Monday 19 August 2019

Jason Burt: 'Spurs prove they're more than one-man team after Kane agony'

A Spur for the team: Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris saves a penalty from Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero at Wembley last night. Photo: PA
A Spur for the team: Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris saves a penalty from Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero at Wembley last night. Photo: PA

Jason Burt

And so Tottenham Hotspur proved to Pep Guardiola that they are not the "Harry Kane team." Now can they do it in the second leg of this high-quality, high-octane Champions League quarter-final next week when surely he will be ruled out injured?

The Manchester City manager had provoked an angry response from Mauricio Pochettino with his past reference to Tottenham effectively being a one-man band, something he apologised for again on the eve of this encounter, saying he had only said it because Kane was in a rich vein of goal-scoring.

But Spurs, as they have done so often in the Champions League this season, reacted to adversity with remarkable resilience.

It seemed it was going against them when just before the hour the incredible acoustics at their new stadium could be heard in a very different way. This time it was for a collective intake of breathe; an inhalation of "oh no".

Everyone knew. Kane knew. His ankle had gone again. It was a tough, aggressive challenge on the striker by Fabian Delph down by the touchline, just outside the Spurs technical area.

Delph did not like it, felt it was too violent, and hovered over his England team-mate before pulling away. He also knew. Kane was in pain and, as he slowly picked himself up, he immediately hopped towards the tunnel, before being held by two members of Spurs' staff who aided him towards the dressing room. He did not even try and carry on. Pochettino simply looked stunned.

It did not look good for Kane. Not good at all. His evening was over, his contribution to this enthralling tie City ended prematurely. But was his season over also? And what effect would that have not just to the outcome of this meeting but to Spurs hopes of finishing in the top four?

Instead they showed remarkable reserves of belief to take the lead and, as he has done in the past when Kane has been absent, it was Son Heung-min who again filled the void, took on the responsibility and scored. The South Korean has done it before - and not just this season - and did it again as he took advantage of Delph's needless lunge to create the space and beat Ederson with a powerful low shot.

Son scored the first goal in this new stadium to break the deadlock against Crystal Palace, again in front of the 17,500 single tier South Stand, but this goal felt like one from a different dimension. Spurs had lift off beating Palace; this took them into a new stratosphere.

They also have something to hold onto; something to fight with. It will be hard for them to hold out against City, but they have the lead, they have the clean sheet and a goal next week means Guardiola's side need to score three. They can do that, but Spurs will fight all the way. Kane is a quick healer, but it was, again, his ankle, the same ankle, which had proven vulnerable. His left ankle.

Ligament damage was sustained in January during the defeat to Manchester United with doubts then that Kane would be able to return in time for the opening of this stadium or this tie.

He made it. But he could not carry on last night. Afterwards his manager sounded pessimistic.

"Very sad, very disappointed, and it's going to be tough for the rest of the season," Pochettino admitted. "We hope it's not a big issue but there's not much time to recover.

"He's twisted his ankle and we will see how he reacts in the next few hours."

He has praised the "animal" qualities that had enabled Kane to return early from his previous ankle injury, but can he do it again for the run-in?

Spurs had coped without Kane, but this task is of a greater dimension against City which is why it was so important that they left here with a lead.

Despite the result it a serious blow and not least because, in this encounter, of the aggressive way that Kane had led the line, tangling with Fernandinho.

Dividend

It was incredible to see how Spurs reacted to the loss of Kane, though, and maybe this was the first real dividend of their move to their plush new stadium.

It is hard to imagine a similar atmosphere as the raucous, relentless cacophony that drove them on here being created for them at Wembley Stadium.

It felt like their fans drew on the adversity and used in this in far tighter, closer arena. They roared their team on right to the end as they held out and it was Guardiola who ended disbelieving.

Maybe this Champions League campaign is meant to be - given how often, during it, they have appeared on their way out.

Beyond the loss of Kane there was also the VAR penalty given against them which Hugo Lloris saved and then Son's priceless goal.

Irish Independent

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