Son Heung-min fires Tottenham to victory over Crystal Palace
Published 20/09/2015 | 15:40
Tottenham earned their first home win of the Barclays Premier League season with a convincing 1-0 defeat of Crystal Palace.
Endearing himself to the fans on his home league debut, Son Heung-min, signed from Bayer Leverkusen towards the end of the summer transfer window for a reported fee of £22million, scored the 68th-minute winning goal that his fine performance deserved.
As so often feels the case at White Hart Lane, where the home crowd is rarely reluctant to criticise their team, it appeared an early goal would have settled Spurs and encouraged them to show their true ability.
Instead, for all of their superiority in possession and quality in the final third, yet again they were at risk of finishing without victory. Harry Kane, perhaps owing to frustration, often left the area in pursuit of possession and in doing so left Spurs without a focal point.
Son impressed with his purpose and direct approach but, alongside him behind Kane, Erik Lamela was again disappointing and Nacer Chadli equally so.
As early as the third minute with both time and space, Kane, so far this season unable to recover the prolific form he enjoyed during the last, headed harmlessly over when last season a goal would have been the likely outcome.
Dele Alli, Lamela, and Kane again all had routine, close-range efforts saved by Palace goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, who impressed with his reflexes and consistency, but still a goal rarely looked likely.
It was actually Palace, who struggled in possession amid Mauricio Pochettino's pressing game, who had the most memorable chances of the opening half.
With 38 minutes gone, Bakary Sako - among Palace's weaknesses given his lack of direction up front caused their limited possession - forced Hugo Lloris into a fine save from a direct free-kick that had been heading towards the top corner.
Shortly after and just on the stroke of half-time, Yohan Cabaye demonstrated his quality with a low swerving shot, from the edge of Spurs' penalty area, that defeated Lloris but came back off the post. Had he scored, it appeared, Palace would have gone on to earn a comfortable victory.
Instead, from the second half Tottenham improved, and Palace only looked threatening on the counter.
Pardew introduced striker Fraizer Campbell for the underwhelming Wilfried Zaha and switched Sako to the right in an attempt to give his side more direction but it made little difference to their attempts to retain possession.
Spurs' Ben Davies had a headed goal rightly disallowed when Kane was caught offside, and Lloris produced an exceptional save from Sako when the forward, taking possession from a cross following an attack down the left, struck a powerful half-volley from the goalkeeper's right, but that was a rarity among the home side's growing pressure, and the opening goal proved imminent.
Christian Eriksen, deemed not sufficiently fit to start, came on for Chadli in the 66th minute and within two minutes his impact was such that Spurs had scored.
Taking possession from Lamela, Eriksen looked up and found Son's run. Playing with a by-now familiar belief, the South Korean continued his run into the penalty area and, before he could be challenged by Palace's defence, sent an accurate shot beneath the unfortunate McCarthy.
A further chance later came to Alli, again of Eriksen's making, to double Spurs' lead but the promising midfielder shot wide after cutting in on his right foot inside the area.
Palace offered little more in response, however, and will likely reflect enough had not been done to avoid defeat.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
Gary Lineker @GaryLineker
"Tell you what, England has some real talent finally coming through. Very excited by Dele Alli"
Hugo Lloris: 8 (out of 10)
Kyle Walker: 6
Toby Alderweireld: 6
Jan Vertonghen: 7
Ben Davies: 7
Eric Dier: 7
Dele Alli: 6
Nacer Chadli: 5
Erik Lamela: 5
Son Heung-min: 8
Harry Kane: 7
Christian Eriksen 8
Clinton Njie 5
Tom Carroll 5
Alex McCarthy: 8
Martin Kelly: 7
Brede Hangeland: 6
Damien Delaney: 6
Pape Souare: 6
Yohan Cabaye: 7
James McArthur: 7
Yannick Bolasie: 8
Jason Puncheon: 6
Wilfried Zaha: 5
Bakary Sako: 6
Fraizer Campbell 5
Jordan Mutch 5
Patrick Bamford 5
Alex McCarthy: The promising young goalkeeper has capitalised on Julian Speroni's absence to establish himself as manager Alan Pardew's first choice. Repeatedly showing his reflexes with a variety of saves, injuries to fellow goalkeepers Ben Foster and Fraser Forster have presented McCarthy with a potential opening in Roy Hodgson's England squad for Euro 2016.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Son Heung-min: There had been concerns that the South Korean forward would prove too lightweight to have a real impact in the Premier League. His performance against Palace - direct, confident, extremely effective - suggested that will not be the case, however, and that the £22million that went on him was well spent.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Alan Pardew's stock is the highest it has been since the summer of 2006, when he led West Ham to within minutes of winning the FA Cup. Mauricio Pochettino, however, appeared extremely tense, perhaps recognising that in his second season at the club, his team need to improve, and he was never reluctant to criticise the fourth official for refereeing decisions that were ultimately not his.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Christian Eriksen was not considered fit enough to start by Mauricio Pochettino. In his absence, Spurs still had the potentially-creative Dele Alli, Erik Lamela and Nacer Chadli in their starting XI but they were unconvincing. It was only after Eriksen came on, in the 66th minute, that Spurs actually scored. Is their transfer policy to blame, or is their collective talent going to waste?
WHO'S UP NEXT
Crystal Palace v Charlton (Capital One Cup, Wednesday September 23)
Tottenham v Arsenal (Capital One Cup, Wednesday September 23)
Son, who netted twice in Thursday's Europa League opener, told Sky Sports afterwards: "I'm really happy to score my first Premier League goal - I hope every week is like this.
"The Premier League is amazing. There's a different style to the Bundesliga - power and speed - and I like this."
Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino said: "When you sign players you expect them to have an impact on the team. He's adapted to the team very well. After scoring twice in midweek and once today it's good for a new striker.
"I'm very pleased with my players. The effort was big after the Europa League match on Thursday."