ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
LONDON • Jose Mourinho did not have a happy Christmas on Wednesday following the death of his dog, but there was at least some festive cheer for the Tottenham manager after a 2-1 Premier League home win over Brighton yesterday.
A lucky bounce and a flash of class made the difference for his side. Otherwise, it was a messy, uneven display for the most part and he ended up grateful to have a finisher as ruthless as Harry Kane.
The England striker's equaliser arrived when a loose clearance fell his way, and Dele Alli elevated an ineffective showing with a beautiful winning goal.
"To be honest it was very sad, because my dog died and my dog is my family, so very difficult. But we have to move on," Mourinho said when asked about how he spent Christmas.
"I am very happy with the second half. We changed bits (of our play) and that makes a difference.
"The first half was not a disaster, we were playing a good game. It's hard after a defeat to have confidence and we started poorly.
"In the second half the players put all the negatives aside and were very strong in their performance."
Kane's 53rd-minute goal cancelled out Adam Webster's first-half header before Alli put Spurs ahead in the 72nd, knocking in a pass from Serge Aurier to complete a move inspired by substitute Christian Eriksen that started with a delicate floated long ball.
Kane said on Amazon: "We dug deep today to get the win.
Premier League goals Tottenham's Harry Kane has scored in five appearances on Boxing Day.
Only Robbie Fowler, with nine for Liverpool (three), Leeds (four) and Manchester City (two), has more.
"I enjoy it (scoring on Boxing Day). Maybe the Christmas dinner gives me a bit of a boost."
Spurs were reeling from a disheartening 2-0 home loss to Chelsea last Sunday and a sleepy atmosphere gripped their stadium early in the game, which was briefly lifted when Kane scored before a video assistant referee review ruled the effort offside.
They went behind to Brighton, who had thrashed Spurs 3-0 in October in one of the last games under Mourinho's predecessor Mauricio Pochettino, when defender Webster appeared unmarked to head in from a free kick in the 37th minute.
It had been a difficult few days for Tottenham and their play was littered with errors from the start.
There was no flow, no wit, even though Mourinho tried to shake things up after the Chelsea shocker.
Tottenham 2 Brighton 1
Aston Villa 1 Norwich 0
Bournemouth 1 Arsenal 1
Chelsea 0 Southampton 2
Crystal Palace 2 West Ham 1
Everton 1 Burnley 0
Man United v Newcastle
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Wolves v Man City
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Harry Winks came in for Eric Dier and Son Heung-min's three-match ban meant there was a first league start for Ryan Sessegnon since his summer move from Fulham. But he lasted just 56 minutes before being replaced by Giovani Lo Celso.
It was hard not to see the decision to start a player of Sessegnon's inexperience over the wantaway Eriksen as a clear sign that Mourinho wants rid of the Dane.
And there were plenty of raised eyebrows at Tanguy Ndombele not even meriting a place on the bench.
Given that the £53.8 million (S$94.7 million) midfielder was available for selection, it had the feel of a pointed omission, even though Spurs hardly resembled a side with no need for their record buy.
Their football was stodgy and Brighton, who mimicked Chelsea's 3-4-2-1 system, played the slicker football during the opening period.
In the end, though, Spurs simply had greater quality in the final third, and Eriksen's impressive cameo was a reminder that Spurs will not find it easy to replace his creativity if he leaves during the transfer window next month.
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS