Tottenham Hotspur 2 Brentford 0
Despite Antonio Conte’s misgivings, Tottenham may yet find the Champions League to be their standard. They are firmly in the mix for fourth place, with a game in hand over West Ham and Arsenal, after a comfortable win against opponents whose form is becoming a concern.
Conte will not have failed to observe Spurs’ propensity to drop off for discernible periods but there was plenty for him to enjoy here too, particularly a fast-paced start that drew an own goal from Sergi Canós and a genuinely exhilarating break that brought Son Heung-min’s second-half clincher. They could have won by more while Brentford, who woke up too late to make an impact, look a shadow of their early-season selves.
Fortunate though it was, Spurs’ opener stemmed from a purposeful early spell that could already have borne fruit by the time an unwitting Canós had beaten Álvaro Fernández.
Conte would surely have demanded an extended repeat of the stirring second-half performance that saw Leeds off 11 days previously, although events had conspired to check their momentum since then. The shoddy defeat to Slovenian minnows Mura led him to state his new club’s current level is “not so high”, while any hope that a visit to Burnley would quickly banish that memory was put in the deep freeze when snow smothered the north-west of England on Sunday.
The same side that would have started at Turf Moor lined up here, the benefit for Conte being extra time on the training pitch. They began with zest, as if intent on informing their head coach he had underestimated his charges’ capabilities.
Early pressure brought a corner that Ivan Toney thudded clear; it only took six minutes for a genuine chance to materialise, though, when Harry Kane turned into space and slipped Lucas Moura through. Fernández saved his drive, from an angle on the right, with a sharp display of reflexes, but a breakthrough would arrive soon enough.
It was doubly harsh on Canós given the right wing back had conceded the corner that brought the goal, showing laudable awareness to divert the ball behind after Eric Dier had sought to release Sergio Reguilón from halfway. Son took the set-piece short, receiving a return pass and delivering from near the byline. It might have been relative meat and drink for Pontus Jansson but Canós, challenging near him, was in the way of his header. The speed of the ricochet gave Fernández no chance; a sheepish Ben Davies, who had been closest to Canós, took plaudits from his team-mates and the tannoy announcer. Spurs could celebrate scoring from a corner for the first time this season.
The rest of the opening period was a reminder that, as Conte appears well aware, Spurs are not yet capable of consistently maintaining the tempo he would prefer. That is not to say they ceded control: Brentford tend to make a point of asking questions, rain or shine, but only caused the mildest consternation when hesitant defending from Charlie Goode's long throw led Christian Nørgaard to hook across goal, Davies heading away. Otherwise Spurs were untroubled before the interval, although they only came close once more when a strong run and shot from Son brought a firm one-handed save from Fernandez.
The Brentford goalkeeper looks a sharp shot-stopper, if less reliable under high crosses. Five minutes into the second half the stadium audibly gasped in expectation as Kane, sent away by Oliver Skipp, looked certain to double his league tally for the season. Fernández blocked and Kane cursed his fortune yet again; moments later the striker should have at least claimed an assist when Pierre-Emile Højbjerg met his cross-shot but fired into the side netting.
Spurs had again come out strongly and there was no doubt by now: the game should have been made safe. In the 65th minute it finally was, and that brought relief because Brentford had just begun to sow seeds of concern. An uncertain defensive header from Davinson Sánchez prompted jitters in the stands; then Toney, with his only sight of goal, scuffed a low shot at Hugo Lloris.
There would be no head of steam for the visitors, though, and that owed to a delightful Tottenham move. Son laid the ball back to Kane just inside his own half and set off into opposition territory while his team-mate swept a sumptuous 50-yard pass into Reguilón’s path. The marauding wing back’s run was scintillating and his centre accurate enough for Son, who had not broken stride, to tap in from six yards.
Lloris denied Toney late on but Brentford, who have lost five in seven, had no route back. – Guardian