Kane breaks another record as Spurs stutter to victory over paradoxical Wolves

Dave Tickner
Harry Kane celebrates after scoring his 250th goal for Spurs in a 1-0 Premier League win over Wolves

Spurs were unconvincing but did enough against a paradoxical Wolves side thanks to that mischievous little record-breaker Harry Kane.

 

At some point Spurs are going to pay for starting games slowly, but for now finishing them fast is getting the job done.

This scrappy, hard-fought and barely-earned 1-0 win over a much-improved Wolves side made it seven points from nine for Spurs to start a season that promises so much.

Those seven points have also come from three fixtures in which Spurs earned zero points last campaign – which might be useful given they have a whopping eight points to ‘defend’ in their four games against Liverpool and Manchester City.

The first 45 minutes was arguably flatter and poorer even than the first half at Chelsea last weekend, and the fact the scoreline remained goalless owed more to Wolves’ lack of a goal threat than anything much Spurs did.

Even more so than last weekend, though, the second half was a different story. After what we can safely imagine was a pretty vocal and direct half-time performance from Antonio Conte, Spurs were vastly better in the second period.

Their improvement was not uniform, though. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, inexplicably handed man-of-the-match honours on BT Sport by Jermaine Jenas, retains his ability to butcher an attack from almost any position, most notably when failing to act for seconds that stretched out like hours when he had not one but two players screaming for the ball outside to his left. That tendency to the ponderous saw him caught a couple of times to start off Wolves counters that could have ruined Spurs’ day.

And are we already at a point where Heung-min Son’s form becomes a worry? Ponderous is one thing that could never normally be said of the Korean, but he was slow to react a couple of times here and his usual telepathic connection with Harry Kane was off kilter. Form is never a straight line and he will surely come good again, but in the immediate short-term he will be lucky to keep his place ahead of Richarlison who looked far livelier in a 15-minute, lead-protecting cameo.

Spurs’ victory was ultimately secured in the likeliest way: Kane heading home from a corner. This time it was smartly flicked on by Ivan Perisic to the back post where the slippery Kane had evaded his markers to nod home unmarked from close range.

Harry Kane scores for Tottenham v Wolves

By the time that goal arrived approaching the midway point of the half, the game had already changed. Spurs were buzzing around with menace and creating chances. Jose Sa’s bar and post had already been rattled by Kane and Son respectively.

While Spurs always looked solid enough at the back, Davinson Sanchez offering no cause for concern deputising for the injured Cristian Romero, the shift in their attacking threat came from two sources: one on the left, one on the right.

The first was Perisic, who probably should have been man of the match on his first Premier League start. He provided Spurs’ one real moment of quality in the first half with an excellent cross he had no right to produce under pressure. Kane’s header was just as good, and Sa had to tip over.

In the second half Perisic was crucial to spreading Spurs’ attacking threat across the width of the pitch given Son’s malaise. Across the pitch, Dejan Kulusevski was excellent again. He looks absolutely exhausting to play against. Big and physical yet skilful and two-footed enough that he can neither be ushered inside nor diverted down the wing.

With Perisic such a threat on the other side, it makes the pitch a horribly wide space to defend when Spurs have their mojo.

Perisic also showed the experience and nous that Spurs have sometimes lacked in starting to stretch his hamstrings and motion to the bench the moment Adama Traore appeared on his flank for the final 20 minutes or so. Banter aside, there’s a serious point here: Ryan Sessegnon was a better match-up for Spurs to shut that threat down, and the last 20 minutes were relatively stress-free for a side that doesn’t really do stress-free.

As for Wolves, they are something of a puzzle. With new signings Matheus Nunes and Goncalo Guedes both thrust straight into the starting XI and Joao Moutinho back ticking things over in central midfield they looked a far different proposition to the side that had followed up a sloppy end to last season with an uninspiring one to this.

They are now 10 Premier League games without a win but a world away from being a team who you fear for (you really do).

In the first half, their midfield three of Moutinho, Nunes and Ruben Neves outplayed and overpowered Spurs’ two of Hojbjerg and Rodrigo Bentancur. Wolves controlled possession and the tempo of the game while also creating the better chances.

That’s the good news, now the bad. Obviously the immediate bad is that Wolves lost this game. But while it showed how well they can play and how games can and will go their way, this was a match that highlighted a paradox.

For the first hour, with no central striker as a focal point, Wolves looked an excellent footballing team who were really difficult to play against but couldn’t actually hurt you unless Neves smacked one in from 25 yards.

For the last half-hour, with Raul Jimenez up front, they had that focus and looked far more dangerous, but also a far less effective and cohesive football team. Squaring that circle will be Bruno Lage’s big task this season, but based on last season’s efforts after another slow start it’s a task you’d back him to master.

As for Spurs, they never lack a focal point. Kane’s goal was a finish made simple by the deceptive work that preceded it and was also his 250th for the club. In reaching 185 Premier League goals he also goes past Sergio Aguero’s record for the most goals in the competition for a single club.

Could it yet be the season he also adds some silverware to that statistical greatness?