Alli gives Espírito Santo a winning return to Molineux with Spurs

Former Wolves manager engineers a narrow away win as Harry Kane comes off the bench

Dele Alli celebrates after giving Spurs the lead from the penalty spot against Wolves. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty

Dele Alli celebrates after giving Spurs the lead from the penalty spot against Wolves. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty

 

Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 Tottenham Hotspur 1

Many happy returns for Nuno Espírito Santo. The Spurs manager’s first match back at Molineux since being ousted by Wolves in May, and Harry Kane’s first appearance of the season, ended in victory thanks to a return to goalscoring form by Dele Alli, who netted in the Premier League for the first time since March 2020. Alli converted a penalty that he won himself in the 10th minute, while Kane was still on the bench.

Nuno’s presence offered Wolves fans an easy comparison between their team’s old style and the more swashbuckling one being cultivated by Bruno Lage. The hosts put their new manager’s teachings into practice from the first minute, allowing the visitors no time on the ball as they swarmed over them deep in Tottenham territory. Spurs had to clear dangerous crosses twice in the first 40 seconds before the winger Steven Bergwijn was harassed into conceding a throw-in near his own corner flag. Faced with such an onslaught, Spurs had to show qualities not always associated with them – mettle and discipline - to cling on and look for opportunities to counterattack, a familiar forte of Nuno’s teams.

Japhet Tanganga starred in Spurs’ victory over Manchester City last week but Adama Traoré made this an even tougher assignment for the right-back. Traoré was aided and abetted by Wolves’ left-back, Marçal, while Tanganga got little support from Spurs’ teammates. In the seventh minute Traoré stormed past the defender, then turned on to his right foot, only to skew a shot high and wide from the corner of the box.

Wolves may have been more vibrant going forward but Spurs took the lead after catching them dithering at the other end. After the visitors won possession high up the pitch, Sergio Regulio bisected the home defence with a cute pass. José Sá rushed off his line in an ill-advised attempt to get to the ball before Alli, who made sure the goalkeeper took him down with a wayward slide. Alli got up to send the goalkeeper the wrong way from the penalty spot. After a season of decline, Alli’s first league goal in 17 months perhaps signals a rekindling of his talent.

Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane came off the bench during his side’s win over Wolves. Photograph: David Davies/PA
Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane came off the bench during his side’s win over Wolves. Photograph: David Davies/PA

That may be, but Wolves made sure Spurs spent the rest of the half going backwards. Traoré led the charge, bursting past Tanganga three minutes after Alli’s goal before supplying Nélson Semedo, who went down under a challenge by Oliver Skipp. Amid appeals for a penalty, the referee ruled there had been insufficient contact to justify the full-back’s fall.

Shoddy finishing was Wolves’ chief problem in their first match under Lage – last week’s 1-0 defeat at Leicester – and they had cause to curse their inaccuracy again here. The best chance in the first half fell to Raúl Jiménez after yet another raid down the left by Traoré, who had the awareness to cut the ball back from the byline to João Moutinho, who flicked it on to Jiménez. The Mexican lifted his shot on the run over the bar from 14 yards.

The most difficult save that Hugo Lloris had to make in the first period came when Rúben Nevez – a dominant influence in midfield – drilled a low shot at goal from the edge of the area. The goalkeeper got down to save without fuss. Just after the hour, Neves presented Traoré with a free run at goal but – just as against Leicester – the Spaniard failed to finish, Lloris standing strong to save well.

Spurs could have had a plusher cushion than they deserved by then, as Son and Bergwijn both missed chances to strike on the counterattack. First, Max Kilman raced back to block Son’s shot after the South Korean had outpaced Conor Coady; then Sá made a diving save to foil Bergwijn before batting away Son’s follow-up.

That was Son’s last significant contribution before being replaced by a substitute whose involvement with Spurs for the rest of the season remains a matter of fevered conjecture. “Harry Kane, he wants to sign for a big club,” bellowed Wolves fans among other taunts, while Spurs fans welcomed Kane on to the pitch with hopeful applause.

In the 81st minute Bergwijn made a lovely run down the left before offered the striker a chance to demonstrate his sharpness – to Spurs, Manchester City and anyone else interested – but Sá was quick to close down the striker and block his attempt to side-foot the ball into the far corner. Spurs created other late chances too, with Sá pawing away a header by Eric Dier from a corner. Wolves ran out of steam towards the end, when all their fans got to cheer was Kane being booked for time-wasting. - Guardian

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