LONDON – Tottenham Hotspur assistant manager Cristian Stellini praised his side for a “very good game” on Saturday, after Harry Kane fired Spurs past third-tier Portsmouth 1-0 and into the FA Cup fourth round.
On a packed day of third-round action, 2021 winners Leicester emerged unscathed from a tricky tie against lowly Gillingham, while Southampton came from behind to beat Crystal Palace 2-1 in an all-Premier League tie.
In north London, Tottenham boss Antonio Conte rang the changes for the match against League One side Portsmouth but retained a heavyweight forward line which included striker Kane and South Korean forward Son Heung-min.
The in-form Kane broke the deadlock in the 50th minute, receiving the ball on the edge of the box and bending a fine curled effort past the despairing dive of Portsmouth goalkeeper Josh Griffiths.
The England captain, with four goals in four matches since the World Cup, where he scored twice, now has 265 goals for Tottenham – just one behind the club’s all-time record scorer, Jimmy Greaves.
Spurs, who have won the FA Cup eight times but not since 1991, were unable to add to their tally but saw out the match fairly comfortably.
“The first task is progress and we have to say compliments. Very good game, they played very compact and were close to perfect in the first half,” said Stellini, taking over media duties from Conte.
“They were very tough but we expected this. This is the FA Cup.
“We had the control of the game for all of the 90 minutes but we didn’t create many chances in the first half because they were so compact and we tried to create more space in the second half.”
Kane, meanwhile, said he is not thinking of beating Greaves’ record just yet.
“I try to not think about it. Sometimes you can think too much,” he said. “I feel in good form and I feel fit. My mindset is to help the team and hopefully the goals will come.”
Despite the victory, there was a slight concern for Spurs as Oliver Skipp was called into the starting line-up just before kick-off after Yves Bissouma picked up a knock during the warm-up.
Stellini, however, said that the midfielder should recover in time for next Sunday’s Premier League north London derby against Arsenal.
“The injury came from the last match. An ankle problem,” he said.
“He tried to push himself but he was not 100 per cent. It’s very good when the player tells us they are not 100 per cent as Skippy was and he played well. He will (be fit for Arsenal).”
Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers, who led his side to the trophy two years ago, made multiple changes after his team’s third straight Premier League defeat last week but retained veteran forward Jamie Vardy for the match against Gillingham, who are rock bottom of England’s Football League.
Vardy was the provider as Kelechi Iheanacho scored the only goal in the 56th minute.
Palace took the lead against Premier League basement club Southampton through Odsonne Edouard.
But Saints levelled in the 37th minute after some poor defending from the hosts. James Ward-Prowse sent what looked to be an innocuous free kick into the area but Joel Ward mistimed his effort to head clear.
The ball took a bounce inside the box before evading Palace goalkeeper Vicente Guaita, who moved in the right direction but could not stop it from going into the net.
Southampton then took the lead for the first time and for good midway through the second half.
Guaita was attempting to make a routine clearance from outside the area when Adam Armstrong rushed in, stole the ball from the Spaniard and had plenty of time to find the empty net. AFP, REUTERS