Harry Kane’s double, including his 200th goal in club football kept Tottenham Hotspur’s European aspirations alive as it earned them all three points in a tight affair away at Newcastle United. Remarkably, it was also Jose Mourinho’s first-ever victory as a manager at St James’ Park.
Story of the game
It was the home team who started the better of the two sides. Following a cagey opening five minutes, they had the first key chances of the game in the sixth minute.
Miguel Almirón hit a venomous shot from the edge of the area but it diverted behind for a corner via the head of Davinson Sánchez.
From the resultant corner, Almirón had his second chance in as many minutes, ballooning a first time shot over the bar from a low Matt Ritchie delivery.
Jonjo Shelvey was the next to try his luck from distance, with his freekick testing the concentration levels of Hugo Lloris who fielded the effort easily.
Spurs responded immediately on the counter-attack and Giovani Lo Celso’s effort was blocked behind for a corner.
However, what Tottenham lacked in quantity of attacks they made up for with the quality of their finishing. After 26 minutes, Son Heung-min’s low strike from the left-hand edge of the penalty area whistled into the bottom corner of the net out of the reach of Martin Dúbravka.
The move began when Lucas Moura pinched the ball off Fabian Schär deep in the Newcastle half. He then passed it to Kane who knocked it quickly towards Lo Celso. The Argentine then slid the ball into the path of Son who made no mistake with the finish.
Just a few minutes later Son nearly added a second as he smashed a vicious shot goalwards from 30 yards. Despite a deflection, Dubravka made a fine save to keep Newcastle in the game.
The hosts finished the half with a flurry as they pressed for an equaliser. Ritchie’s shot hit Serge Aurier and deflected narrowly wide of the post before Saint-Maximin’s shot from the edge of the area forced a smart save from Lloris.
Then, with the half time whistle nearing Shelvey whipped in an inviting cross and Gayle met it with a glancing header which struck the post.
It was Tottenham who began the second half in the ascendancy, seeing more of the ball, controlling the tempo and looking for a way to break Newcastle down again and kill them off.
They failed to test Dubravka though and Newcastle made them pay by equalising ten minutes after the restart.
Valentino Lazaro made a good run from the right-wing into the centre of the penalty area before the Tottenham defence dispossessed him. However, Aurier’s scuffed clearance fell to Ritchie on the left side of the penalty area and he drove a thunderous left-footed shot beyond the despairing dive of Lloris.
Spurs’ reply was almost instantaneous. Kane headed in a precise Steven Bergwijn cross from the right with Dubravka rooted to the spot, to notch up the significant milestone of 200 goals.
Newcastle again chased the game and created good chances Saint-Maximin shot over from 30 yards before Almiron’s effort was blocked by Sanchez.
Lazaro arguably came the closest to the equaliser as he hit the side netting with a sharp drive from just inside the right-hand edge of the penalty area.
In the last 15 minutes, Saint-Maximin tried desperately to conjure an equaliser with some mazy runs and ambitious shots but unfortunately, accuracy alluded him.
And in the dying embers of the game, Erik Lamela twisted and turned in the area before his shot was excellently saved by Dubravka. The Slovakian goalkeeper could only parry though and Kane was on hand to turn the rebound in with a diving header to secure the victory.
The three points move Tottenham up to third, just a point adrift of sixth-placed Wolves in the final Europa League qualifying spot. Newcastle, on the other hand, remain firmly mid-table in 13th position.
ASM continues to dazzle
Newcastle's attacking play is growing in fluidity week by week. Their passes are crisper and more direct, they attack with a purpose and they aren't afraid to shoot. A few weeks ago they looked laboured and lacklustre in attack that isn't the case anymore. With more accurate shooting and better final balls, they will score more goals. They have definitely taken a huge step in the right direction though.
Saint-Maximin's directness is too much even for good defenders. Even against the Spurs defence his pace and willingness to run at defenders had them looking all over the place. If he keeps playing with this level of confidence he will rip most Premier League defences apart.
Spurs dig deep to earn a vital win
Lucas Moura works relentlessly hard. His appetite to track back and work for the team when they are out of possession is admirable. It also makes Spurs so hard to break down.
There are more important things than football but sometimes it can be a welcome distraction. Serge Aurier made the decision to play today despite the death of his brother less than 72 hours ago.
It may have been that playing in this match gave Aurier something else to focus on other than the horrific sense of loss and grief that must have consumed him since he received the news.