Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 Leeds United
For years, one Asian player stood out for me as being the epitome of a team player, while also a talented individual in his own right.
His time in the Premier League also resulted in four title-winning medals, as well as plenty of other trophies and key goals.
Even when he retired, no-one seemed ready to rival his mantle.
Then another player emerged who, it’s fair to say, has now even surpassed the achievements of Ji-Sung Park as the best Asian player to play in the English top-flight.
Step forward Son-Heung Min.
Highlights of the game
Ever since he played a crucial role in guiding Spurs to the 2019 Champions League Final, his brilliance has been evident to me.
But if ever any conformation was needed of his status in the game, his 100th club goal for the north Londoners today cemented it.
What a way for the amiable South Korean to mark the start of 2021 with yet another contribution to his own Premier League highlights reel.
Before kick-off there was a rarity in team news as Leeds – looking to trip up their hosts – were unchanged from their 5-0 win over West Brom.
Spurs, meanwhile, made two changes as Toby Alderweireld and Ben Davies replace Sergio Reguilon and Davinson Sanchez following their 1-1 draw at Wolves.
Robbie Keane scored the winner the last time these sides met in the league – for Spurs – in a clash between two of his boyhood sides.
He would likely have enjoyed the end-to-end attacking opening which saw young Jack Harrison deliver a fine cross which just needed a touch. Shortly afterwards, Ezgjan Alioski drove down the left and played in Harrison whose cut back was blocked into the path of Mateusz Klich who rifled the loose ball over.
Then it was the turn of Son – who had looked hurt after an early challenge – to shine as his cross was played back to Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, surely one of the signings of the season, whose shot was straight at Illan Meslier.
The attacking at both ends continued as Raphinha bent in a cross which Leeds top scorer Patrick Bamford met but could only head over the top.
If the SBOTOP Premier League betting odds were to be proved wrong, the visitors really needed to score the first goal and threaten an upset.
Just before the half hour that opportunity disappeared.
Alioski tripped Steven Bergwijn following a poor clearance from Meslier and Harry Kane duly fired the resultant penalty kick straight down the middle.
That was the spark for three home goals in 21 minutes which sealed the contest.
After Bergwijn blazed over and Harrison cured the ball onto the roof of Hugo Lloris’ net, arrived Son’s special moment.
Three minutes were remaining in the first half when Kane whipped in an early ball and Son edged in front of his marker to confidently clip home a half volley to reach his century.
If it wasn’t already over, it definitely was five minutes after the restart as Meslier was beaten by an Alderweireld header from a corner, the keeper blocking the ball with his body but unable to stop falling back and over the line.
The keeper made amends just past the hour to deny Bergwijn one-on-one but the game was long over, even before the final minute when Matt Doherty was shown a second yellow card.
Ironic that Spurs finished their first game of 2021 with 10 men having not received a single Premier League red card in 2020.
The only real downside for the hosts was the news which emerged shortly after the full-time whistle that three players – Argentina forward Erik Lamela, Reguilon and Argentina midfielder Giovani lo Celso – breached coronavirus rules by attending a party over Christmas.
Expect club sanctions.
Son is the 18th player to score 100 goals for Spurs, and the first not from the UK or Ireland.
Only Kane (169) has scored more than Son in all competitions for Tottenham since the South Korean made his debut for the club in September 2015.
They have now combined for goals 13 times in the league this season, equalling the record for an entire campaign, set by Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton for Blackburn Rovers in 1994-95.
Kane has assisted Son nine times – a joint-record for one player assisting another within a Premier League season.
The England captain has also scored against all 30 opponents he has faced in the Premier League, the best 100 per cent record in the competition among players to have faced more than one side.
Courtesy of his penalty, Kane became the first player to reach double figures for both goals and assists in the top five European leagues this season.
Jose Mourinho has only lost one of his 28 Premier League home matches against promoted sides (won 22, drawn five).
Tottenham have won four of their last five Premier League home games.
This was the first time this season that Leeds have failed to score in an away game – only Aston Villa and Manchester United have netted in all their games on the road.
Leeds have conceded six penalties this term, more than any other side in the top flight. Only in 2003-04 (seven), have they shipped more in a single campaign in the competition.
They have won four away games this season, one more than in their entire last Premier League campaign in 2003-04.
The Whites have won their first league game of the year in just one of the past eight seasons.
It’s two lower league opponents in a week now for Spurs.
They host Championship side Brentford in the semi-finals of the League Cup on Tuesday (January 5) before visiting non-league Marine in the third round of the FA Cup next weekend (January 10).
Leeds also have lower league opposition with League Two side Crawley awaiting them in the FA Cup next weekend.
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