Harry Kane’s penalty was decisive as second-placed Tottenham secured a 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough in the Premier League on Saturday to take advantage of its rivals’ losses. Despite being frustrated for long periods by Middlesbrough’s defense, Kane’s 14th league goal this season was enough to secure a vital three points at White Hart Lane for Tottenham. With Arsenal and Liverpool both having lost earlier Saturday, Tottenham seized the opportunity to move ahead of its rivals at the top of the table and within nine points of leader Chelsea.
“The last few minutes we were a little bit nervous. But I think we played much, much better and deserved the three points,” Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino said. “Nine points (Chelsea’s lead), it’s okay, it’s three games, but it’s up to us to keep pushing, to keep up the pressure and keep winning games.”
Middlesbrough had secured impressive draws against Manchester City and Arsenal already this season, but was unable to repeat the trick a third time. “It was almost the same (as Manchester City),” Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka said. “But the difference was we couldn’t score today … Once again we showed that we can compete against every single team and once again I have to say that the players have been amazing.”
The crucial moment came in the 58th as Heung-Min Son cut inside from the left side of the Middlesbrough penalty area and Espinosa Bernardo brought down the South Korea forward for a clear penalty. Kane made no mistake as he sent Victor Valdes the wrong way to give his side a lead it never looked like relinquishing. Aside from Bernardo’s blip in concentration, Middlesbrough had done well to frustrate a Spurs team which has now won its last seven league games at White Hart Lane and boasts the only unbeaten home record in the division.
Valdes saved well from Son early on and did well to keep out Christian Eriksen’s powerful strike moments after Spurs had taken the lead, while Kane had a goal rightly ruled out for offside three minutes before the break. Middlesbrough’s resilience was no surprise. Karanka’s team holds the third best defensive record away from home in the Premier League, but its shortcomings at the other end were apparent.
Alvaro Negredo’s header over the bar after just four minutes was the closest Middlesbrough came until stoppage time, when Marten de Roon almost snatched a point for the visitors as he shot narrowly wide. Tottenham moved three points clear of Arsenal and four of Liverpool. Tottenham plays at Liverpool next weekend in the league. Middlesbrough has now failed to win its last seven league games and remains 15th, just one point above the relegation zone and two points clear of bottom team Sunderland.