With Newcastle mathematically safe from relegation and Tottenham almost certainly out of reach of a Champions League qualifying spot, only table points and bragging rights were at stake when Tottenham arrived at Newcastle. Serge Aurier started the match just days after his brother was murdered in France, a decision that we hope was his alone and brought him some solace. Our thoughts remain with the Aurier family. Hugo Lloris, Davinson Sánchez, Toby Alderweireld, and Ben Davies joined Aurier in the defense, with Harry Winks and Giovani Lo Celso ahead of them. The Tottenham attack was a diamond led by Harry Kane, with Heung-min Son and Lucas Moura on the wings and Moussa Sissoko moving from deep. Two former Spurs players featured for Newcastle, defender Deandre Yedlin and Sherwood-era midfielder Nabil Bentaleb.
The first half generally lived up to the promise of dullness, with rare moments of excitement coming from Heung-min Son’s confident goal for Tottenham and a few Newcastle efforts, including marvelous probing runs by star Allan Saint-Maximin and a header off of the post by Dwight Gayle. Spurs defended cautiously, with Newcastle struggling to find a way through, and moved slowly on the attack. Save for Son’s effort, Tottenham looked utterly toothless in front of goal. Two goals within the first fifteen minutes of the second half picked up the pace slightly. First Newcastle substitute Valentino Lazaro ran through the Spurs defense, causing problems that ended with an Aurier clearance out wide. Matt Ritchie pounced on the ball and fired home past Lloris, tying the game in the 55th minute. Just five minutes later, Spurs substitute Steven Bergwijn hit a perfect cross to Harry Kane, whose powerful header was his two hundredth career goal. Kane sealed the game for Spurs with a second goal in the 89th minute after he found Lamela at midfield, who ran through the Newcastle defense and fired at Dúbravka. The rebound fell perfectly to Kane, who made the scoreline Newcastle 1 - Tottenham 3 but seemed to injure himself along the way. Newcastle didn’t play all that well, and if they had, Spurs might have been in trouble, but a win from an otherwise lukewarm day of football leaves Spurs supporters with a little less to complain about.
5’ —Almirón is found in space at the edge of Tottenham’s penalty area and his volley is the first effort of the match, blocked by Davinson Sánchez. Newcastle execute a clever set piece on the ensuing corner kick but Almirón fires well wide.
10’ —Allan Saint-Maximin has a run at the Spurs defense from half field, cleverly pushing the ball around Lo Celso as he goes the opposite way. He looks good.
14’ — Tottenham seem content to soak up pressure, almost as though they’re running a defensive drill on the training ground.
18’ — A nice dribble by Sissoko sends a Newcastle player sliding.
22’ — Heung-min Son leads a good move as he dribbles across the pitch to the right wing, then plays a diagonal ball to slot Moura in. The pass is seen out for a corner.
26’ — TOTTENHAM GOAL! Newcastle 0-1 Tottenham. Son caps off a series of short passes that began with Moura recovering the ball high up the pitch then finding Kane, who found Lo Celso, who set Son up one-on-one against Yedlin. He did well to find room to shoot and managed a fine shot indeed to beat Martin Dúbravka. Ironically, Moura’s pressure that set off the move was more reminiscent of Pochettino’s style of football than Mourinho’s.
29’ — Heung-min Son shoots from distance, and a deflection off of Emil Krafth nearly beats Dúbravka.
30’ — Toby Alderweireld picks up a booking after he lands on Matt Ritchie’s foot in a fair challenge.
33’ — Kane seems to gesture for Sissoko to play him in behind the Newcastle line, but makes only a half-hearted run for Sissoko to target.
34’ — Lo Celso goes down grabbing his cheek after Federico Férnandez catches him across the face with a forearm. Férnandez gets a booking; Lo Celso is up and moving. No lasting harm.
41’ — A header by Dwight Gayle at the end of a cross by Jonjo Shelvey beats the Tottenham defense and Hugo Lloris but is kept out by the far post. Only fortune saved the Spurs lead there.
50’ — Kane receives the ball at the top of Newcastle’s penalty area and wastes time instead of sliding it out to Son. By the time he passes back across the pitch to Moura, Newcastle has gotten back to defend.
54’ — Former Spurs man Deandre Yedlin is off for Newcastle, replaced by Valentino Lazaro.
55’ — Goal Newcastle. 1-1. Matt Ritchie takes advantage of a poor clearance by Aurier after Lazaro dashed through the Tottenham defense. He had too much time to line up his shot, but when he took it, it was a powerful and accurate blast past Lloris.
55’ — Steven Bergwijn has replaced Lucas Moura in the aftermath of Newcastle’s goal.
59’ — GOAL SPURS! Newcastle 1-2 Spurs. Harry Kane scores his 200th career goal with a header on the end of a brilliant cross by Steven Bergwijn, who turned and found Kane with incredible precision. Kane’s movement may have slowed this year, but his finishing was on point here.
61’ — Giovani Lo Celso makes way for his fellow Argentine, Erik Lamela. Lo Celso was playing deeper than Lamela tends to, so this might be an attacking move by Mourinho. Either way, it gives the box-to-box midfielder a well-earned rest.
64’ — Jonjo Shelvey picks up a yellow card for raking his studs down the back of Steven Bergwijn’s leg.
85’ — Former Spurs man Bentaleb is replaced by Matt Longstaff for Newcastle. It’s been a fairly timid twenty minutes, with a few moments of brilliance from Allan Saint-Maximin all to report as Tottenham set up to defend.
89’ — Goal Spurs! Kane played Lamela on the break, then followed his run and after Lamela took the shot on, Kane was able to head the rebound in from close range. Kane was down clutching his side after the finish, and he’s substituted for Vertonghen. He looks to be alright from the bench.
94’ — Allan Saint-Maximin is down behind the Tottenham goal, breathing heavily as he looks entirely out of gas.
95’ — Full time.
- Against Newcastle, who moved the ball slowly at times, it was noticeable that Mourinho seems to have stomped out any impulse to regain the ball by defensive press that might linger from Pochettino’s coaching. The Spurs players are hardly putting a tackle in, instead just running with their man. Gone are the days of a possession recovery at midfield and rapid, committed attack. Today, even in long spells of possession, Tottenham struggled to commit players high enough up the pitch to create meaningful attacking opportunities.
- What do we do with Harry Kane? He moved and finished well for his first goal, and worked hard to create and ensure the second, yet he was essentially invisible except for these few moments. Kane is often moving slowly, jogging around the pitch as his teammates sprint, and is struggling to find the space needed for him to become a target once again. At the same time, perhaps Spurs players could have picked him out better. Kane’s role in the side needs to be examined and clarified, and if he remains on the pitch, the team must work harder to play through him, because he seems to retain the finishing ability that made him an elite striker for several seasons.
- Without a crowd or a Champions League spot to play for, it’s hard to imagine a drastic change in style for Tottenham between now and the end of the season. That’s bad news for fans, as this was the latest installment in a series of fairly drab performances since the restart. Both sides, but particularly Spurs, seemed to be playing at only 85% of top effort. If there is hunger in the Tottenham lineup, it must have been coached into submission.
- Allan Saint-Maximin is a force to reckon with, twisting and turning away from defenders and finding meaningful outlets from the space he generates. He’s the kind of player who is exciting to envision at Spurs, but who we so rarely get.