Tottenham Hotspur 5 Southampton 2
For Harry Kane, the records continue to tumble and the reality was there was never any doubt. Another day; another hat-trick. It was the Tottenham Hotspur striker's eighth of 2017 but the headline details were even more eye-catching.
Kane had Alan Shearer's Premier League mark for a calendar year in his sights and he duly overhauled it. Shearer scored 36 times for Blackburn Rovers in 1995; Kane has finished the year with 39 and he did it from 36 matches. Shearer took 42.
Even better for Kane is that he now stands as Europe's leading scorer from 2017 – ahead of Barcelona's Lionel Messi, the player that he hopes to supplant one day as the best in the world. Messi has 54 goals from 63 appearances in all competitions. For Kane, it is 56 from 52.
It was an occasion when the atmosphere was slightly subdued, despite the excellence on display, and it was easy to feel the bloated insides and fuzzy heads. Kane’s clarity of purpose shone brilliantly. He opened up with a header before dispatching two left-footed efforts and for a few hours at least he is now the top scorer in this season’s Premier League with 18. Nobody would bet against him adding a third consecutive Golden Boot.
It was a miserable 90 minutes for Southampton and Mauricio Pellegrino, who heard chants from the travelling support about being sacked in the morning. Once again, he started without Virgil van Dijk in his squad and it feels inevitable that the defender will get the move he has wanted in January. Manchester City have been strongly linked with his signature.
Southampton's goals from Sofiane Boufal and the substitute Dusan Tadic were the definition of consolations. Dele Alli was also impressive for Tottenham, as was Son Heung-min, and both of them were on the scoresheet. But this was a game that was all about one man.
All eyes were on Kane and he advertised his landmark goal on six minutes. Alli fed Christian Eriksen and Kane was first to the Dane's low cross at the near post only to touch wide. It was a good chance and he knew it. But Kane is not a confidence player. Misses have no effect on him. He did not have long to wait for the record.
The opportunity might have come from the penalty spot but Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg's foul on Danny Rose was just outside the area on the Tottenham left. Rose had surged forward before jinking inside Jack Stephens and Hojbjerg. When Eriksen stood over the free-kick, the alarm bells continued to ring for Southampton. The delivery was superb, bent into the corridor between goalkeeper and backline, although it was still easy to wince at Southampton's marking. Kane was more than a yard in behind Wesley Hoedt and Oriol Romeu was hopelessly on the wrong side. Kane's header flashed home.
Southampton offered next to nothing in the first half but they almost found a way back into the game via an unlikely source. Hugo Lloris had flapped at Boufal's shot, pushing it up and out, and what happened next seemed to unfold in slow motion. Rose put too much on his attempted back header and it looked set to loop over Lloris for an own goal. The Frenchman, though, got something on to it, raced back and patted the ball on to a post before clutching it, gratefully. Rose clasped a hand to his mouth.
Back to Kane. He banged a free-kick into the wall and popped another shot high from 25 yards. He terrified Southampton every time he picked up possession and there was the lovely cross-field pass from him on 42 minutes that released Son. Stephens did just enough to force him off balance without conceding a penalty.
By then, Kane had scored his second and it was a beautiful team goal, embossed by the flair and vision of Alli. The midfielder collected Eriksen’s pass and took two Southampton defenders out with a spin and then a third with a perfect pass for Son. You knew what was coming next. The South Korean crossed low. You-know-who swept home.
Kane might have had completed the hat-trick in first-half stoppage time. After Eriksen’s flick, the chip from distance was on for him and it said everything that you half-expected him to execute it. He did not.
Southampton flickered at the start of the second half. Shane Long almost got in after Eric Dier's mistake while Mario Lemina rattled the crossbar from the edge of the area. But no team can defend as badly as Southampton did and expect to emerge without heavy damage.
Alli scored the goal that his performance deserved after he picked up possession on the left edge of the area. With no challenge forthcoming, he sauntered inside and shaped a low right-footed curler into Fraser Forster's far corner. Son twisted the knife shortly afterwards. Nathan Redmond gave the ball away, Alli broke and he timed his pass for Son. The finish was clinical. It was the South Korean's seventh goal in 12 games.
Kane has obliterated those kind of numbers. He might have had many more here and he grazed the outside of the far post with a volley from Rose's cross-field pass on 57 minutes. The hat-trick finally came after another quick break and Alli assist. Maya Yoshida looked tired and emotional as he tried to get close to Kane. The finish was clipped unerringly over Forster.