Gareth Bale scored twice (both goals set up by Harry Kane), and Kane scored two goals of his own, as Tottenham beat Crystal Palace 4-1 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday.
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Sunday’s victory makes it three wins in a row for Tottenham, who suddenly sit 6th in the Premier League table and only trail 4th-place Chelsea by two points in the race for UEFA Champions League qualification.
Crystal Palace, meanwhile, will finish matchweek 27 right where they began it: in 13th place, though the gap between themselves and the relegation zone is now just eight points after Fulham’s famous win over Liverpool on Sunday.
3 things we learned: Tottenham – Crystal Palace
1. A better balance from Mourinho… question mark: Tottenham’s three-game winning streak — and the 9-1 combined score by which they won those three games during a fantastic nine-day period — can be viewed one of two ways: 1) they’ve played Burnley, Fulham and Crystal Palace — three bottom-half teams — and simply done what they should do against that level of opposition, or 2) Jose Mourinho is striking a better balance somewhere between a low defensive block and a team that throws numbers forward and scores goal for fun. Perhaps the answer is a bit of both: it’s safer, at least in Mourinho’s mind, to give the front-three/four and wide players a bit more freedom against bottom-third sides, only to revert back to his usual ways against, say, Arsenal next weekend.
2. Bale back… question/exclamation marks: Again, the level of opposition must be taken into account, but that’s six goals and three assists for Bale in Tottenham’s last six games (four starts, two substitute appearances, no single shift lasting longer than 70 minutes). He looks lively, engaged and once again happy to be a performing as a professional footballer.
3. Lucas Moura perfectly deployed, unleashed: The best parts of Lucas Moura’s game are undeniably his athleticism, work rate and defensive intelligence, all of which were on display as he roamed and terrorized the Palace defense and midfield inside their own defensive third for much of the first half. Given the fluid and versatile nature of the Kane-Son-Bale trio up top, Moura is liable to drift all over the field and pop up in any number of areas to apply said pressure and wreak havoc on teams too comfortable in possession.
Tottenham’s first scoring chance came in the 6th minute, and it was Bale connecting with Son to test Guaita from close range. Bale found himself with two defenders challenging tightly on the right side of the box, but the Welshman worked his way into space with some clever footwork and floated a cross to the top of the six-yard box. Son was there and waiting, but the header lacked direction as he put it straight into Guaita’s arms.
Crystal Palace could only blame themselves for the Tottenham opener, as Luka Milivojevic was caught too casual on the ball 30 yards from his own goal. Moura pounced quickly to win the ball and get it wide to Harry Kane, who powered into the penalty area and played a simple ball across the six to find Bale making the back-post run for a tap-in.
Milivojevic made amends, though, as it was his delightfully floated cross that found Benteke for the equalizer just before halftime. Milivojevic found himself on the left wing and hit a first-time, left-footed ball where only Benteke could reach it — high above Spurs’ defense — and the big Belgian’s powerful header found the upper-90.
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Tottenham needed just four second-half minutes to regain the lead, and again it was Kane finding Bale for the goal. Sergio Reguilon floated a cross to the back post for Kane to nod back into the middle of the box, where Bale simply had to guide the ball into goal with a header of his own.
Three minutes later, Kane got his first goal — the best of the bunch for Tottenham and the most unsuspecting of scoring chances until it wasn’t. Matt Doherty laid the ball back from the corner of the penalty area with Kane charging onto the scene to shoot a right-footed arrow just inside the far post for a stunning goal (his 15th of the Premier League campaign).
Goal no. 4 was easily the best team goal of the bunch, thanks in large part to a display of technical precision from Son. Erik Lamela lifted a ball over the defense to find Son on the left and Son hit a cross first-time from a difficult height and position, with Kane narrowly onside just behind the ball when it was played. Kane’s header almost got away from him, but the ball found the back of the net in the end.