Son on target as Spurs keep pressure on Manchester clubs with uninspiring win over Crystal Palace
Tottenham Hotspur 1 Crystal Palace 0
It was not hammering the European champions 3-1 but then it was never going to be. Spurs came down to earth this afternoon but did at least land on their feet, grinding out a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace of which commemorative DVDs will never be sold.
Spurs were poor for the first hour of this match and Roy Hodgson’s Palace had three good chances early in the second half. Tottenham needed the unlikely figure of Paulo Gazzaniga on his debut in goal to keep them in the game.
The real hero, though, was Son Heung-min. Starting in the absence of Dele Alli, he provided the game’s only real moment of quality, curling in the only goal after 64 minutes. When Moussa Sissoko’s shot was cleared out to him on the edge of the box, he controlled the ball with his first foot then bent it with his left beyond Julian Speroni in the far corner of the net.
That was all Spurs needed and Son really should have had another, shooting into the side netting with eight minutes left after taking Jan Vertonghen’s pass. But it did not matter, and Spurs took their three points into the international break with them.
The first half was as different from Wednesday night as it possibly could be. All the fire and fun of that evening had dissipated and been replaced by something far more tepid. Tottenham’s attack took on Palace’s defence but there were no real winners. Spurs were over-hitting passes, losing possession, and nothing they were trying came off.
It did not help that they were without many of the heroes of Wednesday. Dele Alli was out with a minor hamstring strain, Kieran Trippier was rested, and Hugo Lloris and Toby Alderweireld were absent too. So there were plenty of changes, the most notable one being Gazzaniga making his Spurs debut in goal, because Michel Vorm was out injured too.
But Gazzaniga flapped at his first real chance when Palace crossed into the box, flattening Mamadou Sakho and not exactly inspiring confidence in his backline. Palace’s approach was to sit deep, frustrate Spurs and hit them on the break. And with the pace of Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend they had the tools to do that.
At the start of the second half, before Son’s winner, Palace had two good chances on the break to take the lead, both coming from poor Serge Aurier passes. First Townsend broke down the left, unleashing a left-footed shot that Gazzaniga had to dive down to tip away. Then the next time Aurier gifted Townsend the ball, he released Zaha who rounded Gazzaniga but dragged his shot wide.
When Gazzaniga had to save from Luka Milivojevic’s header from a corner, Spurs felt under more pressure than they had been all afternoon. But that was when Son rescued them with his own moment of brilliance.
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