Spurs keep on Arsenal’s heels as battle for fourth spot hots up

Harry Kane and Son Heung-min lead the way as tired West Ham given the runaround

Tottenham Hotspur 3 West Ham 1

Antonio Conte will see this victory as progress: weary but persistent opponents held at arm's length, successive league wins for the first time since early December and enough vigour in attack to suggest that Tottenham have no intention of letting Arsenal out of their sights any time soon.

The chase for that coveted fourth spot is on and Spurs will feel that they are building momentum at the right time. They are only three points below Arsenal, albeit having played a game more, and most importantly there is a sense of the pieces starting to fall into place under Conte, who can reflect not only on the devastating combinations between Harry Kane and Son Heung-min but also how his side managed the game in the second half, their rugged defending ensuring that a West Ham equaliser rarely felt likely.

In truth a tired West Ham could have few complaints about Spurs going above them. David Moyes’s starting approach was too passive and his side never looked capable of containing Kane, who forced Kurt Zouma’s own goal and made both of Son’s strikes.

It has not been easy to read Spurs under Conte. They have lurched between extremes on too many occasions in recent months and the whole project has felt fragile at times, almost as if we are only ever one nonsensical defeat away from Conte deciding enough is enough and quitting on the spot.

Yet there have been signs of promise. Take the recent clobbering of Everton, who were picked apart with devastating ease. There was a sense of something falling into place at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium that night and there was a similar feeling by the 24th minute of this London derby, with Spurs in complete control and West Ham starting to fear the worst after falling two goals behind without offering much in the way of resistance.

No doubt it helped that West Ham were feeling the effects of going to extra-time during their Europa League victory over Sevilla. They started the game in cautious fashion, Moyes changing his system to match Conte’s 3-4-3, but that soon caused problems.

Spurs were hunting for lethargy and the plan worked after only nine minutes, the opening goal arriving when Matt Doherty picked his moment to lead a coordinated press and hound Arthur Masuaku off the ball when the wing back dithered on the left.

It was poor from Masuaku, starting for the first time since St Stephen's Day, but it was fine work from Doherty. The Irish right wing back swiftly moved the ball to Kane and the striker drove down the right before drilling a low cross towards Son, whose presence was enough to force Kurt Zouma to slide in and divert the ball past Lukasz Fabianski.

It should have been 2-0 two minutes later. This time Dejan Kulusevski caused problems, dribbling through on the right and cutting the ball back to Son, who shot wide of the empty net.

Son did not have to wait long to redeem himself. His goal was a classic: made by Kane dropping deep, peeling away from Declan Rice and spraying a gorgeous diagonal pass behind Zouma, who could not stop Son from letting fly with a vicious left-footed shot that flew past Fabianski before he had time to react.

Still, though, Spurs were not entirely secure. They were fortunate not to be pegged back after 10 minutes, an errant pass from Kane allowing Michail Antonio to nip round Eric Dier and drill wide from a tight angle, and West Ham would gain a foothold before the break. Aaron Cresswell's corner was inviting, Craig Dawson headed it on and the unmarked Saïd Benrahma displayed wonderful technique by spanking an awkward volley inside Hugo Lloris's near post.

Now it was game on and there was no decrease in the entertainment after the break. Spurs remained a threat on the break and they almost regained their two-goal lead after 51 minutes, Son the provider this time, Kane just unable to squeeze his shot past Fabianski.

With the tension rising, there was speedy action from the stewards to stop pitch invaders from chaining themselves to the goal at both ends. Moments later West Ham should have equalised, Antonio sidefooting over when Cresswell’s cross reached him.

It was an exhausted Antonio's final contribution of note, Moyes sending Andriy Yarmolenko on to see if the Ukrainian could repeat his heroics against Sevilla, Pablo Fornals also replacing Masuaku as West Ham tried to give themselves more options in attack.

Yet Spurs were no longer in a giving mood. There was a flicker from Yarmolenko but West Ham did not create much. The better chances continued to go to Spurs and they defended well late on, Cristian Romero a rock at the back, Rodrigo Bentancur and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg scrapping tigerishly with Tomas Soucek and Rice in midfield.

Urged on by Conte, Spurs eventually made the points safe. Lloris punted the ball forward, Kane beat Dawson and Zouma in the air and Son ran through to finish coolly. Spurs were safe at last. – Guardian

Read More

Recommended