LONDON • Tottenham Hotspur's unbeaten run remains intact but of far more importance to Mauricio Pochettino after the 3-2 win over West Ham on Saturday will be that his team's seven-game winless streak has ended.
Spurs dominated for long spells of this pulsating London derby but they needed Harry Kane, the most prolific of scorers in inter-capital fixtures, to strike twice in the final two minutes to transform a maiden defeat of the season into their first victory since Oct 2.
West Ham had led twice, through Michail Antonio's first-half goal and Manuel Lanzini's 68th-minute penalty after Harry Winks made it 1-1 with a goal in his first Premier League start.
But a defensive substitution from Slaven Bilic five minutes from time proved desperately costly for the visiting team.
They remain 17th and face a daunting set of fixtures - Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool in the Premier League and United again in the League Cup quarter-finals, making their inability to close out the win all the more frustrating.
Yet, the real story was how Kane, who is still working his way back to full fitness, scored twice to overturn the deficit.
The first came after Son Heung Min's cross was parried by Darren Randolph into the England striker's path, before a minute later Son was tripped by Havard Nordtveit in the area, giving referee Mike Dean no option but to point to the spot.
Kane drilled it into the bottom left corner from 12 yards.
Bilic had introduced Nordtveit only six minutes earlier for Dimitri Payet, at a time when the France attacker was looking menacing on the break.
Such a conservative change invited Spurs to attack, and West Ham duly crumbled, with the Norwegian midfielder deserving much of the blame.
"It looked good for us," Bilic said. "Especially after the goal we scored, but we had good opportunities to kill the game off. Unfortunately it wasn't to be."
One had to marvel at the drive displayed by Spurs. Pochettino said that they were "sloppy" during the first half, yet their self-belief did not wilt and with Kane on the pitch there was always a route to goal.
His tally in London derbies is now 18 from 22, the best ratio of any striker in the Premier League era.
Pochettino was predictably delighted with the storming finish, which reinforced how much Spurs missed the striker, who returned to the first team against Arsenal on Nov 6 after 21/2 months out with ankle ligament damage.
"He's back," the manager said. "For me he's one of the best strikers in the world and I'm very, very happy with his performance.
"The table looks much better. We are three points off the top and 12 unbeaten from the beginning."
The challenge now for Spurs is to turn their form in the Premier League, where they remain the only unbeaten side, into the Champions League, which resumes tomorrow with a testing trip to Monaco, which both Kane and Pochettino described as a "must-win game".
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS