Kane shrugs off misses to rescue Spurs with late winner at Palace
A Harry Kane header two minutes from time gave Tottenham the three points that had looked to be beyond them for most of their 1-0 win at Crystal Palace. Though Spurs dominated throughout against a Palace side riddled with injuries and had clearly set out their stall for a draw, they failed to make their pressure tell. Too often the Tottenham buildup was too ponderous and slow with key players having an off day. But then came Kane's late strike that puts Spurs 10 points clear of Arsenal in sixth place and firmly in the mix for a top-four finish.
Getting the job done. This wasn't a pretty performance, but sometimes you have to find a way to win ugly. To their credit, Spurs kept looking for a winner even when it didn't look as though it was going to be their day. The introduction of Lucas Moura and Son Heung-Min in attack gave them a far more cutting edge and eventually a determined and well-drilled Palace defence cracked.
For much of the game, the Spurs buildup was far too slow and ponderous making it easy for Palace to regroup in defence. There was little of the snap and energy that has been so often in evidence in the big matches this season, and you have to wonder whether the players are sufficiently focused against opposition they are expected to beat.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Mauricio Pochettino was forced into making a late change in the centre of defence when Jan Vertonghen took a knock in training, but with Palace offering so little up front, the Spurs back line operated effectively enough. The problems came with the lack of pace and creativity on offer in midfield. Pochettino's team consistently struggle to break down sides that are intent only on defence and Sunday was no exception. Not for the first time, the manager seemed slow to respond to the fact that his team were struggling and should have introduced Moura and Son much earlier in the game.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Hugo Lloris, 7 -- Apart from one long-range effort from Spurs' old boy, Andros Townsend, that came straight at him, Lloris was not called upon to make a single save. Indeed, he barely even touched the ball throughout the second half.
DF Serge Aurier, 4 -- A horror show that was epitomised by him being penalised for a foul throw-in three times. Had little to do do defensively and his contributions in attack were negligible. His crossing was appalling and he managed to fall over and sit on the ball when it appeared to easier to score from a Ben Davies cross.
DF Davinson Sanchez, 7 -- Was tasked with marking Christian Benteke and did so effectively, allowing the Palace striker no clear chances. Not that he was unduly troubled as the home side showed so little attacking intent.
DF Eric Dier, 6 -- Called in to play at centre-back due to Vertonghen's injury. Started the game edgily as if he was not quite sure of his positional duties and twice gave the ball away unnecessarily. But thereafter settled in well and contained the rare Palace attacks with ease.
DF Ben Davies, 7 -- Came close to scoring from a well-disguised Christian Eriksen free kick in the first half and was always looking to get behind the Palace defence and send crosses into the box.
MF Victor Wanyama, 7 -- Given a rare outing in his preferred position of defensive midfielder with Dier moving into the back four. Had little to do defensively but did not link up play going forward with the necessary tempo to threaten Palace.
MF Mousa Dembele, 7 -- Not quite the dominant force that we have come to expect of late. Though he always looked comfortable in possession, he was never able to find the killer final pass. His lack of willingness to shoot is also a concern as it makes him easier to contain as defenders know they can back off and block off his passing options.
MF Christian Eriksen, 7 -- Not at his best and struggled to impose himself on the game, only coming to life sporadically to set up chances for Davies and Kane. But his class told in the end as he sent over the corner from which Kane scored.
MF Erik Lamela, 6 -- Always looked busy in his 100th Premier League appearance but never produced anything of great effect. Too often his first instinct is to pass sideways or to delay playing the ball when the first-time option is available.
MF Dele Alli, 7 -- Looked the most engaged of the Spurs attackers in the first half, though none of his touches and flicks came off. Might have been awarded a penalty but his reputation for diving precedes him and the referee ruled against him.
FW Harry Kane, 7 -- Up until the 88th minute, it hadn't been Kane's day. He hadn't seen much of the ball and had only had two clear-cut chances. The first was well saved and the second was a horrible miss from close range. But the mark of a great striker is that he doesn't give up and Kane duly delivered the goods late on.
MF Lucas Moura, 7 -- Though his direct running didn't lead to any clear opportunities, his presence gave Spurs a much more threatening look in the last quarter of the game.
MF Son Heung-Min, NR -- Made a huge difference down the left flank against a tiring defence. Should have been brought on 15 minutes earlier.
John Crace is one of ESPN FC's Tottenham bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @JohnJCrace.