are talking about a really big worker for me in my opinion in his job he is a scientist and for him I spoke with him last week on Thursday, the last time when I arrived at training ground he wanted to speak to me and asked me if he could stay at home because he has a bit of a fever. It was incredible because he was really worried to miss the training and I said Gian Piero when we are talking about your health, at that moment he spoke to me about his illness and when it is healthy you have to take the right check and don’t worry but his first problem was to miss the training.
“For this reason I think he was in the hearts of every single player and my players were really devastated by the pain but life sometimes, you know it happens many situations not only to us. Life sometimes is not good. At the same time you have to cope with the situation in the best possible way. And then I am sure Gian Piero will stay with us forever. I am sure about this.”
This one was for Ventrone
Sky Sports’ Lewis Jones:
It’s hard for onlookers who have no foot in the Tottenham camp to understand truly just how much the staff has been hit by the sudden death of popular fitness coach Ventrone. We can gauge the clear sadness from the tributes posted online by the players and of course the clear holding back of tears by Harry Kane when interviewed after the game. But it’s hard to truly feel it from a personal standpoint.
Yet, a moment did hit me quite hard. It was hard not to get emotional walking down the steps from the press box at the Amex, long after the final whistle had gone and witness the Spurs substitutes doing their warm down. Against the backdrop of an empty stadium, the players were undertaking their first post-match fitness duties since the passing of their guru. A part of the puzzle missing. Gone.
There was an eerie silence as the substitutes were put through their paces by two members of the coaching staff. Ventrone would have certainly been proud of Tottenham’s performance. It was one where the fitness built up under Ventrone’s watch was used to maximum effect as Spurs battled and ran hard to repel Brighton despite this being their third game in seven days.
The man who pushed his players to their maximum but also was a voice of comfort when required would have liked what he saw.
A fitting tribute, indeed.
Eight stats: The Conte factor
- Conte is now unbeaten in all seven of his Premier League matches against fellow Italian managers (W6 D1) and has seen his sides keep clean sheets in four of their last five such games.
- Conte has yet to lose any of his previous 54 Premier League games in which his sides have gone into half time ahead (W50 D4), the most such games in the competition without defeat for a manager.
- Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane combined to score a Premier League goal for the 43rd time, the most of any duo in the competition’s history.
De Zerbi: Football is not fair
Roberto De Zerbi said: “We have played a fantastic game. The result is not fair, 100 per cent. Football is not right and today the result is not good for us.
“After the first 15 minutes I made a mistake in those 15 minutes because I thought Antonio Conte would play 3-4-2-1 but 20 minutes before the game he changed 3-5-2. After the first 15 minutes it was only Brighton.
“The players were fantastic today. I congratulated them. Now I’m thinking it’s only on Monday to work.
“The football is the same in the UK and Italy. Football is not fair.”
Brighton are on the box next weekend with their Friday night trip to Brentford live on Sky Sports Premier League. They then host Nottingham Forest on October 18.
Tottenham face a crunch Champions League home game with Frankfurt on Wednesday night, before they have the tea-time kick-off again next Saturday when they welcome Everton to north London.