Kane was able but Schlupp leveller halts Spurs charge in cracking 1-1 draw at Selhurst Park
By Ben Pearce at Selhurst Park
Crystal Palace 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1
Tottenham have built their title challenge on their defence and a succession of clean sheets, coupled with clinical counter-attacking football, and they looked set for another shutout and victory at Crystal Palace.
After Harry Kane broke the deadlock with a 23-minute strike, aided by suspect goalkeeping, Jose Mourinho’s men once again settled in to defend their lead – an advantage they still held after 80 minutes.
It looked like they were going to do enough and win to nil for the fourth time in five matches, alongside their 0-0 draw at Chelsea.
But this time, as the pressure increased, so too did the number of Palace’s clear-cut chances, and eventually the hosts got a well-deserved equaliser as Jeffrey Schlupp bundled the ball in to earn a 1-1 draw.
Spurs had paid the price for sitting on a slender one-goal lead for so long, showing little ambition of their own – and not for the first time this season.
Back in September, the Lilywhites adopted similar tactics against Newcastle after a 23rd-minute opener and were ultimately punished by a harsh penalty decision that allowed Callum Wilson to score a 90th-minute leveller.
The difference this time was Palace merited their point, having registered 16 shots – more than their visitors.
But, on a weekend when Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United have all dropped points, Spurs fans will ruefully wonder again what might have been if their side had been more positive in the second half.
For Roy Hodgson, here was further proof that his side can hurt the best defences through Eberechi Eze, Wilfried Zaha, Schlupp and co. If his side can start keeping clean sheets – a feat that has eluded them since the opening weekend – they will become even trickier opponents.
Zaha forced the first save of Sunday’s match with a low strike, and he soon threatened again, getting in behind on the right side but firing over the bar.
But Spurs responded, with Tanguy Ndombele seeing a first-time shot tipped away by Guaita and Kane also being denied by the goalkeeper as he headed at goal from a corner.
In a match were both sides were aiming to get ahead and then sit deep while playing on the break, the first goal was always going to be crucial – so Hodgson will have been very disappointed with how easily his side conceded it.
There seemed to be relatively little danger as Kane collected the ball 25 yards out, but his low strike wrong-footed Guaita and gave his side the all-important lead.
With Son Heung-min happening to be the player who passed to Kane, the pair continued their remarkable habit of assisting each other’s strikes this term.
This was their 12th Premier League goal combination of the season, leaving them just one short of the record in an entire season, set by Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton in Blackburn Rovers’ title-winning 1994/95 season.
Boasting clean sheets in their four previous matches, Spurs predictably prioritised defensive organisation after their breakthrough, but they were given a scare before half-time as Eze curled a low shot onto the right post.
The majority of the second half was as uneventful as Mourinho and his players would have wanted it to be as they settled in to protect Lloris.
But when the pressure increased in the final 20 minutes, Spurs seemed incapable of stopping Palace from creating chances.
Schlupp fired wastefully over the bar from a good position, and Benteke headed over the bar before sending another effort tamely at Lloris. The equaliser was coming and duly arrived as Schlupp forced the ball in during an 81st-minute scramble.
Tottenham nearly grabbed a stoppage-time winner as substitute Ben Davies’s overhit cross struck the woodwork and Guaita denied both Kane and Eric Dier, but their ambition had come too late.