Son Heung-min proved there is life at Tottenham Hotspur without Harry Kane as his goal earned the north London club a surprise 1-0 win over champions Manchester City in an absorbing Premier League opener on Sunday.
All the talk beforehand was whether Tottenham’s goalscoring talisman Kane, strongly linked with a big-money move to City, would be involved.
The England skipper was duly left out of the squad, having only just returned to training, but it was his usual strike partner Son who gave Tottenham’s new manager Nuno Espirito Santo a perfect start to his reign in front of a capacity crowd.
Tottenham were a constant threat on the counter-attack against a City side boasting new 100 million pounds ($139 million) signing Jack Grealish and it was from one such raid from deep in the 55th minute that Son beat City keeper Ederson with a clinical finish.
City enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but their best chance came early on when Riyad Mahrez sliced wide.
Pep Guardiola had the luxury of 347 million pounds worth of talent on the bench but even when Kevin de Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus joined the fray late on City were unable to spark.
The final whistle was greeted with a huge roar by Tottenham’s fans who chanted “Nuno Nuno” as their new Portuguese manager proved an instant hit.
“Amazing! It was a good day. Hard work for the boys, they worked really hard, the distance they covered, the balance, the fight,” the former Wolverhampton Wanderers coach said.
“Still a long way to go but most of the things the boys did well. We are knowing each other better and it is about creating this energy between us to keep us moving forward. There is always something new and always something to improve.”
City could have few complaints about the result and have now lost all four games they have played at Tottenham’s magnificent new stadium without scoring a goal.
They are also only the third Premier League champions to lose their opening game of the following season.
Whether they do indeed take Kane, scorer of 221 goals in 336 games for Spurs, will become clearer in the next week or so, but on the evidence of Sunday, Espirito Santo’s side look capable of embarking on a new chapter with optimism.
The opening 20 minutes were dominated by City with Joao Cancelo dragging a shot wide and then Riyad Mahrez fluffing a great chance from a Raheem Sterling cross.
But Tottenham were disciplined with home-grown defender Japhet Tanganga outstanding at the back and Oliver Skipp, playing only his fourth Premier League game, composed in midfield after a shaky start.
Tottenham became increasingly ambitious on the counter-attack with Son failing to make the most of a couple of good positions.
But 10 minutes after the break, Tottenham struck in deadly fashion. Lucas Moura played in Steven Bergwijn with a clever flick on the edge of the home area and the Dutchman bounded forward before playing the ball to Son.
Son then cut in from the right past Nathan Ake and slotted a left-footer inside the far post.
Bergwijn wasted a glorious chance to make it 2-0 but it did not matter as Tottenham held on comfortably as their joyous fans broke into a chorus of “Are You Watching Harry Kane.”