In a repeat of last season’s opening fixture, Tottenham saw off Newcastle United with a 2-1 victory in a fantastic Premier League battle thanks to goals from Jan Vertonghen and Dele Alli.
Newcastle will feel frustrated not to find a second equaliser, like they were able to with Joselu in the first half, though the Tyneside outfit showed attacking promise and resolute defending throughout; on the basis of today’s showing, Rafa Benitez’s side are unlikely to be battling relegation this term.
Both sides came in to the game with very familiar starting line-ups, after Tottenham failed to make a single summer signing and Newcastle were one of the quieter clubs in terms of spending, much to the frustrations of manager Rafa Benitez who has been critical of their summer business; or lack of. As have the Newcastle fans who staged a protest outside the stadium before the game critcising owner Mike Ashley, though they were in full supporting force as the game kicked off at St James’ Park.
Tottenham started the brighter of the two and created some early chances, but were just unable to find an initial cutting edge. Their good work paid off after Christian Eriksen’s shot on seven minutes was the first respectable effort at goal, and was palmed away by Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka. From the resulting corner, goal line technology was called in for the first time this season, as Vertonghen’s header crossed the line before Dubravka could claw it away.
However, Tottenham switched off after taking the lead, and after just three minutes Newcastle came straight back at them. Matt Ritche played a fantastic cross into the box for Joselu to guide the ball with his head past the stranded Hugo Lloris into the far bottom left hand corner of the goal. 1-1.
Tottenham did not have to wait long before finding themselves back in the lead. Serge Aurier’s pinpoint first time cross found Alli at the back post, which he cleverly sent back to where it came from in to the corner of the goal to reinstate Tottenham’s lead.
After falling behind again, Newcastle did not seem downbeat as they continued to try get back in to the game. Paul Dummett sent a powerful effort from 30 yards just wide of Lloris’ left hand post, which had the World Cup winner at full stretch. Tottenham were still threatening, as Harry Kane wasted a couple of half chances, and Sanchez sent a dangerous header flashing past the goal from an Eriksen corner.
At the other end Newcastle came close again as Ciaran Clark’s scuffed half volley bounced uncomfortably close past the post after a bit of typical pin-ball in the Tottenham box. This was the last major chance of an exhilarating first half of football.
The second half picked up where the first had ended. Jonjo Shelvey sent a looping header onto the left side of Tottenham’s area, where it found Mo Diame who took it down and sent a thundering effort against the near post. Tottenham reacted well, as Dele Alli was almost able to lob Dubravka with his knee after Eriksen fantastically picked him out in the box.
Newcastle, just a minute later, wasted an amazing chance to equalise as Kenndey was found in a mountain of space only for his first chance to let him down and Lloris to snuff the danger out.
The game carried on in its end to end style, as Harry Kane’s clever double header played in Ben Davies who fired a cross in to ex-Newcastle player Moussa Sissoko, who smashed a volley only for Dubravka to pull out a fantastic save to deny the Frenchman. Moments later Sanchez had a chance to score but saw his acrobatic attempt sail over the goal.
Newcastle weren’t giving up though, on the 60th minute, as another pin-ball moment saw the ball land at Ayoze Perez’s feet whose effort was smartly kept out by Lloris.
The managers started to ring the changes and Mauricio Pochettino sent on Moussa Dembele in place of the attacking Lucas Moura to solidify the Tottenham midfield, while Rafa Beneitez went in search for the equaliser and put on Christian Atsu for the impressive Ritche and gave debuts to new attacking signings Solomon Rondon and Yoshinori Muto in place of Joselu and Perez.
Rondon was almost able to make a instant impact on Tyneside as he saw his deflected effort loop Lloris and bounce back of the crossbar to the be cleared by Sanchez.
Pochettino will be happy to have got the three points in what was a tough opening fixture up north, but will be concerned about how his side where not able to take full control and kill off the game at an earlier stage. Nonetheless, for all the criticisms of their transfer policy, Spurs commence their campaign with an invaluable three points.