Harry Kane scored his first goal since December
Jose Mourinho was shown spinning away in anguish on the touchline when Harry Kane fired narrowly wide following a Tottenham counter-attack after an hour of Tuesday night’s meeting with West Ham.
The Spurs manager had spent the build-up to this game insisting he was the right man to get the best out of the 26-year-old, offering a four-minute defence of his record with strikers during a virtual press conference having taken exception to Paul Merson’s comments to the contrary on Sky Sports.
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Kane’s miss must have been doubly frustrating for that reason, but Mourinho did not have to wait long for the striker to find the net. After Tomas Soucek’s own goal had put Spurs in front, Kane found himself bearing down on goal again. This time, he made no mistake.
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Tottenham’s win over West Ham
Most important for Spurs is that the win lifts them up to seventh in the Premier League, one point behind Wolves and Manchester United and right in the mix for a Champions League finish. But Kane’s first goal since being ruled out with a hamstring injury in January was an undoubted bonus.
Mourinho had defended his striker’s performance against Manchester United on Friday, praising his “incredible” work-rate and insisting he would have been happy with the same again against West Ham. But the numbers – zero shots on target and only one touch in the opposition box – summed up an undeniably underwhelming attacking contribution.
Against West Ham, however, on what was his 200th Premier League appearance for Spurs, Kane was much more like his old self.
The work-rate was just as impressive – “phenomenal,” surmised Mourinho on Sky Sports afterwards – but this time there was a lot more to go with it.
Harry Kane celebrates scoring with Ben Davies
Over the course of the 90 minutes, Kane attempted six shots on goal, including a diagonal effort which stung the palms of Lukasz Fabianski in the first half and a clever flick which forced the West Ham goalkeeper into a close-range save in the second. It was only with his final effort of the night that he scored, but this was more like the Kane we know.
“He’s coming back,” said Mourinho afterwards.
It owes a lot to the work he did during lockdown – “he did amazing work in his house to recover,” added Mourinho – and while he has not yet regained full sharpness, it is certainly notable that he covered more ground than anyone else on the pitch against United (11.5km) and ranked second among Spurs players against West Ham (10.9km).
Kane’s Premier League record with Spurs
- 200 games played
- 137 goals scored
- Eight hat-tricks
- 20 assists
It’s little wonder he collapsed to the turf in exhaustion following his goal.
“When you’ve been out that long, it takes time to come back and trust your body – especially with a hamstring injury,” said Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp afterwards. “That’s the muscle that gives you the most explosive feeling. You need to be able to sprint with it. But the fact that when he went through he still had that yard pace is encouraging.
“It’s a relief as well. Every time you have a surgery, you wonder whether you’ll be able to get back to the same level and sprint again. I played with Michael Owen, who definitely lost half a yard of his pace after his hamstring injuries. Harry doesn’t rely on his pace, but he will still want to feel explosive. Once he got into that position, it was never in doubt.”
Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho praised Harry Kane
Kane was sniffing out scoring positions and making the right runs again, but he’s also developing his all-round game and there was plenty of evidence of that on Tuesday night. At times in the first half, he was operating behind Dele Alli, dropping into the midfield and helping to drive Spurs forward.
As early as the fifth minute, he could be seen picking up possession in the centre circle and spreading the play out to the onrushing Serge Aurier on the right. Not long after that, he hit a superb through-ball towards Alli with the outside of his boot, requiring a scrambling intervention from the back-peddling Issa Diop.
It was the kind of pass you would expect from a player like Kevin de Bruyne, or perhaps even Kane’s Spurs team-mate Giovani Lo Celso, but it was a reminder that Kane is a far more complete player now than he was when he burst onto the scene for Spurs 200 Premier League appearances ago.
With 180 minutes of action under his belt, Kane will now hope to be back up to full speed when Tottenham resume their Premier League campaign against Sheffield United at the start of next month. Mourinho, meanwhile, will hope this is the beginning of a striker hitting his prime. On this evidence, there are plenty more goals still to come.