Harry Kane’s late double takes Spurs past resurgent Aston Villa | Eurasia Diary - ednews.net

20 August, Tuesday


Harry Kane’s late double takes Spurs past resurgent Aston Villa

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It was a good way to begin a Premier League season, for the supporters at least. At the still gleaming White Hart Lane 60,000 were treated to a thrilling comeback victory by the hosts and a brave oh-so-nearly performance from the visitors. These early hours of a long campaign also begged questions of both these sides, however, and time will show just how telling they are.

Villa opened the scoring in the ninth minute, John McGinn’s confidently taken goal typifying a first-half performance in which Dean Smith’s side out-thought their opponents and matched them physically. The second period brought a shift in both momentum and personnel, with Christian Eriksen’s introduction just past the hour changing the match. Tanguy Ndombele scored a fine equaliser on his debut before a brace in the final five minutes from Harry Kane tied up three points that were ultimately well deserved.

There will be no ‘August curse’ for Kane this year and the England captain looks sharp after being afforded the luxury of a week or two without football this summer. “I think he spent a nice holiday, you saw it on Instagram,” said Mauricio Pochettino. But the impact Eriksen had may nag at the Argentinian manager until the transfer window closes in Europe at the beginning of September.

Spurs, it sometimes seems, have spent the past 18 months constantly plugging gaps, always one or two players short. After a summer of substantial recruitment – Ndombele being joined by Giovanni Lo Celso and Ryan Sessegnon – his options have finally been replenished and new alternatives are possible.

With Eriksen inserted between Ndombele and Moussa Sissoko the Dane found freedom he rarely enjoyed last season and he used it to decisive effect. But Eriksen has said he would like to leave the club if he can find the right move, ending a possibly promising combination before it had really begun.

John McGinn scored for Villa on his first ever Premier League appearance. Photograph: Matthew Childs/Action Images via Reuters

Pochettino may feel galled at the prospect of losing his playmaker at this juncture but he is not one to acknowledge disappointment and rejected the common assessment that Eriksen had been a game changer. “I do not agree,” he said. “I agree that in the first half we were a little predictable, we never found the best way to play and break down [Villa] quickly. In the second half we played really well.

“Of course when Christian came on to the pitch he was fresh and he’s a top player so he helped the team to win. That is the outcome when you have a player who maybe cannot play 90 minutes but has real quality,” the manager said.

In another noteworthy selection choice Jan Vertonghen, who like Eriksen has only a year remaining on his contract, was left out of the squad entirely.

Villa will also have come away considering frustrated possibilities. Their goal came early and was not really a surprise. Spurs dominated possession in the early stages but McGinn had been looking to take advantage of any turnover of possession. As soon as Villa won the ball, he was making runs off the back of Tottenham’s midfield.

He tried it once, he tried it twice and then, in the seventh minute, Tyrone Mings found him running beyond with a raking 60-yard pass. Danny Rose tried to chase McGinn down but the Scot sent the defender to the floor and then finished promptly past Hugo Lloris at his far post.

Villa gained confidence from that goal and held their own in the first half. They then fell away badly in the second, unable to hold possession and dwelling on the ball when they had it. Jack Grealish was robbed on the edge of his own box in the build-up to Harry Kane’s first goal and Sissoko both seized the ball and drove 30 yards through the centre of the pitch on the way to setting up Kane’s clinical second. Dean Smith acknowledged his team had been worn out by the end.

“I’m disappointed with the second-half performance, we were too cheap on the ball,” Smith said. “If you keep giving the ball away and keep having to chase it... I think their physicality showed through at the end. There’s definitely things we need to reflect on and analyse but I think we’ve shown we can compete.”

THE GUARDIAN

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