LONDON, United Kingdom, Aug 20 – Kenya’s Victor Wanyama scored his debut goal to fire Tottenham Hotspur to a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace in an English Premier League match played on Saturday.
Wanyama’s 83rd minute header at White Hart Lane finally broke the resistance of a Palace side who are without a goal and without a point after the opening two games of the campaign.
After last weekend’s frustrating draw at Everton, the Kenya international’s goal brought relief for Mauricio Pochettino’s side, who finished third last season after challenging champions Leicester until the final weeks.
The late rally, inspired by the introduction of Dele Alli who had been surprisingly omitted from the starting line-up, kick-started Tottenham’s anticipated title challenge while underlining the problems confronting the problems confronting Alan Pardew, the Palace manager, whose side have won just two league games in 2016.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) August 20, 2016
Palace were handed a major lift before kick-off when they completed the signing of striker Christian Benteke from Liverpool for a club record fee of £27 million, rising to a possible £32 million with add-ons.
Pardew had spoken before the game about the importance of quickly bringing in a high-profile player after the departure of Yannick Bolasie to Everton and former captain Mile Jedinak to Aston Villa.
Benteke, though, was ineligible for the trip to north London, leaving Connor Wickham as Palace’s only recognised striker as they attempted to get their season on track following the disappointing opening day defeat to West Bromwich Albion.
Pochettino is in a much stronger position when it comes to forward options and the Tottenham manager opted to pair Vincent Janssen with Harry Kane up front.
– Promising partnership –
Janssen was handed his first start since his £18.5 million move from AZ Alkmaar at the expense of England midfielder Alli, who dropped to the bench.
Pochettino had been fulsome in his praise for the forward following Janssen’s performance at Everton and the Dutchman quickly settled in front of his home supporters, with his partnership with Kane offering early signs of promise.
The pattern of the opening half ensured the Tottenham forwards had much more opportunity to get involved than Wickham, whose best work was helping his side defend a succession of Spurs set-pieces.
Apart from an effort from Jason Puncheon that brought a smart save from Michel Vorm, deputising for injured Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris, Palace showed few signs of being capable of ending the problems in front of goal that marred last season.
Their weaknesses only highlighted the importance of getting Benteke match-fit and involved as quickly as possible, although the visitors could at least draw satisfaction from the way they prevented Tottenham turning territorial dominance into goals in the first half.
Central to those efforts was Wayne Hennessey who pulled off three excellent saves to keep his side on level terms.
The keeper was well positioned to deny Toby Alderweireld’s free header from an Erik Lamela corner, although the centre-back should have done much better with his effort.
And midway through the first half, Hennessey adjusted his position well to parry Kane’s deflected shot before recovering to smother Janssen’s follow-up.
Tottenham needed to show more invention if they were to find a way through although Kane was unfortunate to see a diving header drift wide from Eric Dier’s well-placed through-ball.
Alli provided the spark when he eventually appeared in the 67th minute, immediately setting up Janssen for a good chance before firing over with a first time shot.
Then seven minutes from time, he won the corner that allowed Lamela to cross for Kane whose header was diverted home by Wanyama for the winning goal.