Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 17 September 2019

Lucas Moura and Son Heung-min delivering for Tottenham in absence of Harry Kane

Mauricio Pochettino's side have four games - three of them at home - to decide their top-four fate, starting with Tuesday's match against Brighton

Lucas Moura, left, and teammate Son Heung-min have filled the void in Tottenham's attack following Harry Kane's injury. EPA
Lucas Moura, left, and teammate Son Heung-min have filled the void in Tottenham's attack following Harry Kane's injury. EPA

Lucas Moura netted a hat-trick; Son Heung-min a brace.

One helped secure an important victory in the bid for Uefa Champions League qualification; the other kept the current European dream alive.

Asked to offer goals and guile in the absence of their injured talisman, both delivered. So Tottenham Hotspur continued unaffected, somewhat, without Harry Kane.

There is an argument, foolish and fanciful, that they could even be a better team, that Kane’s injury fosters a certain catharsis. However absurd, for the moment Moura and Son are doing their best to lend credence to the theory.

Kane hobbled off in the Champions League first leg against Manchester City, yet Spurs went marching on. In between, Moura bagged a treble against an albeit already-relegated Huddersfield Town, revelling in the space off Fernando Llorente.

Son, meanwhile, scored the decisive goal in the opening Champions League encounter with City, not long after Kane had limped away from the action. He departed the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium with the recurrence of an old injury. He was spotted leaving on crutches.

It transpired that another ankle problem required yet another protracted period on the sidelines. Some estimated, including manager Mauricio Pochettino, that Kane's season could be run. Maybe Tottenham's, too.

Yet their Champions League chances sustained. Spurs survived a European tie for the ages, prevailing on away goals and progressing to a first semi-final in the rebranded Champions League.

Son struck twice at the Eithad Stadium, in the opening 10 minutes, three minutes apart. He displayed his impeccable finishing from outside the penalty area, and his ability to stretch teams with his pace.

Son’s movement was aided by the equally mobile Moura. They cut through City, capitalised on mistakes, caused panic behind Aymeric Laporte, Vincent Kompany, Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker. An unlikely leading line fronted the fight against Pep Guardiola’s quadruple-seeking side.

The pair was teamed in tandem again on Saturday, again against City at the Etihad. Once more, Son found space in the opening exchanges beyond the hosts’ defence. This time, Ederson thwarted him. It provided the platform for a narrow City victory. Spurs lost 1-0, with Son and Moura fading, understandably, given the rigours of the previous week.

Some solace could be found the following day. On Sunday, Manchester United unravelled at Everton; Arsenal got in a tangle at home to Crystal Palace. Beginning their weekend with defeat, Spurs concluded it still in charge of their Champions League chase.

With four matches remaining, four victories would guarantee a fourth successive top-three finish. A club desperate to belong at Europe’s top table would cosy its feet firmly under the furniture.

Therefore Tuesday’s assignment against Brighton & Hove Albion is just as important as the 11-day trilogy with City. A tweak in tactics might be enforced, as the demands of twin Champions League pursuits, present and near future, impact a strained Tottenham squad.

Spurs will play 10 matches in 33 days between the initial City encounter and May 12, the end of the Premier League season. Rotation, where possible, will be required.

With that in mind, Pochettino could grant Llorente another start, as he did in a heavily changed line-up that faced Huddersfield. With West Ham United at the weekend, and Ajax the following Tuesday, Son or Moura may be in need of a rest.

Spurs will take relief, though, in that their record at their new home stands at three victories from three. Their next three games, starting with a free-falling Brighton, take place there.

The danger is that, at this stage of the campaign, each match matters more as the days draw in, that the resources remain strained. Yet Spurs are proving once again that without Kane they are able.

A club who famously railed against recruitment for recruitment’s sake rest on the cusp of a lucrative double feat. Even more than the previous, the next few weeks are decisive. With City out of the way and out of sight, a fresh quest begins with Brighton.

Updated: April 23, 2019 08:13 AM

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