BOURNEMOUTH, England — Three points from Tottenham’s 4-1 win at Bournemouth on Sunday afternoon.
1. Tottenham bounce back after Champions League agony
Harry Kane limped off with a suspected ankle injury as Tottenham banished the pain of this week’s Champions League elimination with a 4-1 win at dogged Bournemouth.
Kane was replaced midway through the first half with Spurs trailing 1-0 to Junior Stanislas’ goal but in his absence, Dele Alli, Son Heung-Min and Serge Aurier stepped up with the goals as Spurs came from behind to win for the first time in 11 matches this season.
Spurs have struggled after big Champions League games this term, drawing with Swansea and West Brom after the wins over Borussia Dortmund, and Rochdale after their first leg of their round-of-16 match against Juventus. The notable exception was a 4-1 thrashing of Liverpool after the draw at Real Madrid but they looked unlikely to replicate that performance in the early stages here following Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat to Juve. In fact, they could not have looked more hungover.
Inside six minutes, their defence was all at sea and Lys Mousset and Stanislas sprinted clear with only Davinson Sanchez for company. The Frenchman squared unselfishly but Stanislas somehow chipped on to the crossbar. Moments later, though, he made amends.
Adam Smith skinned Danny Rose far too easily and Aurier, the other deputy full-back, missed his cross. Stanislas took a touch and rifled across Hugo Lloris into the bottom corner. Sluggish Spurs struggled to deal with Bournemouth’s pressing and their opening was epitomised when Rose’ was booked for a cynical foul on Callum Wilson after the forward had beaten him and Sanchez with ease.
It looked like it could become a nightmare afternoon for Tottenham when Kane hobbled off but, oddly, his injury seemed to sharpen their focus and his replacement Erik Lamela played a part in the equaliser when Aurier’s delicious cross was turned in by Alli from close range. The goal restored Spurs’ confidence but Bournemouth, who had lost just one in the 10 previous matches, continued to make it difficult for the visitors, who were missing Eric Dier’s calming presence in the centre of the pitch.
Spurs started the second half as poorly as they did the first, and Simon Francis extended Lloris into a save prompting Mauricio Pochettino to rise angrily from his seat in the dugout. But Kane or no Kane, Spurs have one of the most in-form forwards in the country in Son, who scored twice to seal the victory. First, the South Korean scuffed Alli’s cross into the back of the net after more good work from Aurier — who was guilty of another foul throw and some calamitous moments but made the difference when it counted.
Bournemouth thought they had equalised when Wilson converted from close range but it was ruled out, a little harshly, for a push on Sanchez. As the Cherries pushed further forward, Christian Eriksen won possession and fed Son, who raced clear and rounded Begovic to make it 3-1.
There were more injury worries for Spurs when Rose, who had an afternoon forget, limped off with 10 minutes remaining, and Alli, who had one to remember, was also replaced with a knock. It did not matter as Aurier nodded more his first goal for Tottenham in stoppage time from close range.
It was the best tonic for the European heartbreak and Jan Vertonghen said: “It was a tough one to take on Wednesday. It was a difficult start, they were positive and offensive. We have played so many games, Wednesday was very hard and we almost played the same team today. After going 1-0 down it was a great effort from the team.”
2. Kane concern for Pochettino
Pochettino was unimpressed when Pep Guardiola described Tottenham as “The Harry Kane team” back in October but Spurs may have to prove the Manchester City boss wrong after the striker hobbled off with a suspected ankle injury midway through the first half. Kane’s right ankle got caught between the turf and Asmir Begovic as he beat the goalkeeper from close range, with Spurs trailing 1-0. The offside flag was up and, to add injury to insult, Kane stayed down.
After receiving treatment, he hobbled around the pitch and consulted with Spurs’ medical team by the dugout before the decision was made to replace him with Lamela. It is almost exactly a year to the day since Kane suffered ankle ligament damage against Millwall in the FA Cup, which ruled him out for three matches. In 2016, he missed two months with an injury to the ankle he hurt on Sunday. Any prolonged absence will be a huge test of Spurs’ ability to cope without their talisman and top scorer.
On Saturday, they visit Swansea in the FA Cup quarterfinal in a match that has taken on far more significance since their Champions League elimination. That Fernando Llorente’s only league goal for Spurs came against his former club at the Liberty Stadium in a 2-0 win in January — one of just two league games Kane has missed this season — offers encouragement but based on this match, Pochettino should play Son up front and Lamela or Lucas Moura behind.
Son’s sixth and seventh goals in a week prove Spurs still have plenty of firepower without Kane but after Swansea, they visit Chelsea on April 1, aiming for their first win at Stamford Bridge since 1990 in a match that could be pivotal in deciding which club plays Champions League football next season. This result left Tottenham five points ahead of their rivals.
The good news for Spurs is that, just as during last season, the international break follows the Chelsea game, which could absorb some of Kane’s time out. But if Spurs lose to Swansea and Chelsea without him, their season could have taken on a very different feel by then.
3. Bournemouth gritty in defeat
In the end, the scoreline was harsh on a Bournemouth side who matched Tottenham for at least an hour in the rain on the South Coast. The Cherries’ game plan was spot on as they started the match with an aggressive high press, making life uncomfortable for Spurs’ out-of-practice full-backs Rose and Aurier.
Juventus centre-back Georgio Chiellini noted midweek that Tottenham give up chances and so it proved. Had Bournemouth been more clinical, they could have been 2-0 up inside 10 minutes and they did not stop pushing forward after falling 2-1 down. They were unlucky that Wilson’s goal was ruled out for a push on Sanchez.
Next up, they host bottom club West Brom at home and three points there would go a long way to securing safety for manager Eddie Howe, who can then begin to plan for next season.
This match was effectively a free hit — not a game that will decide how this season turns out — and despite the scoreline, they acquitted themselves well until the final 10 minutes, when Spurs turned the screw.
Dan is ESPN FC’s Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.