Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur defeated West Ham on Tuesday evening in a derby that was muted by its usual standards, owing to the lack of supporters in north London.
Son Heung-min saw a finish disallowed for offside right on the stroke of half-time before a Tomas Soucek own goal left the Hammers chasing a result in the second half. Harry Kane then put matters to bed when he fired past Lukasz Fabianski in the final 10 minutes.
The result will force West Ham to battle even harder for Premier League survival, while Spurs’ chances of achieving European football were handed a significant boost. Here are five things we learned from the Premier League fixture:
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Derbies need fans
Admittedly, the Merseyside derby on Sunday suggested this was the case, but we received further evidence on Tuesday evening.
The usual edge of Liverpool versus Everton was softened by the pitch’s surroundings of sheeted stands, and it was a similar situation between Spurs and West Ham.
This fixture normally makes for an electric occasion, but an insulating environment in north London prevented the usual sparks we see when these rivals meet.
With the exception of a late challenge by Pablo Fornals, who stretched and stabbed his way into Serge Aurier’s ankle early in the first half, the game was generally without incident.
Kane is back already
In another reality, we would all be watching Euro 2020 right now, relieved at Kane’s surge to fitness and drawn to the unifying sight that is the striker in an England shirt, wheeling away in celebration – three Lions roaring on his chest, gold star gleaming. Instead, the general reaction to the 26-year-old’s return has seemed to consist predominantly of cynical hope for a slow start.
Whether or not Kane needed to start on Tuesday evening is arguable, and perhaps he would have had even more impact off the bench – though there is certainly no need for this sentiment to be debated as vociferously as it was following last year’s Champions League final.
Kane disproved the doubters – it’s remarkable how many of them still exist – with a trademark finish as the second half neared its end. After flashing a couple of earlier efforts wide of Lukasz Fabianski’s post, it seemed as though a goal might not come for the England captain, but normal order was restored soon enough.
Kane could indeed prove crucial to Spurs’ pursuit of European football.
West Ham are sleepwalking towards relegation
The Hammers have been accused of sleepwalking towards relegation with a tired manager in David Moyes, and it’s easy to see why.
Aston Villa were fortunate to gain a point against Sheffield United, but showed heart in their defeat by Chelsea; Brighton have grafted their way to victory over Arsenal and nullified Leicester since returning to the pitch; Watford showed great fortitude to rescue a result against the Foxes with the clock hand ticking tauntingly out of sight. West Ham’s relegation rivals have been fighting like their lives depend on Premier League survival.
West Ham, meanwhile, might have managed 70 minutes of stubbornness against Wolves, but a genuine awareness for the precarious nature of their predicament seemed to be missing as they ultimately fell to a 2-0 defeat. Against Spurs, a game for which the east London side are always motivated, West Ham seemed to stir; they built on the resilience of their last performance and offered somewhat more of an attacking threat, too, looking sharper from the outset.
Still, it wasn’t enough, and while games against Wolves and Tottenham are far from easy pickings for a team like West Ham, things are only going to be more difficult next time out against Chelsea. They need to wake up, immediately.
Scrappy Spurs are still in search of inspiring performance
This Tottenham squad feels like it should be capable of a fair bit more than a 2-0 win against a weary West Ham, instigated by an own goal. Sure, any team will take points in which ever form they present themselves, but Mourinho’s Spurs are still seeking a signature win.
The closest they have come so far was their 2-0 defeat of Manchester City in February. That result followed an Oleksandr Zinchenko red card, though admittedly that is perhaps more of an underlining than an asterisk for a Mourinho team.
None of this is to suggest that their signature performance under Mourinho was going to come against the Hammers, but it feels as though the north Londoners need to deliver consistently in these sorts of games if they are to set up the type of big win that can inspire their fans again.
Hammers are too dependent on absent Haller
While West Ham found more opportunities to get forward than they did against Wolves, most of those charges were missing a true focal point.
Jarrod Bowen has been spirited in the few appearances he’s been able to make since arriving at the club in January, but the 23-year-old is unproven at this level. Michail Antonio, meanwhile, can hold up the ball well up front, but is best utilised on the right wing, where he has space to bound and build momentum.
Of West Ham’s attacking options, that leaves Albian Ajeti and the injured Sebastien Haller, their top goalscorer so far this term.
Ajeti has not been entrusted with much game time, so his struggle for goals is forgivable, but less forgivable is the fact that West Ham do not have a proven deputy to Haller – something that might just cost them their top-flight status.
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