Tottenham Hotspur blew away the gloom of a demoralising 10 days as Harry Kane’s double helped them to a 3-1 defeat of Nottingham Forest to cement fourth spot in the Premier League on Saturday.
Given a pre-match boost by Bournemouth’s earlier shock win over fifth-placed Liverpool, Tottenham took full advantage to get their stalling season back on the rails.
Kane headed them in front after 19 minutes and then blasted home a penalty in the 35th minute after Richarlison, who had earlier been denied a second-minute opener by VAR, was tripped inside the area.
It was Kane’s first penalty since his crucial miss for England against France in the World Cup quarter-final in Qatar in December and took his Premier League haul to 20 for the season, the sixth time he has reached that mark.
Tottenham – who went out of the FA Cup and the Champions League and lost to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the league in their last three games – sealed the points in the 62nd minute when Richarlison set up Son Heung-min for a neat finish.
Forest, in danger of being sucked back into the relegation zone after a resurgence, only came alive when it was too late with captain Joe Worrall heading home in the 81st minute.
Andre Ayew then had a stoppage-time penalty saved by Tottenham keeper Fraser Forster although it would have flattered Steve Cooper’s side to lose by only a goal.
Victory was a timely boost for Tottenham manager Antonio Conte whose future at the club has been the source of intense speculation since Wednesday’s Champions League elimination at the hands of AC Milan.
His side have 48 points from 27 games, with Liverpool on 42 points having played a game less. Forest stay in 14th but are only three points above 18th-placed West Ham United in the relegation zone.
Richarlison’s apparent criticism of Conte had dominated the build-up but the Brazilian was given a start and thought he had scored his first Premier League goal for the club with a powerful finish from Oliver Skipp’s pass.
A lengthy VAR check disallowed the goal for offside but it was not long before Kane guided a header from Pedro Porro’s chipped cross beyond Keylor Navas.
After that it was a relatively comfortable day for Tottenham who should have been further ahead with Navas making sharp saves to deny Richarlison and Son before Forest’s late riposte.