Harry Kane double sparks Tottenham’s rout of Crystal Palace

Perhaps Tottenham have finally realised that they do not have to be 2-0 down before letting their talent shine. They have too much firepower to play such a restrained brand of football and when Harry Kane is in this kind of mood, so full of creativity and so hungry for goals, it is difficult to understand why Antonio Conte makes life at Spurs sound so wearisome.

Of course, whether this excellent performance alone will convince Conte that he can build at Spurs remains to be seen. Even so, this was better. Every Spurs player contributed, although none of it would have been possible without Kane, who sparked this rout of Crystal Palace with two goals at the start of the second half.

By the end Spurs, who are two points off Manchester United in fourth place, had put their troubles behind them.

The reminder that all is not well at Spurs arrived when the travelling fans called for Daniel Levy to resign as soon as the game kicked off. Here was evidence of a narrative taking shape. This was Spurs in the grip of a culture war. It was a warning to the board and what stood out was that the criticism flung in Levy’s direction was followed by loud backing for Conte, even though he has spent much of his time in north London acting as if his job is little more than a burden.

It must have made for tough listening for Levy given that Conte has hardly exceeded expectations this season. The malaise is not just about failings at board level. The time has also come for Conte to stop moaning and, in the context of their usual first-half displays, at least it was encouraging to see Spurs make an attempt to move on from their dismal defeat to Aston Villa.

The opening exchanges were proof that Spurs can take games by the scruff of the neck. They imposed themselves on Palace, forcing errors, and had some promising moments. There was welcome urgency from Oliver Skipp, starting in midfield in the absence of Yves Bissouma and Rodrigo Bentancur, and a curling shot from Bryan Gil.

Matt Doherty scores Tottenham’s third goal.
Matt Doherty scores Tottenham’s third goal. Photograph: Simon Roe/ProSports/REX/Shutterstock

At times Palace struggled to make it out of their own half. Gil was doing his best to stop Spurs pining for the injured Dejan Kulusevski to return on the right and, with Son Heung-min linking with Kane, it took a while for Palace to settle.

But a spark was lacking. Gil faded, Son’s influence dimmed and Kane began to see less of the ball. Palace, who had been forced to deal with a few dangerous crosses, started to press.

Jordan Ayew had a good chance, only to shoot straight at Hugo Lloris, and Joachim Andersen fired inches wide from 25 yard.

Palace were on top as half-time approached. Wilfried Zaha and Eberechi Eze were struggling to find the final pass, but Michael Olise was lively on the right. He was unfortunate to see a deflected shot flash just wide.

The second half began with Ayew forcing a block from Eric Dier after a slip from Cristian Romero. Spurs had to respond. Inevitably they improved when Kane stirred, dropping deep, a subtle pass drawing a wild shot from Matt Doherty.

Out of nowhere, Spurs found their belief returning. Kane was leading from the front.

Moments later Pierre-Emile Højbjerg was stepping in to win possession in midfield, Son was combining with Gil and Ivan Perisic was arriving in space from left wing-back. Palace had been carved apart and when Perisic stood the cross up to the far post Joel Ward was no match in the air for Kane, who buried a header past Vicente Guaita.

It was the first time in 11 games that Spurs had scored the first goal. It liberated them. Five minutes later Gil dribbled in from the right and threaded a lovely pass through to Kane, who produced another clinical finish, shooting quickly enough to prevent a block, the ball bent beautifully past Guaita and into the far corner.

Palace fell apart. Kane fed Son, who set up Doherty for a low finish. There was time for Kane to come up with an assist for Son, who bullied Marc Guéhi and beat Guaita.

The Guardian