Tottenham demonstrated their Champions League credentials with a convincing 4-1 Premier League home defeat of West Ham that exposed their London rivals as pretenders at that level.
They consistently outplayed their visitors as two goals from Harry Kane and one each from Toby Alderweireld and Kyle Walker took them within two points of joint-third-placed Arsenal and Manchester City and three ahead of sixth-placed West Ham, whose goal came from Manuel Lanzini.
Son Hueng-min returned to Tottenham’s starting XI in the absence of the suspended Erik Lamela, while West Ham, for the coming three months without the injured and important Dmitri Payet, started with Andy Carroll, Victor Moses and Diafra Sakho.
Following his outstanding recent goal for England against France, much of the early attention inevitably centred on Dele Alli and the midfielder – curiously switching with Mousa Dembele from his usually-deeper position to No 10 – was central to Spurs’ opening goal.
Receiving possession from Son in the 23rd minute, Alli found room to shoot from inside the area but watched as Winston Reid deflected the ball to Kane, who in one motion classily turned Carl Jenkinson before shooting with his left foot beyond goalkeeper Adrian into the roof of the net.
It could easily have already been more. With West Ham defending from a deep position amid Spurs’ intensity, Christian Eriksen had previously tested Adrian with a powerful strike from midfield and the visitors’ Cheikhou Kouyate, albeit from an offside position that went unnoticed, had hit the crossbar with a bicycle kick.
The momentum theirs, Spurs continued to threaten and within 10 minutes had doubled their lead. From a corner on the left, Eriksen delivered a typically-accurate, inswinging cross which Alderweireld read to routinely head in from close range.
Kane soon should have scored a third when one-on-one with Adrian after Alli’s through-ball, but despite time and space the forward showed an uncharacteristic lack of composure to shoot with his weaker left foot and miss the target by considerable distance.
Had he done so, it would have been difficult to see any way West Ham could have recovered from such a half-time deficit. It said much about the inaccuracy of suggestions that they can compete with Spurs for a place in the top four when they were so visibly an inferior team.
The only chance they had came in scoring the second half’s first goal, and ideally soon after the restart, but Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs are a more ruthless team than has been seen under his predecessors, and they instead swiftly sealed victory.
Maintaining their aggressive, high-paced football, they immediately attacked and then took advantage when James Tomkins thoughtlessly conceded possession with a misplaced pass to Eriksen. With West Ham’s defence out of position, the midfielder played in Kane, and he atoned for his earlier error by shooting past the exposed Adrian into the bottom left corner to score his eighth goal in his past five games.
With West Ham unquestionably beaten, Walker’s goal, in the 83rd minute, resembled one more likely to be seen in training. Casually exchanging a one-two with Son, the full-back masterfully bent the ball with the outside of his right foot into the bottom corner.
Equally casually, he then gave Lanzini possession four minutes later in defence, allowing the midfielder to run into the area and beat Hugo Lloris by finishing high inside the near left post.
Conceding will understandably have frustrated Pochettino, but while much has been said about his team’s promise so far this season, on this evidence there remains more to come.
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