SUPER SON STARTS THE HOUSEWARMING PARTY
The record books will show that the first goal at Tottenham hotspur’s magnificent new stadium was scored by one of their own. Son heungmin, very much a local hero, if not exactly a local lad. Unless your locality is Chuncheon in Gangwon Province, South Korea.
The 59,215 who were here, however, may recall a different chain of events. Son’s goal, the one that set Tottenham off on their winning start, was the result of a significant deflection off the boot of Crystal Palace captain Luka Milivojevic. It was a sliding tackle that went horribly wrong, Milivojevic arriving at just the moment Son let fly, meaning his shot took an unnatural trajectory that left goalkeeper Vicente Guaita stranded.
Sometimes the dubious goals panel take a look at stuff like that, live. Often, the optimistic claim of a home goalscorer is overturned. Clearly those guys have a sense of occasion, though. The first goal in a new £1billion arena
sounds so much better being scored by a crowd favourite rather than Milivojevic ( og). Son’s contribution stood.
Of the second, there could be no doubt. That was down to Andre Marriner — sorry, Christian eriksen. Well, maybe something of both. There were 10 minutes remaining and Crystal Palace had at last come out of their shell.
Spaces were opening up as a result and Tottenham exploited them. Andros Townsend, introduced late to spark an equaliser, instead gave the ball away and Son found harry Kane on the left. he made a strong run into the box before being taken down in a challenge by James McArthur. The 17,500 in the sky- scraping Park Lane end appealed for a penalty, barely noticing that the ball had run loose to eriksen directly in front of goal. Marriner, a generous decision- maker and common sense official, had let the play run, however, and was able to give a goal, not a foul.
So all was well that ended well. Tottenham got home in time for easter and their fans had a victory to celebrate in a week when one was sorely needed. With Arsenal and Chelsea both winning midweek games, a misstep and Tottenham could have ended the night with the best stadium in the capital, and the third best team. Instead, they returned to London’s top spot, and the national third, even if Arsenal are merely a point behind with a game in hand. It is not always easy to win a first game in a new stadium — Arsenal did not manage it against Aston Villa at the emirates — but Tottenham were comfortable here, rarely challenged by a Palace team long on grit but short on ambition. It was only when the match was lost that Palace played as if they aimed to win it, and Wilfried Zaha forced an excellent save from hugo Lloris.
It was a night for celebrations and souvenirs, too, and there is no doubt Tottenham’s fans have already fallen in love with their new home. Next week’s Champions League quarter-final against Manchester City is already tingling a few spines.
Indeed, everything went according to plan, except the bit where Tottenham score nice and early and allow their supporters to enjoy the homecoming without drama. By half-time, not only was it still goalless, but Olivier Giroud’s opener for Chelsea against Brighton had temporarily relegated Tottenham to fifth place, outside Champions League qualification. Brighton are Crystal Palace’s rivals so Chelsea’s lead brought an incongruous cheer from one corner.
The visitors almost had even more to cheer just three minutes in when Jeffrey Schlupp got the better of Toby Alderweireld, only to shoot over.
There was little in the way of threat after that, although Palace defended well, as expected.
Tottenham also started as one imagined they would: high tempo, bags of energy, every forward keen to score the first goal of meaning at their new home. The night had begun with an opening ceremony — choirs, bands and a Tottenham-supporting tenor by the name of Wynne evans, which was ironic, considering Tottenham haven’t had a tenner to spend in over a year now, a position Mauricio Pochettino hopes to rectify soon.
even so, this is a squad that should achieve, and it was frustrating for the locals to see them initially make hard work of a Palace side that were little more than organised, and game.
It started brightly enough, with a Kieran Trippier cross met by Dele Alli, whose header was comfortably mopped up by Guaita, but the more chances that went begging, the more apprehensive the crowd became. The evening had already
featured a brief snowstorm in april for those who believe in bad omens.
Son, playing his best game since kane returned from injury, inspired the crowd with some fine runs, including one, left to right, that ended with him feeding the ball to Eriksen, whose shot was very poor. Yet it took Tottenham 17 minutes to force the first real save of the night when kane played a lovely crossfield ball to Trippier, who cut it back to Eriksen.
His shot was better this time, and Guaita did well to keep it out, under pressure from alli.
Tottenham drew nearer with every forward sortie and four minutes later a beautiful chip by alli should have been finished by Eriksen, but the Dane seemed caught in two minds about how to finish it, failed to alight on either scheme, and the ball nearly went straight in without contact, taking Guaita by surprise.
Frustration was setting in and alli became the first booking at the new stadium, cautioned for a foul on Milivojevic. Then it was back to business: an Eriksen chip met by a glancing kane header, an Eriksen pass to Son, struck low and fumbled fortuitously around the near post by Guaita.
a corner from Danny Rose that kane headed just wide, and a speculative Son shot that flew upwards into what Tottenham hope will one day be known as the White Wall. It wasn’t quite into row Z — but then without the aid of a rocket-launcher it is hard to imagine a strike that could be.
It’s that kind of place. Very impressive, as Tottenham hope to be once settled.
They’re unbeaten at home, at least.
TOTTENHAM (4-4-2): Lloris 6; Trippier 6.5, Alderweireld 6, Vertonghen 6.5, Davies 6;
ERIKSEN 7.5, Sissoko 6.5, Alli 7 (Moura 82min), Rose 6 (Winks 69, 7); Kane 6, Son 7 (Wanyama 90+2).
Subs not used: Gazzaniga, Sanchez, Walker-Peters, Foyth. Scorers: Son 55, Eriksen 80. Booked: Alli.
Manager: Mauricio Pochettino 7. CRYSTAL PALACE (4-4-2): Guaita 5; Wan-Bissaka 6, Kelly 6, Tomkins 6.5, Van Aanholt 6; McArthur 6, Milivojevic 6, Kouyate 6 (Townsend 79), Schlupp 6; Batshuayi 5 (Benteke 81), Zaha 5.
Subs not used: Hennessey, Ward, Dann, Meyer, Ayew. Booked: None. Manager: Roy Hodgson 6. Referee: Andre Marriner 6.5. Attendance: 59,215.
Favourite Son: the Spurs forward opens the scoring