NEWCASTLE, United Kingdom, Aug 13 – Dele Alli fired Tottenham to a 2-0 victory at Newcastle on Sunday after the England midfielder was involved in the crucial dismissal of Magpies midfielder Jonjo Shelvey.
Shelvey was shown a second half red card for deliberately treading on Alli, who was on the ground only yards from referee Andre Marriner.
Tottenham capitalised by scoring through Alli and then Ben Davies to open their Premier League campaign with a comfortable three points at St James’ Park.
After finishing second last season, Tottenham will hope their winning start bodes well for a sustained title challenge.
It added up to a frustrating return to the Premier League for promoted Newcastle, who had competed well until Shelvey’s needless dismissal.
Until the red card, this encounter between two teams whose supporters have been critical of their lack of transfer investment was in danger of meandering towards a goalless stalemate.
Newcastle’s net spend has been less than £20 million ($25 million, 21 million euros), while Tottenham opted not to make even one new signing, choices which appeared ill-judged for long periods here.
If future decisions are based on analysis of this game, the two managers will surely move in the market to strengthen their squad before the end of the transfer deadline.
Mauricio Pochettino will know Tottenham lacked imagination before the red card, while Newcastle’s Rafa Benitez will be particularly anxious to recruit reinforcements after suffering injuries to two defenders long before the half-time whistle.
Left-back is the position where Benitez has no cover for Paul Dummett, so central defender Ciaran Clark had to move there when Dummett suffered a leg injury after only six minutes.
Newcastle were forced to improvise again by the 34th when Chancel Mbemba took over from another centre-half, Florian Lejeune, leaving Newcastle with their third defensive partnership of the afternoon.
Lejeune, who already looks the pick of Newcastle’s new signings, went down under a challenge from Harry Kane, who was booked.
It was one of Kane’s few contributions to the opening half, but others were equally anonymous as both teams struggled to locate any early-season fluency.
– Danger man –
Dwight Gayle sliced an early shot wide from a chance created by Dummett’s final involvement, while excellent work down the left by Christian Atsu was wasted when nobody was in front of goal to meet his cross.
Christian Eriksen was the Tottenham danger man in the first 45 minutes, steering a 26th minute shot narrowly wide, then bringing a save from Rob Elliot shortly before the end of the opening half.
The pattern of the rest of the game was dictated by the dismissal of Shelvey in the 48th minute.
Gayle did force Hugo Lloris to finally make a save moments later, but Newcastle’s 10 men were largely pinned back in their own half from that point.
Kane, needing only one goal to complete a century for Tottenham could have secured it in the 51st minute when he was left in space and hooked a shot that brought a marvellous save from Elliot.
It was only a matter of time, though, before the 10 men were opened up and Eriksen was the man responsible with a fine pass that Alli slid past the exposed Elliott after 61 minutes.
The Tottenham pair were also involved in their second goal after 70 minutes when they combined with Kane before Davies nipped in front of Eriksen to finish calmly.
Kane, who rarely scores for Tottenham in the month of August, was inches away from ending that drought when he struck the post in stoppage time.
He will have to wait a little longer for that 100th goal for the club.