LONDON — Tottenham Hotspur opened a five-point lead at the top of the English Premier League with a 2-1 victory at Crystal Palace as their unbeaten start to the season continued.
Ange Postecoglou’s side were matched by London rivals Palace throughout an even opening period but took charge once a Joel Ward own goal gave them the lead shortly after the break.
Spurs captain Son Heung-min then tapped in his eighth league goal of the season after 66 minutes to effectively seal the points and the visitors were in cruise control until Jordan Ayew struck in stoppage time for Palace.
James Maddison was involved in both goals with the former Leicester City player again outstanding for the visitors.
Tottenham’s eighth win from 10 games put them on 26 points ― their best start to a top-flight season since 1960-61.
They are five points clear of champions Manchester City, who visit Manchester United on Sunday.
Shot-shy Palace is in 11th place with 12 points.
Postecoglou was critical of his side after their 2-0 win over Fulham on Monday but apart from a tricky opening few minutes and some late jitters they were dominant at Palace.
With 10 games gone, albeit the majority of them against sides in the bottom half, Spurs are beginning to look like a side capable of an extended challenge at the top.
It is the biggest lead they have held at the top since the final day of the season in 1961 when they last won the title.
“Every week is a different challenge. The key for us was to be disciplined, focused and persistent in our play and we did that,” former Celtic manager Postecoglou said according to Reuters.
“I think the spell between the first and second goal we were dominant and played some really good football and then I still think the lads handled (the end of the match) well.”
Despite plenty of slick possession the visitors had failed to really trouble goalkeeper Sam Johnstone in the first half while Palace had early efforts by Ayew and Odsonne Edouard saved by Tottenham’s Guglielmo Vicario.
Maddison was at the heart of the Spurs attacks and the tenacious playmaker eventually earned his side the lead.
When Pape Matar Sarr’s attempted cross was blocked the ball fell for Maddison who drove the ball into the danger area where it rebounded off the leg of Ward and into the net.
There was nothing lucky about Tottenham’s second goal as Maddison linked superbly with Brennan Johnson down the left and the substitute squared for Son to convert with what turned out rather surprisingly to be his side’s only effort on target.
Spurs threatened a third but had to endure an anxious climax after Pedro Porro mistimed his jump trying to clear a cross and Ayew controlled the ball with his chest and arm before thumping a shot past Vicario ― the goal standing after a long VAR check.
“I am not going to talk about handball. I have no idea what is a handball,” Australian Postecoglou said.
Further good news for Tottenham was a late appearance off the bench for their Uruguay midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur after nine months out with a knee injury.
Friday’s 2-1 victory at Crystal Palace was Spurs’ eighth win in 10 league games and left them unbeaten on 26 points ― their best start to a campaign since they last won the title in 1961.
“What’s important is we’re giving our supporters joy and hope. That’s what football clubs are there for,” Postecoglou told reporters at Selhurst Park.
Postecoglou has made an astonishing impact at Tottenham after seasons of steady decline and often dismal football at the club under first Jose Mourinho and then Antonio Conte.
Gone are the back-foot, timid tactics that tested fans’ patience under the previous big-name coaches. In its place is the pro-active fluent style, laced with non-stop running, that Postecoglou promised when he arrived.
Although not even he could have imagined quite how quickly his squad have bought into his mantras.
Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville, working for Sky Sports, said Tottenham’s start has been “inconceivable” especially considering that talisman and record goalscorer Harry Kane was sold to Bayern Munich on the eve of the season.
“Those Tottenham fans have had a lot of pain with the way the team has played and results but they are playing great football. These Tottenham fans should enjoy it but there’s a long way to go,” Neville said.
There will surely be bumps in the road for Spurs and a tough run of fixtures looms starting with a home clash against their former manager Mauricio Pochettino’s improving Chelsea.
But with confidence sky high and no European distractions, the season looks full of possibilities for Tottenham, who last challenged for the title in 2015-16 and then 2016-17 when Argentine Pochettino was in charge.
“I think for us ― you know what it’s like when you get a bit of momentum, my role within that is just to keep pushing them,” Postecoglou said. “I just think there’s still so much more growth in this team.
“Provided they’re still coming in every day and working hard that gives me the opportunity to keep pushing them.
“This group are very determined to keep working hard. I see no reason why that won’t continue.”
Captain Son Heung-min, who scored his eighth league goal of the season on Friday, said no one was getting carried away.
“I’m experienced so I can’t just say we are going to win the league. You just want to stay on the ground and stay humble because it is early in the season,” the South Korean said.
“We just want to get three points in every game and then we will see what’s going to happen in the end of the season.”