If they can produce more resilient displays like this, then there is no doubt Tottenham have forwards in Kane and Son capable of firing them to silverware.
Spurs maintained their perfect Premier League away record so far this season with a hard-fought victory over Burnley thanks to Son Heung-min’s 75th-minute diving header. It was a win that moves the North Londoners up to fifth in the table and just two points from its summit.
That Spurs were in for a long – at times bruising – evening at Turf Moor was made clear in the game’s opening minutes. First, Hugo Lloris was clattered to the ground when punching an early cross to safety. Then Toby Alderweireld was left bloodied by Ashley Barnes. The Burnley striker’s eyes may have been locked firmly on the ball as the pair contested a header, but the way he led with his elbow, catching the Belgian defender close to his temple, was the sort of ‘let him know you’re there’ forward play Sean Dyche demands of his charges.
Jose Mourinho had predicted before kick-off that the vibrant attacking football Spurs have played so far this season – Tottenham went into the match the Premier League’s joint top-scorers – would be hard to replicate here. His players seemed to interpret this as an instruction, spending much of the first half launching long speculative balls forward that were comfortably mopped up by the compact home defence.
As the interval approached, it was Burnley who looked the more likely to break the deadlock. Hugo Lloris was forced into two solid saves, clasping shots struck from the edge of his box.
The second half started in much the same vein. Spurs had lots of possession but looked incapable of unlocking a Burnley side growing in confidence.
Eric Dier was fortunate when chasing back toward his own goal to clear a long flighted pass, he attempted to flick the ball over Chris Wood’s head rather than booting it to safety. The ball rebounded off the Burnley man, setting him clean through on goal. Thankfully for the panicked Dier, referee Michael Oliver had spotted that the ball had inadvertently struck Wood’s arm and blew for a free-kick.
A few minutes later, Burnley thought they had the lead. Ashley Westwood’s corner was met firmly by James Tarkowski, who powered his header beyond Hugo Lloris – only to see it repelled off the line by the forehead of Harry Kane. Tottenham’s inability to defend set-pieces has cost them dearly repeatedly this season already, and such was the lethargy of their play up to this point, had they fallen behind, it may well have proved fatal.
Instead, the close escape seemed to immediately energize Jose Mourinho’s men. Passes that had gone sideways after multiple touches were now played forward, first-time and fast. Hojbjerg played a sharp ball into NDombele, who surged towards the Burnely box before releasing Son. Just as Tottenham’s leading scorer cocked his right foot to shoot, the Claret’s Kevin Long slid in with a goal-saving block.
Son, however, was not to be denied for very long. Kane forced a 75-minute corner which substitute Erik Lamela’s whipped in left-footed. Kane stretching every sinew managed to flick the ball on towards the back post where a diving Son flung himself to divert a header into the top corner. It was a goal that demonstrated that beyond his devastating technique, the South Korean forward possesses lightning-fast reactions. The goal marked the 29th time Tottenham’s superb striking pair have combined directly to score in the Premier League. Such is their lethal form the record of 36, held by Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard, will surely tumble before 2020 is out.
It is Tottenham’s leaky defence that prevents many from putting them forward as genuine title contenders. The combination of Dier and Alderweireld, when both are fit, appears to be Mourinho’s prefered centre-back pairing, and there was a sense of authority to Tottenham’s defensive work here as they closed out the game that had been absent in recent weeks. Hugo Lloris also played his part in calming any jitters, twice rising high above those in claret shirts to gather in late corners.
The full-time whistle heralded a first Premier League clean sheet of the season for Spurs. If they can produce more resilient displays like this, then there is no doubt Tottenham have forwards in Kane and Son capable of firing them to silverware.