AFC Bournemouth – Spurs 1 – 4
Sachin Nakrani at the Vitality Stadium
To say this was a mixed afternoon for Tottenham Hotspur would be something of an understatement. There was a battling victory for the visitors to enjoy, one that moved them up to third and allowed all involved with the club to properly clear their heads following Wednesday’s Champions League exit to Juventus. But an afternoon on the south coast was not without its negatives, namely the injury to Harry Kane that threatens to keep Tottenham’s top scorer and leading light out of action for some time.
Kane collided with Asmir Begovic on 34 minutes and, in the process, appeared to trap his right ankle in the turf as he tangled with the Bournemouth goalkeeper. The striker received treatment, limped off the pitch, tried to play on but simply could not and instead headed down the tunnel, throwing a water bottle to the ground in frustration.
That reaction suggested Kane suspected it’s a bad one. History does not bode well for the 24-year-old: he was out of action for two spells last season due to ankle injuries. Even if this one is not as severe, Kane could well miss his side’s trip to Chelsea on 1 April, which could prove pivotal to Tottenham’s hopes of a top-four finish.
Fortunately, Mauricio Pochettino has Son Heung-min in his ranks. The South Korean started on the right of the attack, moved to the centre after Kane went off and went on to score twice as Tottenham recovered from the shock of going behind to Junior Stanilas’s seventh-minute strike. Deli Alli had cancelled out that goal and Serge Aurier put the cap on Tottenham’s fourth successive league win.
For Bournemouth this was only a second league defeat in 11 league games. They had started brightly too, with barely four minutes on the clock when Lys Mousset collected Lewis Cook’s pass through the heart of Tottenham’s midfield following the breakdown of a corner for the visitors and led a charge into their area. The Frenchman played an unselfish square pass to Stanislas, who with the goal gaping hit a rising shot over Hugo Lloris but on to the crossbar.
Stanislas more than made up for his wastefulness three minutes later, however, with a low strike into the far corner of the net having been picked out by Adam Smith cross from the right. It was the 28-year-old’s fourth goal of the season and the least Bournemouth deserved for a bright start in which they played with great intensity and organisation. Tottenham were rattled and while they were able to enjoy spells of possession, there was very little threat from the visitors.
Things got worse for Tottenham when Kane had to be taken off. Érik Lamela replaced him and was involved in the move that brought them level. Following a flurry of passes down the right wing, Aurier sent a cross into the area that Alli converted smartly having sneaked between Simon Francis and Steve Cook.
In the reshuffle following Kane’s withdrawal, Lamela had taken Son’s place on the right while Alli swapped positions with Christian Eriksen, moving onto the left-flank as the Dane reverted to a No 10 role.
Tottenham’s shape now looked more 4-3-3 than 4-2-3-1 and it certainly helped them get a grip on proceedings after the interval. The visitors began to dominate possession and territory though an increase in aggression and the tempo of their passes. It did not come as a huge surprise when they took the lead on 62 minutes. Alli picked out Son with a chipped cross and the South Korean converted, albeit with a mistimed volley that saw the ball bounce off the turf and loop into the net.
Son almost made it 3-1 soon after with a drilled effort that Begovic was forced to save at his near post with Eriksen having also tested the Bournemouth goalkeeper with a stinging drive from long range just before the hour mark.
The hosts were struggling and Eddie Howe reacted by bringing Jordon Ibe on for Charlie Daniels. That also led to a change of shape, with Bournemouth now also in a 4-4-2, Stanislas and Ibe playing either side of Wilson.
That trio barely had eight minutes together before Howe made another change, bringing Jermain Defoe on for Stanilas. The former Tottenham striker was warmly received by both sets of supporters and quickly took up a position in the centre of Bournemouth’s front three, with Wilson pushed out to the right
If that was meant to spark a Bournemouth comeback it did not arrive. Instead Son made it 3-1 on 87 minutes in calm fashion before Aurier sent a header into the net after Begovic had flapped at Kieran Tripper’s cross in stoppage time.