Spurs continue Euro push with win over Wolves
Tottenham ready for 'crucial seven days' after goals from Kane and Hojbjerg see off Wolves
17 May, 2021 — By Dan Carrier at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
SPURS 2 (Kane 45, Hojbjerg 62)
WITH the chase for a Europa League spot still on – and the bragging rights as the top club in north London still up for grabs – Spurs cannot afford to let up in hunting down every last three points available.
Today (Sunday), they comfortably saw off Wolves thanks to goals from Harry Kane and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.
Ryan Mason’s side put in as good a performance as they have done for some time – the 14 shots on target they unleashed is the highest number they have enjoyed in a game for four years. And the standout player being the newly-invigorated Dele Alli.
Wolves, who have built a reputation for their tenacity, appeared to have one eye on the beach and had no answer to Tottenham’s attacking approach and aggressive attitude.
The 2-0 win moves Spurs up to sixth, level on points with West Ham – and if results go their way elsewhere, it is not yet mathematically impossible for Spurs to qualify for the Champions League.
Unlikely, yes, but not yet impossible – and that means there is everything to play for.
Mason said after the game his team had confidence, suggesting they had bounced back after the wimpish defeat away at Leeds United last time out.
“We needed to see a win, first and foremost, but then also with that, how you win is important,” said the interim head coach. “It’s important to get a certain feeling. I thought we were outstanding today.
“We could have and probably should have scored more. We attacked the game, dominated it and controlled it.”
Much of Tottenham’s best passages came through Alli, who Mason gave a licence to roam. The midfielder, who has had two sticky years at the club, put in a shift that reminded fans of the fearless youngster who first exploded on to the Premier League scene – and who had been cast out under Jose Mourinho’s misery-ball tactics.
Mason added: “Dele was excellent. I don’t really like singling out players, but it’s hard not to because I’m sure everyone felt it.
“He ran, he competed, he pressed, he created opportunities. I’m sure he’s disappointed not to get a goal himself. It was an excellent number 10 performance, I’m really, really pleased.”
Tottenham’s first move of note came on six minutes. After building up a bit of pressure, the Spurs midfield were in advanced positions – something that illustrates a break from Mourinho’s approach – and won possession back high up the pitch.
The ball was slipped by Alli to Kane, who steadied himself and fired a shot low. It beat the keeper, but struck the far post – the first of three times that Spurs would hit the woodwork.
It gave the players a confidence boost. Chances began to present themselves as Wolves looked fairly disinterested in making a game of it.
Gareth Bale played in bursts, and when he did get involved, his class was all too apparent. Midway through the first 45, he had a free-kick saved low, and then saw a solid shot blocked.
On 37 minutes, Bale found Alli, who swung a great ball across the pitch for Kane. He nodded it neatly into Heung-Min Son’s path, who saw his close range drive well saved by Rui Patricio.
The chances created gave the impression something was coming. Wolves, meanwhile, rarely tested the Spurs defence, the closest being a Fabio Silva shot that trundled wide.
That, and the usual directness from winger Adama Traore. But apart from a few chunky fouls in the first half, this Wolves side lacked the intensity that we have come to expect of Nuno Santo’s team.
The deadlock was broken on the stroke of half-time. Hojbjerg found himself with a modicum of time in his own half, and saw Kane pulling away from his markers and looking to make the angled run in behind.
Hojbjerg, known more for his destroying capabilities than playmaking, managed to get the ball for the forward just right. Kane held off the attentions of Conor Coady, sold Patricio in the Wolves goal a dummy and rolled a shot into the empty net. It was all Spurs deserved.
A goal to the good, the previous dug out incumbent would have looked for ways to close the game down defensively. Mason’s philosophy, however, is the opposite, and his players looked more comfortable when told the best form of defence is to attack.
Spurs kept trying to create. One memorable move, on 53, saw the excellent Alli win a tackle and spring forward. Bale drew defenders and allowed Alli to find Kane. His shot was touched on to the post by Patricio’s fingertips, and Alli then struck the other post with a follow up shot.
Spurs were knocking on the door – and the all-important second goal came eight minutes later. A chipped ball by Alli for Sergio Reguilon to chase saw the full-back not give up on a seemingly lost cause. He eventually managed to hustle his way into the box and squeeze a pass to Son, who in turn tee’d up Bale.
The wingers first time drive was saved – but Hojbjerg was alive to the rebound and bundled home.
Wolves had nothing in answer and unlike so many times this season, it felt Spurs were capable of comfortably defending a lead without actively seeking as many banana skins as possible to tread on.
Staying in the top-six is now in their own hands, with just two games left of this oddest of odd seasons. And Mason is happy to have the chance to salvage something from a term that has been extremely disappointing.
Mason said: “Our attention has to be on Wednesday, against Aston Villa. It’s another big game for the club, we know that. That is three wins in four in the Premier League – it is nice to get a good feeling going into a crucial seven days now.”
Spurs: Lloris, Dier, Alderweireld, Tanganga, Reguilon, Lo Celso (Winks, 69), Hojbjerg, Alli (Ndombele, 81), Kane, Son, Bale (Sissoko, 88)
Substitutes not used: Hart, Doherty, Sanchez, Lamela, Bergwijn, Moura
Wolves: Patricio, Semedo, Coady, Saiss, Hoever, Moutinho, Dendoncker, Gibbs-White (Neves, 72), Vitinha (Willian Jose, 63), Traore, Silva (Corbeanu, 81)
Substitutes not used: Nouri, Marcal, Boly, Ruddy, Cundle, Kilman