Dele Alli scored his first league goal in 17 months and Harry Kane made his long-awaited return from his extended summer break as Tottenham maintained their 100% start to the season at Wolves.
Alli’s ninth-minute penalty proved enough to separate the sides in a breathless encounter at Molineux.
Roared on by an enthusiastic crowd, Wolves were unlucky not to come away with a point.
The dangerous Adama Traore wasted the best of a succession of chances for the hosts when he was sent through by Ruben Neves, only to shoot straight at Hugo Lloris.
Tottenham, though, could justifiably argue they could have won by more.
Wolves keeper Jose Sa made four excellent second-half saves, including one to deny Kane a comeback goal.
It was a day to remember for new Spurs boss Nuno Espirito Santo, who was a hugely popular figure in his four years as Wolves boss before leaving in the summer. Now he appears to be bringing some stability back to a club that appeared in chaos for the last few months.
All the noise around Kane has obscured the positive work Nuno has been doing since his Spurs arrival after their protracted search for Jose Mourinho’s replacement.
One of the Portuguese’s tactical tweaks involves pushing Alli into a slightly deeper role than he is used to.
An England World Cup star in 2018, the 25-year-old has slipped a long way down Gareth Southgate’s list of options since then.
He seems to have benefitted from both a new manager and a summer off.
After a decent opening-day contribution to the memorable win against Manchester City, Alli was heavily involved at Molineux, taking advantage of the cover provided by defensive midfield duo Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Oliver Skipp.
There is nothing wrong with his confidence either, given Alli was the man brought down by Sa as he ran onto Sergio Reguilon’s through-ball before calmly rolling the penalty into the bottom corner.
The gap between Alli’s last two top-flight goals covered exactly the one between full stadiums being at games as his previous effort at Burnley was in the weekend before lockdown in March 2020.
As he went over to the visiting fans to applaud them at the final whistle before giving his manager a big hug, Kane must have been quietly pleased at how the afternoon had panned out.
Those same supporters had responded to the sight of Kane getting stripped and ready for action by serenading him with ‘he’s one of our own’, which was in stark contrast to the previous weekend, when it appeared a schism existed between them and their club’s most highly-paid player.
The Wolves fans were less charitable.
Having booed the England skipper when he left the Tottenham team coach 80 minutes before kick-off, they taunted him – and their opponents – with a series of songs that were a reminder of how merciless supporters can be.
He’ll be a ‘Manc in the morning’ and ‘he wants to play for a big club’ were two of the clean examples – and there were plenty of others that were not.
After all the debate around his future, fuel for which he provided with his pre-Euro 2020 interview, merely getting onto a pitch again will come as some kind of relief for Kane.
He would have enjoyed the experience, even more, had Sa not denied his close-range effort 10 minutes from time.
In shouting encouragement from the bench before his arrival and selflessly getting booked for time-wasting near the end, though, he at least proved he has Tottenham’s best interests at heart.
In Other News – Arsenal 0 – 2 Chelsea
Romelu Lukaku scored his first-ever Chelsea goal – almost a decade after his debut – as Thomas Tuchel’s team deservedly beat Arsenal.
Lukaku, who was at Chelsea as a teenager, started at the Emirates after his £97.5m signing from Inter Milan and looks to have given the Blues an ominous new dimension. learn more