Tottenham returned to winning ways and third place after brushing aside a struggling Southampton side who were being scrutinised by their new manager Ralph Hasenhuttl.
Harry Kane, Lucas Moura, and Heung Min Son gave Spurs a 3-0 lead inside an hour to put their Arsenal heartache behind them, and although Saints rallied with a late flurry of chances culminating in a stoppage-time goal for Charlie Austin, they remain rooted in the relegation zone.
Hasenhuttl was announced as Mark Hughes’ successor yesterday morning, and will start work today with a training session and press conference in Southampton.
Although he was in the stands at Wembley last night, the Austrian had only a watching brief while Kelvin Davies took charge as a one-off.
Hasenhuttl was little-known outside Germany, where he took newly-promoted RB Leipzig to runners-up and a place in the Champions League two years ago, and a respectable sixth-place finish last season.
He left in the summer, and now has the task of steering Southampton up the table.
Mauricio Pochettino’s job, by contrast, is keeping his side in the hunt for a Champions League place in the middle of a congested period.
The Spurs manager was looking for a reaction after his side’s deflating 4-2 defeat at Arsenal on Sunday, and he made five changes to a side that looked tired during their third high-intensity match of the week, following victories over Chelsea and Inter Milan.
And it started well for Tottenham when Harry Kane put them ahead in the 9th minute.
Heung Min Son had already volleyed against the post from Kieran Trippier’s flick, and moments later the England full-back, on his return from injury, took a short corner on the left.
Christian Eriksen drilled in a low-cross and Kane had far more space than a player of his calibre should be allowed.
The England captain was effectively unmarked as he ran towards the near post to clip the ball past Alex McCarthy and over the line.
Hasenhuttl, watching on from the directors’ box, looked unimpressed with the slack marking, and Southampton were all over the place at first, giving Tottenham time and space to put their passing game together.
Kane thumped the ball in the net 15 minutes later but was flagged offside, and Lucas Moura, restored to the starting line-up, tried an ambitious shot from the halfway line when he had a chance to run at goal.
The Saints showed flashes of danger, not least when Hugo Lloris had to dive full length to divert a rasping drive from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg on to the inside of the post.
Stuart Armstrong put the rebound wide, but was offside anyway. It was that sort of night for Saints.
A superb pass from Eriksen freed Son to run in and arrow a shot that McCarthy did well to tip over the bar and the Dane then forced a fumbling save from the Saints keeper before half-time.
McCarthy was just as busy after the break, clawing away a header from Toby Alderweireld and diverting another Eriksen shot. But when the resulting corner was only half-cleared, Moura scored.
The Brazilian’s initial shot was blocked by the arm of Jack Stephens, but Moura wasted no time in volleying the loose ball into the ground and into the far corner of goal.
When Son made it 3-0 four minutes later, cameras cut to an even gloomier-looking Hasenhuttl in the stands.
Left-back Matt Targett lost possession to Trippier near the touchline, Kane collected the loose ball and played it across the goalmouth where Son was waiting to bundle it in from close range.
FULL-TIME Spurs 3-1 SouthamptonDecember 5, 2018
Southampton tried to respond, as if to show their new manager that while this group of players lack quality, there is fighting spirit in them.
Nathan Redmond caused Lloris a scare with a shot from outside the area that curled over the Frenchman but hit the crossbar.
James Ward-Prowse swung in a free-kick that Maya Yoshida inadvertently prevented from crossing the Tottenham goal-line, and the young England midfielder then shot straight at Trippier with the whole goal to aim at.
Lloris then made three thrilling saves in the space of 90 seconds.
Hojbjerg fired in another long-range drive that was blocked by Lloris, who showed remarkable reflexes to keep out Ward-Prowse’s follow-up shot from close range. Moments later substitute Charlie Austin fired in a low shot on the turn, but again Lloris was equal to it, tipping it away at full stretch.
The former striker headed against the bar in the closing stages, but then ran on to a long pass to drill a shot past Lloris and finally bring a smile to the face of Hasenhuttl.
At least the flurry of chances brought a frisson of excitement to an otherwise subdued atmosphere, with the attendance of 33,012 comfortably Tottenham’s lowest league crowd since moving to Wembley.
It is sure to be a more raucous atmosphere when Tottenham travel to the Camp Nou next Tuesday for their final Champions League group game, while Southampton’s priority will be getting out of the relegation zone – and Hasenhuttl must be fully aware of the size of the task.
TOTTENHAM 4-2-3-1 Lloris 8; Trippier 7 (Skipp 86), Foyth 6, Alderweireld 6, Rose 7; Dier 6, Winks 7; Lucas Moura 7 (Sissoko 74), Eriksen 7 (Dele Alli 79), Son 7; Kane 6
Tottenham subs not used: Gazzaniga, Llorente, Aurier, Davies,
SOUTHAMPTON 4-5-1 McCarthy 7; Cedric 6, Yoshida 5, Stephens 6, Targett 5; Ward-Prowse 5, Hojbjerg 6 (Romeu 88), Davis 6, Redmond 6, Armstrong 6 (Elyounoussi 81), Gabbiadini 5 (Austin 70)
Southampton subs not used: Gunn, Vestergaard, Hoedt, Valery
Ref: Anthony Taylor