by Dan Davis (@dan_davis20)
Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe admitted Simon Francis’ serious-looking knee injury has stretched his squad to the limit.
Francis attempted to challenge Son Heung-min in the latter stages of the first half, but was instead left stricken on the turf amid fears the defensive stalwart may have torn ligaments in his knee.
The skipper was sent to hospital for scans after being stretched off at the national stadium, leaving his manager ruing his squad’s mounting injury list.
Howe said: “It doesn’t look good. He’s gone for a scan so we’ll know when we get the results. I don’t know what to say on it; it’s hugely disappointing for someone who has been so crucial for the football club.
“We hope it’s not as bad as it looks but fear that it could be the case. All our thoughts are with him and his family.
“It’s a time where we’re going to be stretched, and it’s unusual that you get so many injuries which are serious. We were stretched to the limit before this, but we’re even more so now.”
The Dorset club’s campaign took a further blow on Boxing Day as Tottenham comprehensively emerged victors, leaving Cherries still in search of an away win against the North London outfit.
Ryan Fraser, recalled to the side in place of Josh King, and David Brooks squandered early openings for the visitors before Mauricio Pochettino’s side ran riot – Christian Eriksen’s wickedly deflected strike paving the way to a five-goal glutton.
Tottenham doubled their lead on 23 minutes after Charlie Daniels’ lapse in concentration. The veteran full-back mis-controlled a long punt forward, presenting youngster Kyle Walker-Peters with the chance to tee up Son. The South Korean duly arrowed a drive beyond Asmir Begovic to plunge Cherries further in danger of a rout.
Daniels’ afternoon of misery was further compounded before the interval. Harry Winks sprayed an inch-perfect pass into the right channel for Walker-Peters to pounce upon, before the 21-year-old delivered for Lucas Moura to nip in and tuck home neatly.
Following Francis’ forced withdrawal and Jefferson Lerma edging closer to a two-match ban after another caution, the visitors were truly put to the sword after the restart.
The ever-dangerous Eriksen hoisted a pass over the Cherries’ backline, leaving England talisman Harry Kane free to lash inside Begovic’s near post, before calamitous defending from the visitors allowed Son to pounce on a rebound and sweep home Spurs’ fifth late on.
“They have forward players that can really create problems,” Cherries boss Howe conceded in the aftermath of the defeat in the capital. “We had equally good opportunities during the game, but we didn’t take them. They were very clinical.
“We tried to change things ahead of the game and we prepared differently. We then had to change things up with the injury during the game.
“I thought we were competitive between the boxes, and around their box we were OK as well. They didn’t create loads of chances, but when they did it was clinical, and that’s the difference.”
A punishing holiday period for Howe’s men sees Cherries next travel to Old Trafford on Saturday to take on a re-invigorated Manchester United side.
When questioned about the club’s testing run of fixtures, Howe added: “It’s difficult because we have games so quickly. We’re disappointed, we all expect better and the players feel the same.
“We can’t dwell on this, but we have to learn our lessons. We can’t go too deep, the next one will come quickly, so let’s focus on that. It’s a key stage of the season.”