Tottenham 3 West Ham United 2: As fans filed out of White Hart Lane into the north London rain on Saturday night, as the initial surge of energy from such a dramatic victory began to subside, there was a moment in the manager’s office in the bowels of the stadium which helps tell the story of the character instilled in this Tottenham team.
Young Harry Winks, still only 20, left the buzz of the home dressing room following his first ever start for the club to visit his manager to thank him for his part in the dream debut. In fact, the midfielder, who scored Tottenham’s first goal in the 3-2 win, had words for all the staff.
“He came afterwards to the manager’s office and said ‘Thank you’ to all of us, all the coaches,” manager Mauricio Pochettino said. “It’s fantastic for everyone working at the academy.
“He said to us, ‘That was only the start’. I said, ‘Now comes the big challenge for you’. He said, ‘Yes, now I need to work harder to show you that I deserve to play’. That is the mentality that we want.
“Yes, it’s true that we need to be happy now and enjoy the moment but he needs to know that all that is coming in the future will be difficult because to keep that level is always the most difficult thing.”
For nearly the whole 90 minutes, this looked like a case of same old Tottenham; the sort of Tottenham who can dazzle one week but then fail to beat a team who are so miserably average as West Ham. In fact, they almost lost.
But the home side, driven on by debutant Winks and the other Harry — Kane — somehow turned a tepid performance into a red-hot finale, which included two goals in the final two minutes of normal time.
West Ham had taken the lead after 24 minutes but Winks restored parity six minutes after the interval. However, when Manuel Lanzini tucked home a 68th-minute penalty, it looked like Tottenham were headed for the first Premier League defeat of the season.
But Kane’s late double maintained their unbeaten record, moved them within just three points of league leaders Liverpool, and issued a firm statement that this Spurs side might just be made of something different than in previous years.
Nobody more than Winks, who had been an unused sub eight times in the Premier League over the past three seasons but only this term has the manager called upon him. And it was Pochettino who Winks ran straight to celebrate with, hugging his manager on the touchline.
The Argentinian added: “It was very emotional — in fact it was a game that was very emotional.
“It was emotional how we celebrated the goal with Harry and at the end.
“You know that the stress and adrenaline always is high. It’s like a release.
“I waited for all the players at the end to give them all a big hug. To be honest, I found him, he didn’t find me. But it’s true that I’ve put a lot of pressure on him in the changing room now.”
Victory could not have come at a better time for Spurs, who travel to Group E leaders Monaco on Tuesday with their hopes of progression in the Champions League very much in the balance.
“This victory can help us to believe again,” Pochettino agreed. “It is a must-win game in Monaco and to keep this feeling from today it is very important.”
But while winning in this manner can provide Tottenham a boost, it is worrying what a defeat like this will do to West Ham, who are already just five points off the bottom of the table.
Slaven Bilic’s side have won only three of their 12 games so far this season and they face Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool in their next three fixtures.
But the surprisingly upbeat Croatian said: “We showed today that we can play really well no matter who we are against.
“To be fair, it’s a very tough schedule; that’s why it would have been so important if we had won this game or at least got something out of it.
“But there were a lot of positives before these few games that we have ahead of us that tell us we don’t need to be afraid of anyone.”
Lloris 6; Walker 6 (Trippier 88), Dier 7, Vertonghen 6, Rose 7; Winks 7, Wanyama 7, Dembele 7 (Son 71); Eriksen 6; Janssen 6 (Alli 67), Kane 8.
Subs not used:
Vorm, Onomah, Wimmer, Carter-Vickers.
Randolph 7; Ogbonna 6, Reid 7, Kouyate 7; Antonio 7, Cresswell 6, Obiang 6, Lanzini 6; Payet 7 (Nordtveit 84), Ayew 6 (Fernandes), Sakho 5 (Zaza 59).
Subs not used:
Feghouli, Adrian, Collins, Fletcher.
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