Tottenham go five points clear at top of table after victory over Crystal Palace
Spurs now have 26 points from a possible 30 so far this season.
The north Londoners were frustrated for large spells of the match but showed their class after the restart as an own goal from Joel Ward and Son Heung-min tap-in saw them extend their unbeaten run and their lead at the top, at least until others have played this weekend – though they had to survive a nervy ending.
Spurs made two changes from the side that beat Fulham on Monday night, with Destiny Udogie not fit enough to play and Ben Davies picked instead, while Yves Bissouma came back into the starting XI for Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg after serving a one-match suspension.
Ange Postecoglou’s side quickly settled into their possession game but it was Palace – looking to bounce back from a 4-0 defeat to Newcastle last time out – who had the first sighters on goal, with Guglielmo Vicario forced into two solid stops.
Spurs continued to dominate the ball and James Maddison started to find pockets of space against Palace’s deep, disciplined back-line; a burst down the left channel nearly presented him with a chance to square for Son, while he fired over from close range moments later after Richarlison did brilliantly to keep the ball in play.
Those two were starting to click down the left-hand side and another flowing move created space for the Brazilian on the edge of the box, but he dragged his effort wide of the near post. More quick interplay between Son and Maddison nearly released the latter, but Jefferson Lerma made an excellent recovery challenge.
Crystal Palace were frustrating Tottenham, though, and ended the half with a flurry of dangerous corners. Postecoglou did not wait around to make a change, withdrawing Davies at the break – who was targeted in the air by Palace – and bringing on Emerson Royal.
Despite some swift mopping up from the rapid Micky van de Ven, Palace continued to threaten on the break and a burst to the byline from Jeffrey Schlupp gave him the chance to fire a low cross into the box which Spurs just about managed to clear.
Tottenham went up the other end and created a similar opening moments later, though were rather more fortunate than their opponents; Pape Matar Sarr’s pull-back ricocheted to Maddison and he fired a vicious volley across goal that rebounded off Ward and into the back of the net.
Despite their lead, Spurs lacked a bit of control in the match at this stage and were being hounded by Palace’s spring-loaded pressing. Bissouma was caught on the ball deep in his own half, with Odsonne Edouard’s shot deflecting for a corner. From the resulting set-piece, Marc Guehi had a free header but put his effort wide.
Tottenham kept playing their football, though, amid a chorus of boos and whistles from the Selhurst Park crowd as they passed it round the back. Palace were given a warning shot with one back-to-front move that almost came off, but they would not escape a second time.
Vicario started the move but the injection of tempo came from a raking switch of play from Sarr; Substitute Brennan Johnson headed the ball onto Maddison, who played it back, and the Welshman squared for Son to double the lead. A razor-sharp, devastatingly clinical goal.
Palace seemed to run out of steam as the match wore on, a consequence of Tottenham’s constant passing and moving, but pulled a goal back deep into stoppage time with a controversial moment.
Ayew controlled a deep cross on the edge of the box and fired a stunning volley past Vicario, but replays appeared to show a slight touch off his arm. Despite multiple checks from VAR, the goal was given and Tottenham had to endure a nervy final few minutes.
This was arguably Spurs’ most underwhelming performance of the season so far, yet they came through it with a dogged win, a memorable goal and a five-point lead at the top of the Premier League table.
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