A two goal half time deficit proved costly for Saints as Spurs won for the first time at St Mary’s.
Goals from Gareth Bale and Clint Dempsey in a tepid opening 45 minutes gave the hosts a mountain to climb as Nigel Adkins’ men trailed for the ninth successive Premier League game since a return to the top flight.
A much improved second period from the home side drew a first top flight goal in Saints colours from Jay Rodriguez, who turned home a loose ball inside the area during a spell of ascendancy from the hosts.
It couldn’t provide the platform however, for Adkins’ side who tasted defeat for the seventh time in the league this season.
With a week clear until the next Premier League match at West Bromwich Albion, the squad will switch attention swiftly towards an extended run in the Capital One Cup with Tuesday’s trip to Leeds United in the fourth round of the competition.
Saints: Boruc, Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Fox (Reeves 76), Schneiderlin, S. Davis (Guly 76), Puncheon (Mayuka 58), Lallana, Rodriguez, Lambert. Subs (not used): K. Davis, Hooiveld, Ward-Prowse, Chaplow.
Tottenham: Friedel, Walker, Gallas, Vertonghen, Caulker, Sandro, Huddlestone (Livermore 63), Bale, Lennon, Dempsey (Dawson 90), Defoe (Sigurdsson 76). Subs (not used): Lloris, Naughton, Falque, Townsend.
Referee: Lee Mason
Attendance: 31, 944 (including 3,151 away)
Rickie Lambert was restored to the starting line-up, with Danny Fox also returning to the side after injury.
Artur Boruc made his home debut in the Saints goal, with Kelvin Davis amongst the substitutes.
Adkins’ men got the match underway attacking the Northam Stand on a cool and overcast afternoon inside St Mary’s, with Tottenham’s changed strip of black and grey matching the skyline.
Nathaniel Clyne earned the first rapturous applause of the day when he thwarted former Saints man Gareth Bale on the left flank with an uncompromising challenge that ended an early foray forward from the visitors.
Unruffled by Spurs’ advances, Saints settled quickly, knocking the ball around comfortably in their opponents’ half in a competitive opening to the contest.
Despite the absorbing start, neither side created any clear chances inside the opening quarter of an hour, but after Jermain Defoe sent a warning with a low shot which went wide, the visitors got their noses in front. Tom Huddlestone’s searching cross to the far post was headed back across goal and into the far corner by BALE who kept a modest celebration following his strike at the Chapel End.
Saints looked for an instant reply with some more neat football in the final third, but were unable to seriously test Brad Friedel, who gathered Lambert’s attempted through-ball to Rodriguez with relative ease.
Bale was continuing to find space on the left side and went close to doubling his tally of goals with a header from a corner as he proved to be as much of a menace in the air as on the ground.
His teammate Defoe meanwhile remained wasteful by blazing over on 26 with Aaron Lennon equally unable to break past the Saints backline.
A lull in the game was ended when Spurs doubled their lead six minutes before the break with a disappointing goal to concede from the hosts’ point of view.
Defoe’s initial weak shot crept past Boruc and trickled towards the net but with enough time for Fonte to recover it. Unfortunately, the defender’s clearance fell straight to Clint DEMPSEY who obliged with a close range tap in for 2-0 leaving Saints staring down the barrel heading towards the break.
A solitary minute of added time at the end of the half saw Clyne almost pick out Rodriguez inside the area for a header, which was the closest that the home side had come to troubling their opponents in a frustrating opening 45 minutes.
Half Time: Saints 0-2 Spurs
Saints began the second half brighter than they had ended the first, and went close on 48 when Jason Puncheon’s improvised volley on the turn flew wide of the left post after Lallana had rescued a loose ball on the touchline.
Some further patient build-up play from Adkins’ side preceded a long range strike from Fox that whistled over the bar as Saints turned the screw in attack.
At the other end, Kyle Walker wasted a good opportunity for the visitors faced one on one with Boruc, he sliced his shot into the side-netting.
Emmanuel Mayuka was thrown into the action on 58 minutes replacing Puncheon, and taking up a place on the right side of a front three including Rodriguez and Lambert.
The impact of the substitute certainly awoke Saints who stepped up their attacking intent as Rodriguez twice went close with headed efforts, the latter of which bounced a foot wide of Friedel’s right post.
On 63 Spurs replaced Huddlestone with Jake Livermore in midfield before Sandro was booked for a foul on Steven Davis midway inside the Spurs half.
The resulting free-kick from Fox was met by the head of Fonte, but headed towards goal by Yoshida whose effort was cleared off the line.
The clearance presented Saints with a corner and after Fonte’s clever backheel was saved it looked as though the chance was lost, but RODRIGUEZ was in the right place to slam home from close range to cut the deficit in half with 66 minutes gone.
Rodriguez was a matter of inches away from levelling the scores just three minutes later when he brought Mayuka’s knockdown under control before firing a low shot wide.
Saints certainly sensed an equaliser with Lambert forcing a low save from Friedel at his near post, and each time the hosts broke forward they posed a threat to the Spurs defence.
Another impressive break from Mayuka drew a foul on the right where Saints continued to impose themselves, and it was from that side again that the hosts almost found a way through when Lallana’s drag back across goal was turned out of play by Gallas in front of his own goal.
Changes on both sides were then made with Gylfi Sigurdsson coming on for Defoe whilst Saints opted for a double switch with Guly and Ben Reeves replacing Steven Davis and Fox respectively.
On 81 Rodriguez took aim from the left with a fierce rising shot after collecting Guly’s knockdown on the edge of the area, with the hosts seemingly remaining the more likely side to score again.
As the 90 minute mark drew closer though Saints were made frustrated in their efforts to try and restore parity, and eventually had to settle for a narrow defeat which keeps Adkins’ men in the bottom three of the Barclays Premier League table.
Full Time: Saints 1-2 Spurs