ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Crystal Palace 0
LONDON • Football can be the cruellest of pursuits and how Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson felt it shortly after the hour mark at Wembley yesterday.
His rock-bottom team had held Tottenham at arm's length and created a clutch of chances. Wilfried Zaha blew a glorious chance following a 57th-minute breakaway while Argentinian Paulo Gazzaniga, the third-choice Spurs goalkeeper, kept out Luka Milivojevic's header from point-blank range.
But, in a heartbeat, the game turned. South Korean forward Son Heung Min's 64th-minute winner was a well-executed finish - quite out of keeping with the rest of his performance and that of his team. The forward's body shape was perfect and he got his left-footed shot to bend back into the corner of the net from just outside the box.
His 20th strike made him the league's top Asian scorer, surpassing former Manchester United midfielder and compatriot Park Ji Sung (19).
Mauricio Pochettino had stressed that this game meant just as much as last Wednesday's epic Champions League win over holders Real Madrid, but his players did not have the same verve.
Pochettino's inclusion of Gazzaniga for his Spurs debut had been unexpected. With Hugo Lloris out, Michel Vorm had been in line for a rare league run-out, but he injured his knee in training on Saturday.
Pochettino was also without Dele Alli because of a hamstring injury that will also rule him out of England's friendlies against Germany and Brazil this month.
"Palace were compact, narrow and playing on the counter-attack. We had the possession but not many chances," said Pochettino after watching his side take 12 shots, with just two finding the target.
Spurs cemented third place with 23 points from 11 games while Palace are stuck on four points.
Said Hodgson: "Spurs' goal was a painful blow. We knew they'd dominate possession with the quality they have, but we worked hard to restrict them and they didn't have many shots to worry us. We had quite a few moments of our own at the other end so it was a bitter blow to lose 1-0."
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE