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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

After Madrid win Tottenham show mettle with dogged victory over Crystal Palace

London side show determination to carry momentum from Champions League triumph over reigning champions with strong performance at Premier League weekend

Son Heung-min, centre, scored an Asian record 20th Premier League goal on Sunday. Neil Hall / EPA
Son Heung-min, centre, scored an Asian record 20th Premier League goal on Sunday. Neil Hall / EPA

Devastating against Real Madrid, Tottenham Hotspur had to be dogged and diligent at home to Crystal Palace.

They followed a famous victory in the Uefa Champions League with an equally important win domestically. In doing so, they answered another question about a previously questionable mettle.

Now moulded by Mauricio Pochettino, Spurs stood up.

On a day they required full points to keep on the Manchester clubs’ coattails, they dug deep. Thanks to Son Heung-min's second-half winner, they delivered.

“We knew it was going to be difficult because of the midweek game,” said Eric Dier, perhaps the standout performer in a white shirt at Wembley. “We had a lot of players missing as well, so this game was really important to continue that momentum from midweek.

"There’s no point in beating Real Madrid on Wednesday if you can’t win here at home on the weekend as well."

It was both telling and true. If Wednesday’s display was full of energy and emotion, Sunday needed concentration and conviction. Palace set up as expected, packed tight behind the ball. For the most part pragmatic, they were potent on the counter.

Before Son struck, Wilfried Zaha spurned the game’s best chance, dragging his shot wide after rounding Paulo Gazzaniga in the Tottenham goal. The Argentine goalkeeper was making his debut since signing in the summer from Southampton. His last Premier League appearance came 687 days beforehand, when his old employers hosted his current.

Gazzaniga was playing because Hugo Lloris and Michael Vorm were both injured. Counting the cost of their midweek mission, Spurs were without Toby Alderweireld and Dele Alli, too. They would lose Harry Winks to injury at half time, while Harry Kane sustained a serious knock to his ankle that impacted his knee. Filling in for Ben Davies, Danny Rose started a first league match since January 21.

To Palace’s credit, Gazzaniga was the busier of the respective goalkeepers. In the third minute, he was perhaps fortunate not to concede a penalty, when he came for a Zaha cross and connected with Mamadou Sakho’s head instead of the ball.

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Later, Gazzaniga saved superbly from Scott Dann’s header. In the second half, he repelled Luka Milivojevic and matched that with another block from Andros Townsend’s drilled shot following Serge Aurier’s complacency. Just before the hour, the full-back erred again to allow Zaha in, but with Gazzaniga beaten to the ball, the winger somehow screwed his effort across goal.

Let off the hook, within seven minutes Son delivered the decisive blow. Palace looked to have averted danger, but Moussa Sissoko’s scuffed cross was scrambled only partially clear by Yohan Cabaye. Stationed on the edge of the area, Son took a touch and then curled his shot past Julian Speroni.

Tottenham had their all-important goal, Son his 20th in the Premier League. As such, the South Korean now ranks as the highest-scoring Asian in the division’s history.

Meanwhile, Palace’s recent record against Spurs sustains. They have failed to score in any of their past five trips across London, a league run stretching back to December 2004. Cast the mind back a little farther, their only Premier League win against Spurs is close to two decades ago.

With the defeat, Palace remain rooted to the bottom of the standings. Yet their performance at Wembley suggested that, with Roy Hodgson back at an old hunting place and now in charge, they should not necessarily form the league’s worst team.

Tottenham have other concerns, though, staying third but moving level with second-placed Manchester United. Job done - eventually - they could sit back and watch four of the other top five battle it out with one another later on Sunday.

"I think we deserved to win the game,” Son said, vital victory secured. “It's great to get the three points ahead of the international break. Now we can enjoy watching the rest of the football this afternoon."

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