Tottenham Hotspur 2 Wolves 0
A motivated Tottenham Hotspur, with a goal-hungry Harry Kane and a reinvigorated Dele Alli, remain a dangerous force no matter how draining this strange season has been.
One imagines that the scars of Jose Mourinho’s tenure will take some time to heal but, when they click like this, Tottenham still have the look and feel of a proper football team.
These three points against Wolverhampton Wanderers took Tottenham up to sixth, beyond West Ham United, with two games to play.
A Europa League place is within their grasp, which is something to build on at least, even if it is not the Champions League spot they crave.
In the search for a new manager, performances of this nature can only help Tottenham’s cause. When Kane and Alli threaten as they did here, dovetailing like it was 2017 all over again, this group look a far more enticing prospect for potential coaches than they did just a few weeks ago.
Kane’s first goal under interim coach Ryan Mason was a pleasing sign for all of a Tottenham and England persuasion, although he will feel that he should have had more.
The second was tapped in by the excellent Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who also created the opener with a superb pass. “We were outstanding today,” Mason said. “We should have scored more.”
Tottenham were not flowing throughout but they certainly deserved their win against a Wolves side with nothing but pride on their agenda. Nuno Espirito Santo’s team had promising moments yet they lacked an edge in attack, where Adama Traore’s good work was often wasted by his team-mates.
After a flat opening half-hour, in which Wolves striker Fabio Silva had the best chances, the home side were strolling by the end.
For them, it was the performance of Alli that provided the most encouragement. This was his third consecutive start under Mason and the 25-year-old was perhaps the sharpest player on the pitch.
“Dele was excellent,” Mason said. “He ran, competed, pressed, created opportunities.”
There were times, especially when he produced a gorgeous nutmeg on Leander Dendoncker in the first half, when the midfielder looked a little like the old Alli again. After such a miserable few months under Mourinho, in which he barely played, there was even a beaming smile on Alli’s face after the break. He looked to at last be enjoying his football, and Tottenham’s attackers were clearly enjoying his presence alongside them. “With players like this, it is a joy to play,” said Alli, who might yet make a late push for the England squad. “I am just trying to express myself and have fun.”
With Alli pulling the strings, Kane and Gareth Bale gradually grew into the game before the break, helping Mason’s side to take control before their opener. Hojbjerg’s pass split apart the Wolves defence, allowing Kane to skip past Rui Patricio before finishing. “We allowed a simple pass that broke all the lines,” Nuno said. “Sometimes we create our own problems.”
Kane’s 22nd goal of the league season, to go with his 13 assists, meant that only Robert Lewandowski and Lionel Messi have been involved in more goals across Europe’s top five leagues.
The Kane-Alli connection, such a key part of Tottenham’s recent history, has barely been seen this season. That understanding does not just disappear overnight, though, and they combined well as Tottenham twice hit the woodwork after the break. Alli found Kane, whose shot was tipped onto one post by Patricio before Alli side-footed the rebound on to the other.
Alli was finding plenty of space and was involved again in the build-up to the second, spotting Reguilon on the left. The Spaniard did brilliantly to feed Son Heung-min, who teed up Bale. Patricio saved the first effort but pushed it only as far as Hojbjerg, a few yards out.
Traore’s speed continued to pose problems but Wolves knew, as well as Tottenham, that this match was over as a contest.
This was Tottenham’s day and, with Kane and Alli leading the way, their pursuit of European football is back on track as they enter the final days of this turbulent campaign.
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