Striker is now Premier League’s outright top scorer and his brace – alongside his workrate – against Ronald Koeman’s attritional team showed why
Two minutes into the second half of this tight, bruising, full-body collision of a football match the poor old beleaguered orange ball spun out of a tackle and into a pocket of space between Ben Davies and Séamus Coleman. Both players reacted instantly, flying into that square of green and producing a startling thud, the sound of flesh and bone colliding, that drew a gasp from the crowd on the near side of this steadily disintegrating stadium.
It was just that kind of afternoon, a match of 55 tackles, relentless contact and three goals in the last 11 minutes as the intensity levels dipped, lactic acid flooding the muscles. By that stage the game had already been decided by two moments of cold, calm incision from Harry Kane.
Tottenham’s No10 is now out on his own as the Premier League’s top scorer with 19, two goals in this 3-2 victory confirming not just Kane’s own majestic goalscoring form but his gathering certainty, the sense of leadership from the front.
Mauricio Pochettino’s gameplan here was simple enough. Spurs lined up with a muscular wedge at the heart of the team, three centre-halves fronted by the bulked up craft of Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembélé. Get through that lot, Ronald old boy. On their side of the haka Everton fielded a triple midfield bolt in Idrissa Gueye, Gareth Barry and Morgan Schneiderlin: Ronald Koeman’s dogs of attritional, trench-based warfare. In the middle of which Kane’s ability to find his own little pocket of calm in all that fury was key.
The match had been billed, vaguely, as a meeting of Kane and Romelu Lukaku. In the event it was a comparison that emphasised the more complete nature of Kane’s game. Lukaku also played well and scored a fine late goal. He surged through the left and right channels a couple of times, not so much a dribbler as a kind of impact runner, bumping off opponents with a switch of the feet and a flex of the chest muscles. But Kane seems more integrated into his team’s patterns. He takes the ball more smoothly and works like a maniac as a lone striker, constantly swerving and pressing, either closing space or seeking it out.
With 20 minutes gone Kane still hadn’t really had a touch, but he produced a brilliant opening goal from his first real moment of space. Gueye was muscled away on the turn 40 yards out. For once nobody closed down the space. Kane took three touches and spanked a wonderful dipping shot that zinged into the top corner, past the flying Joel Robles.
He should have had another one a minute later, playing a wall-pass with Christian Eriksen, skipping inside Ashley Williams’s tobogganing slide, but seeing Robles save his right-footed shot when a stab with the left might have done the job. But Tottenham continued to squeeze, asserting the prodigious physical strength in this team. And for a while it was raw, adrenal stuff under a spiteful lunchtime downpour.
Kyle Walker was once again relentless, haring up and down his flank in apparent desperation all afternoon, great gnarly arms pumping, like a light-heavyweight boxer fleeing a nuclear blast zone. Wanyama robbed Tom Davies rather brutally by the touchline, taking the ball with a single swivel of his prodigious thighs, the thighs of four normal men compressed together into a single pair of avenging shorts.
Ramiro Funes Mori may have had more traumatic half-hours in north London than the opening 30 minutes here. But not many, and not recently.
It seemed fitting Kane’s second goal on 56 minutes should come from another twist of that press. It was Robles who made the key mistake, rolling the ball out to Schneiderlin whose sideways nudge to Williams left his team-mate double-pressed by Dembélé and Dele Alli, who ripped the ball away and fed it to Kane. The finish was like a stills sequence from an FA soccer skills textbook, two touches followed by an opening of the body and a sidefoot into the far corner.
Lukaku’s goal to make it 2-1 on 80 minutes came from a collision too, the Everton man shrugging Jan Vertonghen to the floor, then barrelling through and whumping a right-footed shot past Hugo Lloris. After which Kane could have had another hat-trick, robbing the fretful Funes Mori and strolling in on goal but opting for a dink into the goalkeeper’s chest. Harry Winks made Alli’s late goal, Spurs’ third, with a clever little free-kick and Enner Valencia snatched another back at the death.
But the game had been won in the fury of that first hour. Tottenham are a fearsome spectacle at home these days, this skintight ground with its rattly, touchline-close crowd feeling their aggression, the desire to stomp into and dominate every pocket space. Even for a team as energetic as Everton it can be a strangulating experience. One decorated on this occasion by Kane’s own high-energy incision, a centre-forward who is utterly key to his team, and whose calm in the middle of all that fury decided this match.