Tottenham 2-1 Southampton: Late Son penalty boosts Kane-less Spurs' top-four hopes in Mason bow

By Ryan Benson 22 April 2021 41
Tottenham 2-1 Southampton: Late Son penalty boosts Kane-less Spurs' top-four hopes in Mason bow

Son Heung-min scored a late penalty to ensure Ryan Mason's first match as Tottenham caretaker manager ended in a 2-1 win over Southampton, boosting their top four hopes in the absence of Harry Kane.

Spurs' build-up to Wednesday's game was hardly ideal given the loss of Kane to injury before Mourinho was sacked amid the backdrop of the European Super League controversy, but Mason – who became the Premier League's youngest-ever manager (29 years, 312 days) – saw his team recover following a rocky start.

Seemingly a result of Kane's absence, Spurs failed to get a single shot on target in the first half for the first time this season, with Southampton – who went ahead through Danny Ings – good value for their lead.

Gareth Bale's equaliser sparked Spurs into life and, despite the disappointment of having a Son strike disallowed, the South Korean subsequently converted an 88th-minute spot-kick to give Mason's men a boost ahead of Sunday's EFL Cup final with Manchester City.

Any suggestions of Spurs' issues instantly vanishing with Mourinho's exit were comprehensively disproven in the first half, with Southampton making their intentions known in just the third minute as Hugo Lloris was forced into a double save to deny Mohammed Salisu and then Che Adams.

Giovani Lo Celso shot wide soon after in what was one of few highlights for Spurs, who found themselves behind at the half-hour mark when Ings met James Ward-Prowse's corner with a well-placed glancing header.

Lucas Moura then blasted over from 12 yards while unbalanced just before the break as Saints took a deserved lead into half-time.

Spurs repaired the first-half damage with an hour on the clock, Bale picking out the top-left corner from a tight angle after Salisu had blocked Lucas' initial effort.

The hosts then thought they had taken the lead 15 minutes from time as Son turned in Sergio Reguilon's cutback, but a VAR check confirmed Lucas was interfering with play in an offside position.

But another review near the end went Spurs' way, as Moussa Djenepo caught Reguilon on the edge of the box and the initial free-kick decision was upgraded to a penalty, which Son coolly buried in the absence of Kane.

What does it mean? Spurs up the ante in top-four tussle

It is getting more tense by the day in the battle for the top four in the Premier League, with Son's late winner essentially worth an extra two points. As such, Tottenham are now just two points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea.

Granted, the Blues and West Ham in fifth have a game in hand, but they face each other on Saturday. A draw there would be ideal for Spurs.

It remains to be seen what Mason can really change at Spurs in such a short period of time, but this certainly was not a bad start.

Bale shows his class

In and out of the team under Mourinho, it perhaps was not a surprise to see him come straight into the starting XI for Mason's bow. The Wales winger looked bright right from the start and ended up with the joint-most shots (three) among his team-mates, including the gorgeous equaliser, while his three key passes was not matched by anyone else on the pitch. 

A few more performances like that in the final weeks of the season and Spurs' top-four hopes will look even more encouraging.

Lucas busy but wasteful

Maybe it is harsh to single Lucas out given he was not exactly anonymous, but he wasted a couple of decent opportunities, got in Son's way twice in the latter stages (including for the disallowed goal) and was largely frustrating. 

What's next?

Tottenham now turn their attention to the EFL Cup final on Sunday against Manchester City, while Saints have a little break before facing Leicester City on April 30.

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Ryan Benson