Tottenham Hotspur moved back into the Premier League’s top four as substitute Brennan Johnson struck deep in stoppage time to secure a 2-1 home win over Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday.
Johnson slammed the ball high into the net from a low cross from Tottenham’s captain Son Heung-min who had started on the bench after returning from his Asian Cup duty.
Son’s introduction, shortly after Pape Matar Sarr had equalised for the hosts, provoked the loudest cheer of the day until Johnson’s winner in the seventh minute of added time.
It had been hard work for Tottenham who fell behind early on to a Pascal Gross penalty after Danny Welbeck was fouled.
They improved after the break, though, and levelled in the 61st minute through Sarr who tucked in a rebound after his initial low cross had deflected against the post.
A point apiece would have been about fair but Johnson’s late show sent Tottenham fans home in full voice as their side moved into fourth, above Aston Villa with 47 points from 24 games.
“It was a great finish for us and the supporters,” Tottenham manager Ange Postecoglou, who finally has the luxury of an almost full-strength squad, said.
“It’s a reward for our second half efforts but we weren’t great in the first half. Part of that was because Brighton are a great team and we lacked some discipline.”
On the contribution of Son, Tottenham’s talisman now that Harry Kane has moved on, Postecoglou said: “We had a world class player in Son, who makes the most difficult ball look simple to set up Brennan.”
Son was back in action earlier than he might have expected or wanted after South Korea’s surprise defeat by Jordan in the Asian Cup semi-finals — heartbreak for Son who scored three goals in the tournament on top of the 13 he has provided for his club.
The manager opted against throwing him on straight away but when Son did come on he again proved his side’s catalyst, giving Spurs a new level of energy and providing the perfect low cross from the left wing from which Johnson could not miss.
It was tough on Brighton who were without their manager Roberto De Zerbi as he serves a touchline ban.
They had taken the lead in the 17th minute after Tottenham’s Micky van de Ven, who had already got away with one bad mistake, was penalised for fouling Danny Welbeck in the area and Gross sent Guglielmo Vicario the wrong way from the spot.
In-form Tottenham striker Richarlison had his side’s best opportunities before halftime but could not find the target, and James Maddison curled a stunning effort just wide.
Tottenham were far sharper in the second half and Sarr’s cool finish, having been initially played in down the right by Dejan Kulusevski, came as Brighton came under siege.
The visitors re-grouped, however, and looked just as likely to emerge with the three points. Substitute Ansu Fati was a whisker away from restoring Brighton’s lead as his shot from Kaoru Mitoma’s cutback drifted just wide.
In the end Brighton’s adventurous spirit was their undoing as they were caught on a turnover, with Son and Johnson combining to punish the visitors and seal the win.