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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 August 2018

Mauricio Pochettino 'proud of the performance in the circumstances' as Spurs open campaign with win at Newcastle

  • Vertonghen header gives Tottenham early lead
  • Joselu equalises for Newcastle three minutes later
  • Alli's winner sees Tottenham get 2018/19 Premier League campaign off to winning start

Headed goals from Jan Vertonghen and Dele Alli saw Tottenham Hotspur register an opening day victory against Newcastle United, although Mauricio Pochettino's men were forced to weather a second-half onslaught to secure three points.

Spurs took an eighth-minute lead after goalline technology proved that Jan Vertonghen's header had crossed the line but it was short-lived as Joselu headed in from a sumptuous Matt Ritchie cross.

Spurs restored and held on to their lead when Alli headed in neatly at the back post.

The only surprise was that, after Alli's 18th-minute winner, there was no further score with both goalkeepers, Martin Dubravka and Hugo Lloris, forced to make a string of impressive saves.

Newcastle's Venezuelan forward Salomon Rondon nearly enjoyed a dream debut after coming off the substitutes bench but his late effort was deflected on to the crossbar after a desperate block from Vertonghen.

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The woodwork had earlier denied Mohamed Diame an equaliser, Newcastle's Senegalese midfielder rattling the upright with a rasping left-foot volley.

Kenedy was guilty of squandering arguably Newcastle's best chance of drawing level midway through the second half. The Brazilian winger was picked out by Richie in acres of space on Newcastle's left, but a poor first allowed Lloris to deny the Chelsea loanee.

"I am so proud of the performance in the circumstances," Spurs manager Pochettino told Sky Sports.

"Newcastle are a very good team and they had some chances to score more than one, but sometimes in football you need some luck as well as effort. With all of the circumstances, we prepared for the game with a lot of players that only started training on Monday.

"We can do better, of course, and be more consistent but it was a massive challenge to connect everything and prepare in the few days we had. I am not going to complain and we have to learn to be clever. It is a massive challenge to work together again."

Tottenham became the first Premier League team to make no signings during a summer transfer window with manager Pochettino urging disgruntled fans to be happy with the quality of the existing squad.

However, any concerns about a lack of fresh faces were quickly alleviated in an end-to-end opening at a sun-kissed St James' Park.

With the game eight minutes old, Vertonghen, fresh from Belgium's third-placed World Cup finish, gave the visitors the lead when his header against the underside of the crossbar was adjudged to have crossed the line by goalline technology.

However, Just 149 seconds later the hosts restored parity when Joselu converted a wicked delivery from the impressive Matt Ritchie to send the Newcastle faithful into raptures.

Their glee didn't last long, however, with Alli arriving at the back post to head in Aurier's deep cross for what proved to be the winner.

Spurs, whose starting XI contained many players who were involved in the latter stages of the World Cup, faded and were relieved to hold on for victory following Vertonghen's crucial 85th-minute block to deny Rondon, the deflection taking the Venezuelan's effort on to the bar before Spurs cleared the danger.

"To connect everything and start to mould the machine again was a massive challenge for everyone," Pochettino said of his side, missing the likes of England right-back Kieran Trippier while South Korean winger Son Heung-min started on the bench following their World Cup exploits.

"The effort from the players was massive, it is not easy to provide them a good holiday and rest."

Rafa Benitez, who guided Newcastle to a mid-table last season, said his side were unlucky to take nothing from the game but showed enough against one of the league's top sides to suggest they should be competitive again this season.

"I think we deserved more," he told BBC Sport. "The team worked hard against a very good side. We conceded and reacted well, and then went a goal behind again and showed good fight."

Match info

Newcastle United 1
Joselu (11')

Tottenham Hotspur 2
Vertonghen (8'), Alli (18')

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