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  • Writer's pictureBy Dan Evans

The brilliance of Kane and Son saves the new Tottenham just as it did the old

Tottenham (1) 2 Son 10, Kane 79

Brighton (1) 1 Dunk 33

Perhaps we should have seen this coming a while ago. Brighton, playing some of the most interesting and innovative football in the Premier League, travel to Tottenham on a sunny mid-Spring afternoon. Spurs are inconsistent and often unconvincing, but firmly in the chase for a Top Four finish as the season accelerates towards its final throes.

Brighton’s brilliant young manager, coveted by Tottenham among others, puts together a game plan that almost completely nullifies the home side to suggest that it is the visitors who should be looking forward to how the current season will end and the next one begins.

The Seagulls won 1-0 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium a week short of a year ago today, jeopardising Spurs’ hopes of reaching the Champions League and bringing on another of those periods of self-reflection, uncertainty and downright misery that so often bother Daniel Levy and others of a Tottenham persuasion.

There were some differences in this 2-1 reverse on Saturday. Spurs did not lose for one, and melancholy had already set in long before the game rather than during it. Yet the performance did little to indicate that the final weeks of this campaign will be anything other than a slog for Tottenham as they are carried along by their most talented players and supporters yearn for the return of the good times under Mauricio Pochettino.

Brighton did not allow Spurs a shot on target in their last visit here. Whilst more threatening in attack this time around, they were also open defensively in a way that allowed even the well-rehearsed and predictable patterns of attack instilled by Antonio Conte and carried on by his former assistant and interim predecessor Cristian Stellini to create problems sporadically.

Son Heung-Min’s exceptional curling goal on ten minutes belied both Spurs inability to regularly threaten the Brighton backline on the day and his own lack of form throughout the season. The South Korean’s 100th Premier League goal was a moment of individual brilliance rather than a picking apart of Brighton’s aggressive defensive line, yet it lifted the mood all the same.

The visitors were not rocked though. They continued to play pass after pass, remaining patient regardless of the fits and spurts of Spurs pressure that periodically threatened to disrupt the general flow of the game.

Brighton allowed their own individual quality to shine in the moments they broke from their controlled dominance. Alexis Mac Allister forced Hugo Lloris into a full-length save before Moises Caicedo hit the post from range within the same minute.

The ghost of Conte remains in north London, but was it ever likely to be banished with his assistant placed in charge? The influence of Harry Kane and Son on the counterattack waned. The home crowd grew increasingly frustrated with their side as a Brighton equaliser began to look inevitable.

Static attacking play may have been expected of the final weeks of Conte’s reign given how his time ended at Chelsea, porous defending less so. A recent habit of conceding remarkably simple goals was continued when Lewis Dunk was left unmarked to head home a corner routine that Brighton had already attempted before in the opening minutes of the game.

Brighton continued to dominate after the break despite the interventions of VAR and the eventual absence of their manager. Having already harshly disallowed a Karou Mitoma equaliser for handball in the first half, a similarly lengthy intervention from Stockley Park saw a Danny Welbeck strike chalked off after it flicked off the arm of Solly March on its way beyond Hugo Lloris.

Roberto De Zerbi, who was energetic on the touchline throughout, reached another level of agitation not long after. A bout of technical area handbags saw both he and Stellini, whose involvement seemed minimal, shown a red card.

The lack of direct guidance did little to halt Brighton’s rhythm though, and it was they who seemed most likely to secure victory in the half hour that remained.

However, it was Kane, as it so often is, who proved decisive, capitalising on the ball breaking loose in the Brighton half to direct a deflected shot home from a Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg cutback.

Spurs went unbeaten in the final six games that followed their last home defeat to Brighton and earned themselves a place in the Champions League. Whilst this win keeps them within three points of Newcastle and Manchester United, the performance indicates that hoping for the same outcome may be wishful thinking.

Spurs: (3-4-3) Lloris – Romero, Dier, Lenglet – Porro, Hojbjerg, Skipp (Sarr 87), Perisic (Tanganga 90) – Kulusevski (Danjuma 78), Kane, Son. Subs not used: Forster, Austin, Sanchez, Richarlison, Devine, Mundle


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