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JOHN CROSS: Spurs showed they have mettle to deliver under pressure and keep touch with the Premier League top four

Date Posted,December 28, 2016

The mark of a top quality team is how they respond under pressure.

Mauricio Pochettino’s men passed that acid test in real style with a hugely impressive victory to keep Tottenham hot on the heels of the Premier League elite.

It has been a difficult season so far, out of the Champions League, behind in the title race and their top four rivals all won over Christmas so there was no margin for error on a potentially tricky away trip.

But despite falling behind to Virgil van Dijk’s opener after just 69 seconds, Tottenham simply never allowed their heads to drop and they overwhelmed and outclassed Southampton.

Dele Alli was outstanding, marking yet another all-action man-of-the-match display with two goals as he looks to be finishing 2016 with a return to his best form.

Son was on target for the visitors (Photo: Reuters)

Harry Kane scored but also skied a penalty over the crossbar while Tottenham substitute Heung-Min Son was also on target as the visitors ran riot in the closing stages.

Southampton played most of the second half with ten men after Nathan Redmond was sent off after 56 minutes but that was no excuse as they were already behind.

Claude Puel’s men started well but faded badly and you could pick fault at keeper Fraser Forster on Kane’s header while van Dijk looked anything but a £50m defender as he went AWOL on set pieces.

Tottenham are now just one point behind North London rivals Arsenal in fourth place but it did feel like it was a defining victory, a performance which oozed class and belief.

Virgil van Dijk (C) celebrates scoring the opening goal
Virgil van Dijk opened the scoring in the second minute (Photo: GETTY IMANGES)

Now if Tottenham can seize this opportunity and use it as a platform then they can still have a say in the title race because they are unstoppable in this mood.

In truth, it did not start well for Victor Wanyama on his return to St Mary’s as it was his clumsy challenge on Ryan Bertrand which conceded a free kick in a dangerous area on the right edge of the Tottenham penalty box.

Saints midfielder James Ward-Prowse whipped a teasing free kick and, rising above the Tottenham defence, was van Dijk whose towering header into the far corner gave the home side a dream start after just 69 seconds.

Southampton clearly rattled Tottenham and Mousa Dembele lost his head briefly, getting a yellow card for a foul on Redmond and then blowing his top at referee Mike Dean.

Dele Alli scores the equaliser
Dele Alli levelled for Spurs (Photo: Getty Images)

However, Tottenham regrouped and responded well. Dembele began the move which led to Tottenham’s 19th minute equaliser, spreading the ball wide to Moussa Sissoko on the left.

Sissoko put over a cross, the ball deflected off Redmond and Alli rose above van Dijk before steering a header goalwards as it went in off the far post with Southampton keeper Forster left rooted to the spot.

That completely changed the momentum of the game and Tottenham’s second goal was always coming.

Christian Eriksen’s 52nd minute corner from the right caused chaos in the Southampton box. Van Dijk and Jose Fonte went to sleep and Kane ghosted in at the near post to head home his first goal for 344 minutes. Forster got a hand to the ball and should have done better.

Kane heads home (Photo: Julian Finney)
The go-ahead goal was Kane’s first for 344 minutes (Photo: Julian Finney)

It got worse for Southampton four minutes later. Alli raced clear, Redmond pulled him back, the Spurs midfielder fired wide but referee Dean brought the play back to award a penalty.

Redmond was sent off but Kane then fired over after slipping in his run-up. But Southampton were left to see the game out with ten men.

Nathan Redmond is shown the red card
Redmond is given his marching orders (Photo: Rex Features)
Harry Kane misses a penalty
But Harry Kane’s penalty went over the bar after he slipped (Photo: Getty Images)
Harry Kane reacts after missing a penalty
The England striker blamed the turf (Photo: Reuters)

It was a thankless task as Tottenham moved into cruise control with two more goals in the last five minutes.

Tottenham substitute Son coolly slotted into the far corner after latching onto Eriksen’s pass while Alli rounded off another terrific display with a carbon copy finish.

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