Tottenham Hotspur rose into the Top 4 of the Premier League table courtesy of a 2-0 win over West Ham United in Sunday’s London derby.
With Antonio Conte absent as he continues his recovery from gallbladder surgery, assistant manager Cristian Stellini continued his perfect record in charge, thanks to second-half goals from Emerson Royal and Son Heung-min, as West Ham’s first-half discipline ultimately counted for nought.
Tottenham were two for two under Stellini before Sunday’s game, but they were fortunate not to be behind with only 46 seconds gone, as Jarrod Bowen had plenty of time and space to set himself for a half-volley which flew wide of the goal.
The hosts soon began to carve out some openings, but for the second game in a row, West Ham were the beneficiaries of a questionable handball decision, as Richarlison’s pass hit Thilo Kehrer’s arm low to the ground inside the area.
Nothing was given by Michael Oliver or VAR official David Coote, as West Ham survived another controversial call after a similar incident involving Tomas Soucek in last weekend’s draw with Chelsea.
Not helped by a fruitless opening from Richarlison – given the nod up front over Son – Tottenham offered little in terms of a killer instinct, much to the dismay of their disgruntled fans.
It took 36 minutes for the first shot on target to arrive, but Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s long-range effort was meat and drink for Lukasz Fabianski, who also denied Richarlison from a tight angle in first-half injury time; Cristian Romero headed just over from the resulting corner.
With both sets of teams lining up with five-man rearguards and defensive-minded midfielders, a lack of excitement in the first half was perhaps to be expected, and the atmosphere as the half-time whistle blew was certainly a muted one.
A quick break within the first three minutes of the second half for Tottenham ended with Richarlison sending a weak effort straight into Fabianski’s path, and just one minute later, Kane sent a close-range shot horribly wide after good work from Dejan Kulusevski to rob Declan Rice of the ball.
Nevertheless, Tottenham arguably showed more attacking intent in the first five minutes of the second period than they had in the whole of the first, and their industry would bear fruit in the 56th minute.
A threaded pass from Hojbjerg through the middle cut the West Ham defence wide open, and the two most unlikely culprits – wing-backs Ben Davies and Emerson – combined centrally for the latter to calmly find the bottom corner from just inside the box.
The phrase “always at your most vulnerable when you have just conceded” rang true for Spurs just two minutes later, though, as Fraser Forster got down low to deny Bowen an instant equaliser.
The Davies-Emerson combination was a collector’s item, but after Son came on for the ineffective Richarlison, the South Korean resumed his deadly double act with Harry Kane.
In the 72nd minute, Kane physically dominated Angelo Ogbonna and played through Son, who curled home into the bottom corner to double Spurs’ advantage.
West Ham’s late attempts to claw their way back into the game were futile, with Said Benrahma sending a couple of shots off target, and Tottenham have now gone one point clear of Newcastle United – who have a game in hand – in fourth place.
Another London derby awaits Spurs next Sunday as Chelsea visit the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, while West Ham – who remain 18th and one point adrift of safety – host Nottingham Forest on Saturday.