Tottenham striker Harry Kane said he had surprised himself with how quickly he had matched last season’s goal tally, after his late winner at relegation-threatened Crystal Palace.
Kane netted 35 goals in 38 games in 2016-17, and equalled that total in his 36th match of this campaign on Sunday – peeling away at the back post to head in Christian Eriksen’s 88th-minute corner.
It seemed Spurs were going to fail to capitalise on having 76% of the possession, with England international Kane unusually wasteful when he missed from close range at the start of each half.
“I know I’m in good form,” said the 24-year-old, who reclaimed his position at the top of the Premier League scoring chart with his 24th of the season, one more than Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah.
“That gives me confidence going into every game, so I’m happy with how it’s going.
“I set myself little targets and I’m going quicker than I expected to this season. I’ve got 35 now, so I just have to keep scoring goals.”
Before Kane’s match-winning moment, Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey saved superbly from Ben Davies with just over 15 minutes left, and Serge Aurier missed an open goal for the visitors inside the last five minutes.
Helped by Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat at Manchester United, Spurs moved up one place to fourth and extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to 15 games.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side are the only team yet to lose a Premier League match in 2018, although this was only a third league win in their past 10 away games.
Defeat leaves Palace 17th, level on points with 18th-placed Swansea.
Dive, dive, dive
Dele Alli was involved in another diving controversy with 16 minutes remaining.
“He’s probably half a foot away from Wayne Hennessy when he’s dived into him,” former Premier League striker Steve Claridge said on BBC Radio 5 live, in reference to the England midfielder’s dramatic tumble over the Palace keeper.
Alli was not shown a yellow card by referee Kevin Friend on this occasion – he has already been booked twice for diving this season – but he might prefer to avoid social media for a while after his latest fall.
The 21-year-old was involved in the most tackles of any Spurs player (five), but it was a quiet match for him overall as he made 36 passes compared with 92 from Eric Dier, and 58 touches compared with 109 by Eriksen.
It was a better afternoon for Kane, who has now scored 23 goals in 34 Premier League London derbies – equalling ex-Chelsea striker Didier Drogba’s total in those fixtures in 30 fewer matches.
Kane’s goals have also been worth more points to his club – 14 – than any other player in the top flight this season.
“He’s incredible and his achievements in this season, and the previous seasons too, have been great,” said Spurs boss Pochettino.
“Congratulations to him for one more goal.”
Get well soon, Wilfried
Palace have 12 senior players out injured heading into the home stretch, including meetings with another three of the top five in their next four games until the end of March.
That injury list led manager Roy Hodgson to hand winger Aaron Wan-Bissaka a debut at right-back – and the 20-year-old did not look that out of place.
But for Palace, the most crucial on a list that also includes Mamadou Sakho, Martin Kelly, Joel Ward, Jeffrey Schlupp, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Bakary Sako, is Wilfried Zaha.
“There wasn’t much choice [playing Wan-Bissaka],” said Hodgson. “If he hadn’t played, I don’t know who would have played there.
“Playing against a team with Tottenham’s quality, we did pretty well I think – but it’s so tough when you’re robbing the under-23s of players just so you can fill a bench.”
Palace have now lost all 10 games they have played without Zaha since September 2016.
The Ivory Coast forward, who has scored four league goals in 20 starts this season, injured a knee in the 1-1 draw with Newcastle at the start of February.
Hodgson has said Zaha – who was initially ruled out for a month – is “well ahead” of schedule, although that is still likely to be several weeks.
Palace’s fate will probably not be determined by results against Tottenham, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool, but by games like the 17 March visit to Huddersfield that breaks up that run.
‘We always knew we could score’ – reaction
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino speaking to BBC Match of the Day: “I think in the end we got what we wanted, and we fully deserved the victory. The three points put us in a really good position in the table.
“We started to feel towards the end it was difficult today, but we always knew we could score. We had great players on the pitch and when you have them it’s always possible to score.”
Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson speaking to BBC Match of the Day: “It’s very frustrating. I feel really sorry for the players, because to work as hard as that, and to be under the cosh as long as we were, I thought we worked so hard, and suffered the loss of James Tomkins to a severe cramp, so it’s cruel then when you concede so late in the game.
“If I’d have been talking to you here at 0-0, I’d have been a happy man. But now I can’t hide my feelings. I’m not an actor, I’m really sad for the players. I see how disappointed they are in the dressing room and there’s not much I can say to change how they feel – no praise will change how they’re feeling right now.”
Assist king Eriksen at it again- the stats
- Only Darren Anderton (67) has provided more assists for Spurs in the Premier League than Eriksen (45), who is now joint second alongside Aaron Lennon.
- Spurs are now unbeaten in their past 15 games in all competitions, their longest run since going 16 without defeat between December 1998 and March 1999.
- Kane scored the 150th goal of his club career in all competitions, with 134 of those coming as a Spurs player.
- Palace are winless in their past five Premier League games, their worst run since Hodgson took charge in September 2017.
- Spurs have conceded just one goal in their past six games against the Eagles in the Premier League, winning all six meetings.
- In fact, Spurs have won three consecutive away league games against Palace for the first time in their history.
Man of the match was Harry Kane of Tottenham.