Tottenham Hotspur left it late but earned a 1-0 win at West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League on Sunday.
Jose Mourinho opted to go with Gareth Bale in his front line, joining Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, but it was the South Korean who missed the game’s first big chance as he took an age to shoot with the goalkeeper out of position.
Chances were few and far between, with the home side’s best chance a low, drilled effort from Conor Gallagher which shaved the outside of the post around the 70-minute mark.
Just as it looked as the game would meander to a goalless draw, a ball in from the right found Harry Kane the wrong side of the his marker and the striker glanced in a headed winner.
Here are five things we learned from the game at the Hawthorns.
Front three introduction
Gareth Bale was named in the starting line-up in the Premier League for the first time by Jose Mourinho, putting together the much-anticipated Spurs attack of the Welshman, Harry Kane and Son Heung-min.
The first 45 minutes was a bit of a disappointment in that regard, with a low tempo to the game and not much visibility of link-up play between the trio.
Unusually, it was Son who often proved the link which forced the breakdown in moves, while the fact it took Spurs an hour to have their first shot on target – which came from left-back Sergio Reguilon – shows that the attack wasn’t firing on this occasion.
It can be expected that after the international break we’ll see them in tandem more often, but this first showing was far from electric.
A good, serviceable central defender, reliable in ball-winning and mature in decision-making, is worth a lot of points over the course of the season, even if they aren’t headline-makers.
It’s worth noting the displays of two on this occasion, then: Semi Ajayi and Eric Dier. Neither are the biggest names or the most vaunted of defenders, but both had excellent days at the Hawthorns.
Ajayi was the last line of defence for the Baggies, always on hand to force attacks wide, intercept through passes and win the aerial battles, while Dier was positionally good against the counter and cleared one off the line with his head, again showing good anticipation.
Not match-winning interventions, but ones which ensured their teams weren’t about to lose easily.
Yet another Harry Kane milestone
Just a week on from him hitting his 200th Spurs goal, the key striker popped up with two minutes to play and headed in his 150th Premier League goal.
He’s joint-ninth now all-time scorer since the inception of the league in ’92, with only Alan Shearer having reached the 150-milestone quicker.
This was a long way away from Kane’s best showing of the season, yet even without his constant assists and shots, he was always his team’s outlet, finding spaces and playing sweeping passes into the final third.
But most crucially, he had the finishing touch. It was about the only chance which fell his way and he had the composure and deft glance of his head to beat the keeper and find the net – a tremendous display of his clinical nature.
Having seen Chelsea win on Saturday and knowing at least one of Manchester City and Liverpool must drop points later on Sunday, Spurs would have seen this as a great occasion to pick up a win on.
Six league games unbeaten heading into this fixture, Spurs never looked like losing – but equally, taking only a point against a side in the bottom three would feel like a chance missed.
Given the nature of the top-four battle this season and the number of sides capable of earning those spots, Jose Mourinho will know the fine margins that could make all the difference across the course of the campaign.
Thus, grinding their way to three points will arguably please him more than some of the easier, higher-scoring wins they had a few weeks ago – particularly as this win sends them top of the table for now.
As for the Baggies, it’s the opposite issue: no wins after eight games is an appalling return to the top flight on the one hand, but with so many other teams failing to kickstart 2020/21 as well, avoiding defeat is paramount.
Goal difference is an issue at present given how open they were in the first weeks of the season, but West Brom have improved markedly in that respect.
They were within a minute of making it four draws – half their games so far – which shows they’re on the right path, if not actually taking big enough steps yet.
More work to do, but at least signs of promise and potential, which is better than some of their relegation rivals can say so far.
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