Record-breaker Kane leads Spurs in Boxing Day rout of Southampton
LONDON -- Three points from Tottenham's 5-2 win over Southampton in Boxing Day's early Premier League game.
1. Superb Kane breaks the record
Harry Kane finished 2017 as the top goal scorer in elite European football and broke Alan Shearer's 22-year-old record for Premier League goals in a calendar year with a superb hat-trick as Tottenham thrashed Southampton 5-2.
The treble took Kane to 56 goals this year and six in three days after his three goals at Burnley on Saturday. It also capped another late surge to personal glory after he scored seven goals in the final two games of last season to beat Romelu Lukaku to the Golden Boot.
Kane nearly took Shearer's record after six minutes, firing into the side-netting from Christian Eriksen's low cross, but he didn't have to wait too much longer to make history. Eriksen was again the provider, but Kane owed Spurs' opener to Danny Rose, who surged forward, squeezed between two Southampton players and was fouled by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg on the left side of the box. Kane, completely unmarked, then headed home Eriksen's in-swinging free-kick from 2 yards.
With one record claimed, Kane was not about to stop. He surpassed Lionel Messi as the highest scorer in Europe this year with a tap-in from Son Heung-Min's cross after a brilliant build-up involving Eriksen and Dele Alli. He nearly grabbed a hat-trick midway through the second half, volleying Rose's cross an inch wide, before clinching it with a cool left-footed finish from Alli's pass.
It was Kane's eighth treble in 2017, and so insatiable is his hunger for goals that it's sometimes easier to simply reel off statistics. It left him on 96 Premier League goals for Spurs, just one short of the club's record-holder, Teddy Sheringham. On this form, he will break another record when Spurs visit bottom-club Swansea on Jan. 2.
Between Kane's second and third goals, Alli curled home a low shot, Son finished cutely and Sofiane Boufal scored a long-range goal. Dusan Tadic added a late consolation, but this Boxing Day bonanza was all about one man again.
2. Spurs back to their best
Spurs have been the Premier League's best team over Christmas in each of the past two seasons -- winning seven straight matches from Dec. 14 last year -- and their back-to-back title challenges have been built on formidable second halves to the season. After a stuttering campaign so far, the recent performances against Burnley and Southampton in the space of three days suggest that Spurs have once again found an extra gear at the end of the year.
Kane will deservedly grab the headlines, but there were so many other positives for Tottenham. Alli now has four assists and a goal in two games and looks back to his best, while Eriksen was the architect of the hosts' best moves. Son was lively again and the four of them did not give Saints' defence a moment's rest.
At full-back, Rose (who was so impressive for the all-important first goal) played as well as he has since returning from injury while Serge Aurier, who kept his place ahead of Kieran Trippier, was energetic and used the ball well. They offer more pace and penetration than Trippier and Ben Davies, and if Mauricio Pochettino can get them both fully fit and firing, Spurs will begin to resemble the team that was so hard to stop last year.
Spurs are already out of the title race, and Pochettino described this season as a "transition" on the eve of the game. But this performance offered hope that Spurs could, perhaps, begin to chase down Manchester United.
3. Southampton join relegation scrap
Make no mistake: the Saints are in a relegation battle. Mauricio Pellegrino's side have won just one of their past 11 Premier League games and are winless in their past seven.
At both ends, they were missing key players, but their lack of organisation and fight was embarrassing, proving far more costly than the absences of Virgil van Dijk and Charlie Austin. Van Dijk, who was left out of the squad for the third game running, was sorely missed, and surely Spurs would not have found it so easy if the Manchester City and Chelsea target had been marshalling the defence instead of Wesley Hoedt and Maya Yoshida.
Austin has scored five goals in as many starts, but he was both banned and injured, leaving Shane Long to deputise as the lone striker. Long has not scored for over 300 days and, for all his industry he never looked like seriously troubling Spurs, firing his only chance straight at Hugo Lloris.
There is an established blueprint for lesser teams against Spurs at Wembley: sit deep, deny them space and frustrate. It's an approach that helped Burnley, Swansea and West Brom all earn points there. Saints did the opposite, backing off Son, Alli and Eriksen naively and allowing Spurs to pick them off at will. They were at least more enterprising after the break, with Mario Lemina hitting the bar before Boufal and Tadic scored consolation goals, efforts that birthday boy Lloris should have kept out.
Saints visit Manchester United on Dec. 30 and barring a shock, they're likely to start 2018 in the relegation zone or just above it.
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.