Tottenham’s 1-1 draw with Palace at Selhurst Park on December 13, 2020 marked their final week at the top of the Premier League. They would lose their next two matches to Liverpool and Leicester, beginning a slide in form that has continued to leave a bitter taste in supporters’ mouths. Spurs hosted Palace today having won their last two matches and looking to continue to return their form. The starting eleven featured three changes from the midweek tie versus Fulham: Lucas Moura in place of Dele Alli, perhaps a tactical switch in order for Moura to play a more advanced role alongside Harry Kane; Harry Winks in place of Tanguy Ndombele, whose key role in the side warrants the occasional rest; and Sergio Reguilon in place of Ben Davies. Harry Kane, Heung-min Son, and Gareth Bale remained an offensive triple threat; Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg continued his defensive midfield domination, and Toby Alderweireld, Davinson Sanchez, and Matt Doherty (Serge Aurier is sidelined with an ankle injury) completed the defense.
A fluid Tottenham had the better of the first half against a highly structured Palace side, with Gareth Bale giving Spurs the lead in the 25th minute on a tap-in assisted by Harry Kane after a great press and recovery by Lucas Moura, but a late lapse in focus enabled Christian Benteke to set things level just before the half with an impressive header. Spurs were dynamic going forward, with Bale a particular bright spot pinging crosses in from the right wing, and the side showed greater invention against a well-drilled Palace defense than they have in previous matches this season when given time on the ball. However, they seemed to lose momentum in the final minutes of the half, playing inconsistently before the Palace goal.
If the game’s outcome was uncertain at the start of the second half, Spurs left little doubt about it after the following ten minutes. First Bale, then Kane scored, both within the first seven minutes of the half, and Kane’s was a worldy (if you haven’t seen it, find a clip). From that point on, it was smooth sailing as Spurs relaxed, giving Palace perhaps a little bit too much comfort in attacking them, but enjoying the feeling of a well-won game. A 77th minute goal from Harry Kane, assisted by Son, put the game fully to bed and made Son and Kane the holders of the Premier League record for most goal combinations in history. Overall, a great Spurs performance that bodes well for games to come.
6’ — Bale shows a great bit of skill to cut back at the touch line and cross to Heung-min Son, free in the box, but Sonny can only head into Guaita’s gloves.
14’ — Tottenham have looked adequate in the opening quarter of an hour, creating a great early chance for Sonny, but they need to find more ways through in order to get a reward for their possession.
21’ — Palace are playing a rigid defensive style that is inviting—demanding—Tottenham to try something creative to break them down.
24’ — Tottenham 1 - 0 Crystal Palace: GOAL SPURS! Lucas Moura does very well to press Luka Milivojevic and recover the ball for Harry Kane on the left wing, who runs at Guaita before squaring the ball to Bale at the far post for a tap-in.
27’ — Spurs’ attack is showing good versatility: the players are generating threats from long balls, direct runs, and crosses from the wing.
32’ — Bale is doing very well on the right wing to ping crosses in for Sonny and Harry to attack. Without relying too much on his pace, which seems to come and go, he’s making great contributions via snappy cutbacks and perfect passes.
35’ — Lucas Moura presses and recovers possession once more, this time taking the ball himself and driving at the net. Gary Cahill brings him down outside the penalty area and picks up a booking. Kane’s free kick is ricocheted off the wall and the opportunity comes to nothing.
40’ — A wild header from Harry Kane into the middle of his own half gifts Palace possession, and Van Aanholdt would have been in on goal had Sanchez not gotten back quickly to close down a pass to him.
45’ — Palace take a good free kick from a wide area, forcing Lloris into an awkward punch.
45 + 2’ — Tottenham Hotspur 1 - 1 Crystal Palace: Christian Benteke sneaks off the back off Davinson Sanchez into an awkward space in the Tottenham penalty area and is found by an excellent cross from Milivojevic. There’s nothing anybody can do as Benteke leaps up and heads home with finesse.
46’ — Wilfried Zaha replaces Eberechi Eze at the start of the half because, to paraphrase Mourinho, everybody is always fit when it’s time to play Spurs.
49’ — Tottenham Hotspur 2 - 1 Crystal Palace: IT’S BALE AGAIN! He sets off the move by crossing the ball to Reguilon on the left wing, then finishes it with a powerful header when Kane heads Reguilon’s cross back across goal.
52’ — Tottenham Hotspur 3 - 1 Crystal Palace: KAAAANE out of nowhere! Doherty cuts the ball back on the right wing to Kane, who’s just beyond the edge of the Palace penalty area. Kane takes the shot first-time with immaculate technique and it curls gloriously across the Palace goal before smashing the side netting beyond Guaita’s reach. Spurs are in control now.
63’ — Sonny looks uncomfortable after an elbow to the head, but is up and running alright after some on-pitch attention. Hopefully he’s been sufficiently assessed before being allowed to continue.
65’ — Jeffrey Schlupp replaces former Tottenham player Andros Townsend for Palace.
66’ — Tottenham are well ahead of Palace at this point, but they’re playing somewhat haphazardly, as though a little too confident in the outcome of the game. They’ll need to remain focused, as a goal for Palace at this stage might put a comeback in the visitors’ heads.
69’ — Zaha (of course!) nearly gets one back for Palace, taking a low, targeted shot from the edge of the Spurs box that catches Lloris off guard. The Spurs keeper is beat, but it’s the woodwork to the rescue as Zaha’s effort bounces off the goal post.
70’ — A double substitution for Tottenham that’s all about game and fitness management: Erik Lamela replaces Gareth Bale; Moussa Sissoko replaces Harry Winks.
77’ — Tottenham Hotspur 4 - 1 Crystal Palace: HARRY KANE AGAIN. Lamela switches the ball to Son on the left flank, who generously reverses the ball past Guaita to give Kane a header on an open goal. Son and Kane are now joint holders of the Premier League record for most goal combinations. Special stuff
80’ — Carlos Vinicius replaces Harry Kane, the second Tottenham player to be substituted on a hat trick.
86’ — Nervy stuff as Mateta and Sanchez chase down the same long ball as it rolls toward the Tottenham goal, but Lloris comes out and emerges with control.
90’ — Matt Doherty picks up a booking.
90 + 5’ — Lucas Moura does about all he can to get one more for Spurs, sending a perfect cross across the face of goal, but Carlos Vinicius is too slow to capitalize. Still, that would have been nothing more than icing on the cake of a good performance.
- This was a great attacking performance by Spurs, who are once again showing that they’ve got what it takes to break down defenses when they approach the game with a bit of creativity.
- Tottenham will want to address spells of aimlessness that often set in when they take a commanding lead—no need to invite opponents to claw something back (though the story is slightly more forgiving at 4-1 ahead).
- Hojbjerg looks tired; perhaps he will be given some much-needed rest in the coming weeks.
- Score twice, get pulled off? That seems to be Mourinho’s rule these days. (Only kidding—it’s good to be able to rest star forwards.)
- Lucas Moura worked very hard today, recovering the ball to create a goal and several threats. You have to respect his effort.