Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 May 2019

Son Heung-min rides to Spurs' rescue as South Korean sends Newcastle away empty-handed

Martin Dubravka allows Tottenham forward's tame shot to squirm under him as Spurs set Premier League record of 29 games without a draw

Son Heung-min, right, is mobbed by teammates after giving Tottenham the lead against Newcastle. Reuters
Son Heung-min, right, is mobbed by teammates after giving Tottenham the lead against Newcastle. Reuters

Oh how they missed him.

While Son Heung-min was away at the Asian Cup, Tottenham Hotspur lost Harry Kane and Dele Alli to long-term injuries, exited two cup competitions and needed a last-minute goal to claim a victory against second-bottom Fulham.

But with South Korea having made an earlier-than-expected exit in the UAE, Son's timely return to the North London club can be summed up by goals that have yielded two Premier League victories in three days.

Having scored the equaliser in Wednesday's 2-1 win against Watford, Son rode to Spurs' rescue with a strike that owed much to Martin Dubravka's error seven minutes from time to move Mauricio Pochettino's side up to second place behind Liverpool.

Rafa Benitez's side boasted a better defensive record than two of the Premier League's top six before the match, and it was clear the remit was to spoil Spurs' creative flair at Wembley.

Newcastle's tactic of forcing Spurs around them from the flanks was helped immeasurably by Pochettino's decision to omit Fernando Llorente from his starting XI despite the Spaniard's match-winning role against Watford.

"It was difficult to find space," Pochettino said. "We created some chances in the first and second half but the most important thing in the end is to keep pushing and it was a massive effort again in the second game consecutively. Once again I need to praise my players."

Erik Lamela was deployed in a false nine role but Spurs struggled to create clear-cut chances.

Lucas Moura wasted a gilt-edged chance to give Spurs the lead when he headed Lamela's cross wide of the post when completely unmarked in the area. Lamela then saw a header of his own cannon off the woodwork minutes later.

Salomon Rondon cut a lone figure as Newcastle's most advanced player where the Venezuelan's only source of support was the forward runs of DeAndre Yedlin from right-back as Newcastle conceded possession and territory to their hosts on an industrial scale.

Despite Spurs' dominance, it took until 38 minutes for Dubravka to make a save, the Slovakian repelling a Moussa Sissoko volley down to his left.

Newcastle took until the 55th minute to register a shot on target of but Matt Richie was never going to seriously test Hugo Lloris from 20 yards off his weaker right foot.

With Kieran Trippier and Jan Vertonghen playing almost as auxiliary wingers, Pochettino summoned Llorente from the bench on the hour-mark in the hope the target man could provide a finishing touch.

The Spaniard's aerial presence gave the Newcastle defence something else to think about, and it was from a corner that Fabian Schar was forced into a goal-line clearance after Christian Eriksen got a touch to Son's header.

Lloris pulled off a superb one-handed save to keep out a curling effort from Ayoze Perez as Newcastle fired a reminder that they were well set-up to hit Spurs on the counter.

Llorente wasted a glorious chance to break the deadlock but the substitute got his angles all wrong trying to head back across Dubravka. The Spaniard pointed furiously at the sky to indicate he had lost flight off Eriksen's excellent pass in the glaring sun.

Spurs are yet to draw in the league this season but have found winning goals in the final 10 minutes of their last two matches and came up with the good again here.

Danny Rose was sent on in place of Lamela for the final 12 minutes as Spurs switched to a 3-5-2 in a final throw of the dice, but in the end three points were handed to them by Dubravka's error.

Llorente chested a ball down into the path of Son on the edge of the area but the South Korean's tame effort had no right to end up in the back of the net. Dubravka looked well set to gather the ball up but allowed it inexplicably to squirm underneath him.

"This goal we could've avoided," Benitez conceded, "but you have to give credit to Tottenham because they have injuries but still some of the best players in the national team. It was not easy for us."

Defeat was cruel on Newcastle and victory meant Spurs set a new Premier League record of 29 games without a draw.

Updated: February 2, 2019 07:19 PM

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