Going into this game, the England striker needed one more goal to overtake Lionel Messi as Europe’s top scorer and ended up with another hat-trick, his eighth of 2017, to end the year on a high and lift Tottenham back into the top four, albeit briefly.
Kane’s three goals against a porous Southampton side took his year’s tally to 56, the best total by a single player in Europe’s major leagues and a new record in the Premier League era, taking him three clear of Alan Shearer’s previous high of 36 league goals in 1995.
And it is hard to think of a simpler finish than the one that set Kane clear of Shearer, when he converted Christian Eriksen’s free-kick in the 22nd minute, heading home from barely a yard out after winning an unequal aerial battle with Oriol Romeu.
Kane admitted Shearer’s record was on his mind going into the game. “It was hard not to think about it so to get that goal early on and to get that record was a great feeling, then I could enjoy the rest of the game.”
And with typical humility, he paid tribute to his teammates. “They are fantastic players and it is a pleasure to play with them. When we are in that form and have got everyone running forward, we are a hard team to stop. I said to the lads before the game, try and set me up, and they all did that, so I will have to take them out for a dinner.”
There is mutual admiration and a symbiotic relationship between team and talisman. Spurs need Kane at his best to get results and keep moving forward, and the striker needs his teammates playing at their best to keep creating chances for him.
And when he is the focus of attention, it creates space for those around him, as Dele Alli and Heung Min Son can testify. Both scored early in the second half to kill off any lingering hopes Southampton might have had of ending a run that is now seven games without victory, sending them closer to the relegation zone. Mauricio Pellegrino’s position is now in some doubt and he did not help himself or his team’s cause by leaving out Virgil Van Dijk, the defender linked with Liverpool and Manchester City. Certainly, Van Dijk would have provided sterner resistance than Romeu when Kane headed the opening goal, but the Dutchman would have struggled to plug the holes throughout Southampton’s defence, causing them to leak goals and chances.
Kane’s second was a beautifully-crafted team effort involving Mousa Dembele, Eriksen, Alli and Son, whose low cross was sidefooted home by Kane shortly before half-time. The closest Southampton had come to scoring in the first half was when Danny Rose headed back too powerfully for Huge Lloris, who tipped the ball on to a post before gathering it on the line.
Pellegrino sent his men out for the second half with more snap, with Mario Lemina hitting the crossbar, but two goals in as many minutes ended the contest. Alli cut in from the left to drill a low shot past Fraser Forster into the far corner from 25 yards, and then laid on a perfect through ball for Son to run on to and score.
The game won, Spurs started to showboat, with some delightful flicks and tricks and intricate passing moves, but were forced to take things more seriously when Sofiane Boufal scored with a powerful drive in the 64th minute. Kane stepped up to the plate again, to complete his hat-trick with a delightful dinked finish with his left foot over Forster after more good work by Son and Alli, who looked far better than in recent weeks.
Dusan Tadic scored a second for the Saints eight minutes from the end, but there was little danger of a revival, and Spurs could and should have scored more as they swarmed over their visitors.
While Eriksen, Alli and Son sparkled, and Jan Vertonghen and Davinson Sanchez looked strong at the back, it was all about Kane and his goalscoring, which has taken him two clear of Messi’s total of 52 goals for club and country in 2017. Afterwards, Kane admitted his pride in overtaking the Argentinian and also Cristiano Ronaldo. “I am very proud of it. Messi and Ronaldo have dominated football for so long and they are two of the world’s greatest players ever. Even to be compared to them and to be up there with them with those sort of stats is a great feeling. All I can do is use that as confidence going into the new year.”
Lloris 7; Aurier 7, Sanchez 7, Vertonghen 9, Rose 8; Dier 7, Dembele 7 (Sissoko 54) ; Eriksen 8, Alli 8, Son 8 (Lamela 76); Kane 10 Tottenham subs: Vorm, Trippier, Davies,Winks, Llorente
Forster 5; Stephens 5, Yoshida 5, Hoedt 6; Romeu 6; Redmond 5 (Tadic 63), Hojbjerg 6, Lemina 5 (Gabbiadini 63), Boufal 6, Targett 5 (McQueen 76); Long 6
McCarthy, Davis, Ward-Prowse, Pied