Little buzz from Hornets as Son strike settles it for Spurs
Tottenham Hotspur 1 Watford 0
A Heung Min-Son free kick just before half time was enough to seal all three points for Tottenham - and jolt the Lilywhites to the top of the Premier League after three games.
The north London side did what was necessary against a willing Watford, who ultimately lacked potency.
Spurs, at least, got the Harry Kane ’return' shenanigans all but out of the way here - and their overall business was achieved with fairly little fuss or drama. Being serenaded at the climax by the home faithful will have warmed the heart of Kane, who was the last to leave the pitch.
The Hornets – tipped for the drop by many – were pretty well organised, but their toothless nature was damning. And their keen resistance was fully tested as Tottenham consistently pressed them for over an hour of this workaday encounter. The hosts should have won more comfortably, yet it was to be one of Kane’s quieter afternoons in lilywhite, as a shadow eventually falls over his summer soap opera flirtation with Manchester City.
Spurs can, and will, play much better than this. Nevertheless, in statistical terms, three successive league wins is quietly encouraging even at his early stage of the campaign.
Any residual doubts about how Kane would be received by the Spurs' rank and file as he started the game were soon dispelled, when the striker was given a raucous welcome, moments after similar respect was afforded to the afternoon's special guest, Mark Falco, who starred for both sides in the 1980s.
Watford buzzed around early on, to the surprise of most inside the packed Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – where a carnival atmosphere enveloped after all the long days and nights of missing out on live action due to Covid. A Kane effort, hooked over the bar in the eighth minute was the first real test for Hornets’ keeper Daniel Bachmann. The England forward also missed a gaping chance with a few minutes left, perhaps typifying his muted return.
Still, Tottenham, with their brace of Premier League wins over Manchester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers under their belts, began showing aggression, with Steven Bergwijn – lively in the latter game – always on call on the left. Yet a driven effort from Ismaila Sarr, saved by Hugo Lloris, was a reminder that Watford were certainly keen to press forward and utilise their pace, sensing the hosts could be caught on the break.
Bachmann’s close range reflexes, amid a forest of limbs in the 20th minute, prevented Japhet Tanganga from prodding Tottenham into the lead. If Nuno Espirito Santo’s side were to make headway, they needed to exercise patience, with the Hornets calm and organised amid some decent, partisan noise levels. But they needed to do much more than, for instance, a tame free kick by Eric Dier, which offered no threat to Bachmann.
The attritional nature of the clash had been largely established, with Tottenham coercing matters with nimble passages inside their opponents’ penalty area. When were they going to make capital, though? The bulk of the first half indicated a notable lack of cutting edge – even from cajoler-in-chief Son and Kane.
Xisco’s Watford were a template of organisation and determination under pressure, with plenty of yellow shirts behind the ball, whilst aiming to spring the pace of Sarr.
However, there will have been such a sense of dread considering the manner of how they conceded the only goal, four minutes from half time. Strangely, it was in-form Bachmann who was guilty of reacting far too slowly to a clipped, angled free kick – from an innocuous enough position – from Son on the far left, outside the penalty area. And given the frustrations of earlier there was no mistaking the relief for the popular Korean. An unexpected way to break through the visitors, who had switched off for a micro-second.
With the onus on them to attempt to fully open up on the flanks, the Hornets showed some vigour after the restart, but unfortunately lost captain Craig Cathcart. The Northern Ireland international defender was forced to off injured, replaced by Jeremy Ngakia. As they sought a leveller, Watford’s finishing was at times, it has to be said, woeful. Ex-Spur Moussa Sissoko was especially guilty in this respect. Perhaps, then, it was little wonder the midfielder, as popular as he is with the Tottenham faithful, was given a rousing reception when substituted in the second half.
An audacious clip, meanwhile, by Davinson Sanchez almost doubled Tottenham’s lead in 56 minutes – and the north Londoners soon settled with Oliver Skipp promoting more in midfield, and Son subsequently fired straight at Bachmann from distance.
A lovely move by the hosts should have brought the second goal. Son, again, at the heart of it, driving past Adam Masina, before passing to Kane who drove the ball across the six yard box where Alli scuffed an effort inches wide. This was much more vibrant fare from Spurs.
Despite the slim nature of the score line – and that strange Kane blunder from a couple of yards out – these are certainly points to be welcomed by Tottenham, whose summit status is as surprising to their fans as much as anyone else.
Spurs: Lloris, Reguilon, Hojbjereg, Sanchez, Son (Gil 86), Kane, Dier, Alli, Bergwijn (Moura 67), Tanganga, Skipp
Hornets: Bachmann, Etebo, Ekong, King (Hernandez 64), Masina, Cathcart (Ngakia 50), Sissoko (Cleverley 70), Sarr, Dennis, Sierralta, Kucka