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Tottenham hang on to beat West Ham with 10 men after Harry Kane double

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Tottenham hang on to beat West Ham with 10 men after Harry Kane double” was written by Barney Ronay at the London Stadium, for The Observer on Saturday 23rd September 2017 13.41 UTC

On a slow-burn afternoon at the London Stadium, West Ham United summoned a late, doomed charge, but Tottenham Hotspur were always just about beyond their reach. Slaven Bilic’s rejigged team scored two late headed goals, the last after Serge Aurier had been sent off with 20 minutes to go, drawing a belated crackle of noise from the home crowd. By the end a 3-2 scoreline had provided a hopeful gloss. The problem for West Ham was that by the time they started to play the game had already been put to bed by opponents who were simply a class apart.

Spurs had started cagily, perhaps expecting a little lunchtime derby fury, before realising with half an hour gone that they were pushing at an open door. At which point Harry Kane scored twice in the space of four minutes as Tottenham showed the best of their high-speed attacking gears, both goals coming from a turnover in midfield, both finished ruthlessly.

Afterwards Mauricio Pochettino said he was “in love” with his centre-forward, who continues to bloom under his hand. Kane now has 11 goals in his last five Premier League away games and eight in all competitions since August turned to September. He could have had four here without ever really seeming to extend himself that much.

On a slightly clammy autumn day in east London both teams started with three at the back and a pair of roving wing-backs. For Spurs the presence of Moussa Sissoko as a kind of false No7-cum-right-sided something-or-other left Eric Dier the only dedicated central midfielder. It looked a slightly strange, and indeed untranscribable, 3-2-1-2-1-1 formation, albeit one that West Ham never really tested when it might have mattered most.

The game took a while to thrum up through the gears. Spurs had their best moments down the Sissoko-Aurier right flank, which was also the source of the most glaring miss of the game after 20 minutes. Sissoko’s neat pass inside a square West Ham defence gave Aurier space to fizz a low hard cross that Kane miskicked in front of an open goal.

With 26 minutes gone Andy Carroll came on for Michail Antonio, who looked to have twanged his groin. It was a change that shifted the dynamic of West Ham’s attack, and not in a good way. Antonio can run all day, a relentless bullocking presence. These days Carroll tends to unsheathe his elbows, find a nice part of the attacking half and put his towel down there for the rest of the afternoon.

Just past the half-hour mark the game began to wake up, Sissoko and Mark Noble bumping chests and yelling into each other’s faces after Noble had slid in a little roughly after a loose ball. Three minutes later Kane opened the scoring. There was a beautiful severity to the move, with four touches from the centre circle to back of the net. Christian Eriksen played an instant pass to put Dele Alli in space. He took a touch, crossed and Kane flashed a header into the corner.

Moments later it was two. This time the move came down the right, Jan Vertonghen striding away from Carroll’s limp challenge and setting Alli galloping off into space. Joe Hart’s block sent the ball straight to Kane’s feet. He had time to stop, yawn and roll the ball into the net. It was not a disastrous goal to concede, just strangely sloppy and loose, a combination of half-hearted, low-pressure interventions and a lack of pace in that West Ham back three.

For a while at the start of the second half it was hard to believe a Premier League match was actually taking place, as half the stadium seemed to be finding its way back from the refreshment galleries, a football stadium that at times in practice seems like a vast, craning, cantilevered act of dilution.

For a while this became the Alli-Eriksen show, Spurs’ two most impish creative players finding space in awkward areas. Alli was tripped outside the area. Kane hit the post with a fiercely spanked free-kick, and from Aurier’s deflected cross Eriksen placed the ball low into the corner past Hart to make it 3-0.

West Ham pulled one back with 25 minutes to go, Javier Hernández heading in at the back post after José Fonte’s flick. It was a classic piece of poaching, Hernandez’s first shot at goal, and only his 20th touch of the ball.

Finally we had something that resembled in shape and sound a London derby, as West Ham set about Spurs with a little intent. Aurier was sent off, drawing a second yellow for a hack on Carroll from behind. Cheikhou Kouyaté headed in from the substitute Arthur Masuaku’s fine cross, and by the end West Ham might even have snatched a point. This, though, was a game that was lost in that half-speed opening, and killed off by Kane’s lovable, cold-eyed precision.

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