If Harry Kane had been wondering where the goals had gone, and whether they would ever return, he would surely not have dreamt of an afternoon this rewarding, or this easy. Kane scored his second, third and fourth Spurs goals of the season, punishing Bournemouth’s desperate defending with a ruthlessness born of frustration.
This has been a difficult season for Kane, asked to shoulder Spurs’ striking burden almost entirely by himself. By yesterday morning he had scored just once for his club in this campaign, and that a slightly skewed effort against Manchester City. He limbered up here with his right knee heavily strapped, just three days after looking blunt in defeat against Anderlecht in the Europa League.
Tottenham, like Kane, arrived at Bournemouth in a bit of a rut, having not won since they gleefully overran City one month ago. They left, with five goals and three points, having found Bournemouth more hospitable than they could ever have imagined. Spurs conceded in the first minute but from then on looked like scoring with almost every attack, harrying and rushing Bournemouth into error after error.
There is a lot to admire about Bournemouth and even here, on their worst day of the season so far, they attacked with courage and enterprise. But they lost the game within 20 first-half minutes, gifting three dismal goals to a Tottenham side who might have been vulnerable at 1-0 down. It was a performance reminiscent of Ian Holloway’s Blackpool, who were relegated with many admirers but an embarrassment of goals against in 2010-11. Bournemouth have now conceded 10 in their last two games, Eddie Howe admitting afterwards the side have lost their balance and rhythm.
Mauricio Pochettino was “very happy” with the win, and insisted that his side take credit for the mistakes they forced Bournemouth to make. “We put Artur Boruc and Bournemouth under pressure, pressing them high,” Pochettino explained. “We knew before that Bournemouth are very dynamic, so we tried to push them from the beginning and put pressure on them. That was the key to dominating the game, and creating the chances we created.”
Howe, though, said that his players had to own the mistakes that they made. “They were self-inflicted, that’s evident,” he said. “There won’t be fingers pointed, we take collective responsibility. But there is a need going forward that we can’t keep giving goals away.”
That is precisely what Bournemouth did, once Matt Ritchie had smacked them ahead at the far post just 49 seconds into the contest. From that point on it was all Spurs, their high-intensity game masterfully run by Christian Eriksen.
The little Dane made the equaliser, playing a delightful reverse pass inside Steve Cook, which Kane ran on to. Boruc came out and tripped up Kane, who converted the penalty to get his very rewarding afternoon under way.
The next goal, eight minutes later, was worse from a home perspective. Danny Rose hammered a 35-yard shot from a free-kick, which hit Simon Francis on the shoulder just inside the box. Mousa Dembélé reacted quicker than anyone else, reaching the ball, bursting away from Glenn Murray, and slotting it into the bottom corner before a single Bournemouth player seemed to realise what had happened.
The third goal was the nadir. Kane darted down to the by-line and pulled back a cross, which took a slight deflection off Francis. Still, Boruc should have caught it, but he did not, and Erik Lamela scored the easiest goal of his season.
Bournemouth needed to start the second half well but Spurs were in control. Eriksen made the goal which killed the game, curling a cross from deep round the back of Sylvain Distin and into the path of Kane, who met it on the slide.
In terms of the three points, that was that. But with Kane on top of his game, and Boruc at the bottom of his, there was still one goal left, to sum up the whole day. Toby Alderweireld met Eriksen’s corner, Boruc meekly spilt the save and Kane stabbed it in.
When, in the final minutes, Boruc dropped another header, and, in trying to rescue the ball, upended Kane, only embarrassment can have stopped Roger East from awarding Spurs a second penalty. When the stadium public address system accidentally switched on soon after, and one Spurs fan was heard describing the game as “men against boys”, it was difficult to disagree.
Howe defended Boruc, praising his “mental strength” to recover from this difficult afternoon. Pochettino recognised that, for Kane, overcoming the difficult moments was what made this success even sweeter.
“I never had any doubts about him, but it was very important hat-trick,” Pochettino said of the striker on whom all of Spurs’ hopes still rest. “It’s important for him to learn from that period. It happens in football. He will become a much better player after such a tough period.”
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