LONDON ― Tottenham Hotspur opened a five-point lead at the top of the Premier League with a 2-1 victory at Crystal Palace as their unbeaten start to the season continued today.
Ange Postecoglou’s side were matched by London rivals Palace throughout an even opening period but took charge once a Joel Ward own goal gave them the lead shortly after the break.
Spurs captain Son Heung-min then tapped in his eighth league goal of the season after 66 minutes to effectively seal the points and the visitors were in cruise control until Jordan Ayew struck in stoppage time for Palace.
James Maddison was involved in both goals with the former Leicester City player again outstanding for the visitors.
Tottenham’s eighth win from 10 games put them on 26 points ― their best start to a top-flight season since 1960-61.
They are five points clear of champions Manchester City, who visit Manchester United on Sunday, and Arsenal, who welcome bottom side Sheffield United today.
Shot-shy Palace are in 11th place with 12 points.
Postecoglou was critical of his side after their 2-0 win over Fulham on Monday but apart from a tricky opening few minutes and some late jitters they were dominant at Palace.
With 10 games gone, albeit the majority of them against sides in the bottom half, Spurs are beginning to look like a side capable of an extended challenge at the top.
It is the biggest lead they have held at the top since the final day of the season in 1961 when they last won the title.
“Every week is a different challenge. The key for us was to be disciplined, focused and persistent in our play and we did that,” former Celtic manager Postecoglou said.
“I think the spell between the first and second goal we were dominant and played some really good football and then I still think the lads handled (the end of the match) well.”
Despite plenty of slick possession the visitors had failed to really trouble goalkeeper Sam Johnstone in the first half while Palace had early efforts by Ayew and Odsonne Edouard saved by Tottenham’s Guglielmo Vicario.
Maddison was at the heart of the Spurs attacks and the tenacious playmaker eventually earned his side the lead.
When Pape Matar Sarr’s attempted cross was blocked the ball fell for Maddison who drove the ball into the danger area where it rebounded off the leg of Ward and into the net.
There was nothing lucky about Tottenham’s second goal as Maddison linked superbly with Brennan Johnson down the left and the substitute squared for Son to convert with what turned out rather surprisingly to be his side’s only effort on target.
Spurs threatened a third but had to endure an anxious climax after Pedro Porro mistimed his jump trying to clear a cross and Ayew controlled the ball with his chest and arm before thumping a shot past Vicario ― the goal standing after a long VAR check.
“I am not going to talk about handball. I have no idea what is a handball,” Australian Postecoglou said.
Further good news for Tottenham was a late appearance off the bench for their Uruguay midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur after nine months out with a knee injury. ― Reuters