Crystal Palace 1-2 Tottenham: Spurs see out a gritty win at Selhurst Park thanks to an own goal from Joel Ward and Son Heung-min’s eighth of the season… but Jordan Ayew gives them a scare in injury time
- Tottenham got somewhat lucky with opener thanks to a Joel Ward own goal
- But as side grew in confidence, their second was well-worked by Son Heung-min
- Jordan Ayew pulled one back in added time but failed to claim the point
An hour had ticked by and their team had their noses in front when the opening notes of Glory, Glory Hallelujah rumbled across from the away end.
There had been nothing glorious about it. Rather, it had been a grind for Tottenham but that probably enhanced the satisfaction for Ange Postecoglou. To achieve something meaningful over the course of a season means taking points in difficult circumstances.
This is where Spurs have come undone in recent years but they held out with 10 men to win at Luton and here, against belligerent Crystal Palace, they stretched five points clear at the top with a hard-fought and at times downright ugly victory on a damp and dreary south London night.
Postecoglou’s team spluttered through the first half and went ahead early in the second when James Maddison miscued a shot, which would have found touch for a Palace throw had it not been diverted by Joel Ward into his own net.
Tottenham seized their good fortune, took a grip on the game and added another, this time one with an element of aesthetic delight, with Maddison and substitute Brennan Johnson setting up Son Heung-min for his eighth of the season.
Son Heung-min (left) found his way onto the scoresheet yet again to double Spurs’ lead
The Tottenham captain has played a starring role in the north London’s side unbeaten start
Ange Postecoglou’s men will sit top of the table for the remainder of the league weekend
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Jordan Ayew pulled one back in the fourth minute of stoppage time to spark an anxious finish after a long check for handball, and substitute Matheus Franca sliced the last chance wide as Palace pushed for a late leveller.
Spurs held out for the win, though, and can now put their feet up for the weekend. The last time they were five clear in the top flight was 1960-61, the Glory Glory era when they last won the title.
MATCH FACTS AND RATINGS
Crystal Palace (4-2-3-1): Johnstone 6; Ward 6, Andersen 6, Guehi 6.5, Mitchell 6 (Clyne 70, 6); Doucoure 7, Lerma 6 (Franca 79); Ayew 7, Hughes 7 (Ahamada 79), Schlupp 6 (Rak-Saki 60, 6.5); Edouard 6 (Mateta 79).
Subs: Matthews, Holding, Richards, Riedewald
Goals: Ayew 90+3
Bookings: Andersen, Ayew
Manager: Roy Hodgson 6
Tottenham (4-3-3): Vicario 6.5; Porro 7, Romero 7, Van de Ven 7, Davies 6 (Royal 46, 6); Sarr 7, Bissouma 6 (Hojbjerg 64, 6.5), Maddison 8 (Gil); Kulusevski 7.5 (Bentancur), Son 6.5, Richarlison 6 (Johnson 64, 7).
Subs: Forster, Skipp, Gil, Dier, Lo Celso, Bentancur
Goals: Ward OG 53, Son 66
Manager: Ange Postecoglou 7
Ref: Andy Madley 6
Such golden peaks remain distant and Postecoglou will resist premature talk of a title challenge but unbeaten after 10 games, winning games with a blend of style and substance, is an impressive way to begin.
Little wonder they savoured their celebrations with supporters at the final whistle, with Rodrigo Bentancur centre stage after coming on for his first appearance since suffering a serious knee injury in February.
This team is meeting every challenge and this was a significant one, with Roy Hodgson coaxing a reaction from his team after the 4-0 defeat at Newcastle.
Palace made a bristling start, full of energy and purpose, hustling Tottenham as they tried to play out from the back. Will Hughes broke clear in the opening minutes and although Micky van de Ven recovered to force him away from goal, the Palace midfielder managed to tee up Ayew, who drew the first save of the night from Guglielmo Vicario.
Tottenham’s Italian keeper was back in action when Odsonne Edouard, who played briefly under Postecoglou at Celtic, fired another low, crisp effort his way.
There was threat to Palace but Spurs soon settled. Yves Bissouma was back in the heart of midfield after a one-match ban and they circulated the ball without finding a happy tempo nor finding a way through the red-and-blue ranks.
Palace retreated, packing men behind the ball and the visitors misfired. Maddision flickered without finding the final pass.
Bissouma launched a free-kick so wildly off target there were hoots of derision from home fans, just as there were when Pape Matar Sarr invested so much determination into a shot he succeeded only in spinning himself to the ground, as the ball bounced off his standing foot and rolled out.
Crystal Palace were difficult to break down and looked well-drilled after last week’s 4-0 disaster at Newcastle
But an own goal from Joel Ward (left) put a dampener on a resilient first-half at Selhurst Park
Maddison volleyed another difficult chance over and Richarlison dragged wide from distance. It all made for an untidy spectacle as Palace responding by finding extra bite in midfield, ensuring the Premier League leaders were not afforded time to pick their passes.
The home team wanted a penalty when the ball struck Richarlison on an arm as he jumped to defend a cross, and they applied pressure from set-pieces.
There were echoes of the same fixture in January when Spurs struggled through a goalless first half before two goals by Harry Kane put them in charge and they ran away to a 4-0 win.
This time, there was no Kane but there was a breakthrough. Pedro Porro released Sarr whose low cross took a fortunate deflection towards Maddison who lashed at the ball, pulling it square. Ward was caught flat on his feet, facing his goal when instinct kicked in and he lifted a leg to intervene and turned the ball into his own net.
Tottenham’s Australian manager was a vocal presence on the sidelines in south London
James Maddison (right) was a vital lifeforce for Tottenham yet again and was uncontainable
Jordan Ayew’s sweetly struck goal came too late for Palace to fight for a share of the points
Marc Guehi glanced wide from a Palace corner but Postecoglou’s team scored their second after his double change, sending on Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Johnson, who set up Son for the second.
The goal proved vital as Palace found a way back into the game in stoppage time when Ayew pulled a cross down on his chest and drove it past Vicario on the half volley. It was a fine finish but there was a hint of handball.
The officials took their time before awarding the goal and it made for a frantic closing sequence but Postecoglou’s team protected the lead and survived. There would be no Spursy relapse and that is a sign of genuine progress.
Roy Hodgson’s 500th match in England football in all competitions ended on a sour note
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