Son Heung-Min’s late winner delivers huge boost to Tottenham’s Champions League hopes

Son Heung-Min celebrates scoring Tottenham's winner against Luton Town

Tottenham Hotspur seem hell-bent on trying to qualify for the Champions League the hard way and yet captain Heung-Min Son appears equally determined to pull his team over the line.

Son scored his 160th Spurs goal against Luton Town to move into the top five of the club’s all-time leading scorers, above Cliff Jones, to keep Spurs on track following an early wobble on Saturday.

It was typical Son, starting the move himself and finishing it after he had carried the ball up the pitch from a Luton corner and then converted it via a deflection from Brennan Johnson’s prod back.

The fact it came in the 86th minute was perhaps the most remarkable part, given Son had travelled much further than any other player on the pitch during the international break, scoring in both games of a double-header against Thailand for South Korea.

Another player’s head might have dropped much earlier after Son had seen a first-half shot somehow bounce off both posts and not cross the line. But the 31-year-old simply does not give up and it might be enough to help Tottenham back into Europe’s biggest competition.

“Playing for one club for almost 10 years is an incredible feeling and a big honour for me,” said Son. “I didn’t even realise how many goals I’d scored and I want to thank everyone who played with me and coached me for their big effort. I want to put as much as I can for the team, football is a team sport and the individual comes afterwards. In the last nine games, I want to give everything for the team.”

Tottenham Hotspur's Son Heung-Min scores against Luton
Son's deflected strike punished Luton who had a corner kick just moments earlier - PA/Steven Paston

As a former national team coach of Australia, Tottenham head coach Ange Postecoglou knows only too well how hard it is for players to keep performing after making long-haul journeys.

“I am sure he feels tired,” said Postecoglou. “Yeah absolutely, it’s tough. When I was the national team coach of Australia, we had quite a few players playing this side of the world and you talk to them. They’re long trips, there is a time difference but he never looks for those clutches, Sonny.

“For him, when he is available, he wants to play to the highest possible level and he keeps doing it. Playing for his national team is hugely important to him. Playing for this football club is hugely important to him and he wouldn’t compromise either by letting his standards drop. He gets on with it, we try to look after him the best we can and the proof is in what he produces.

“I think the thing about Sonny is that, irrespective of opposition or whatever game it is, he has this really high level of expectation on himself to be the best he can be all the time. It’s very hard to be like that. It’s a lot easier to try and get comfortable in the state of being as a person or as a player because he’s done so much already.

“But he wants to maintain the highest possible standards whenever he plays. And when you see that with his football, his efforts, his leadership now so it’s all encompassing.

“Look, he’s been a brilliant footballer for this club for a long time and hopefully for many years to come, and again I thought he was really unlucky with a couple of chances and some good saves. But when we needed him he was there and got the job done.”

Falling behind at home has become an annoying habit for Tottenham and the home crowd showed their frustration by booing their team off at half-time, as they trailed to a third-minute Tahith Chong goal.

Luton Town's Tahith Chong scores at Tottenham
Tahith Chong gave Luton the perfect start at Spurs but they were later pegged back - Reuters/Dylan Martinez

It was former Tottenham winger Andros Townsend who escaped down the right and crossed for Ross Barkley. He passed to Chong, who produced an excellent finish.

It looked like it was going to be a hugely frustrating day for the home fans, who saw Son hit both posts and the tightest of tight goal-line decisions go against them after Tottenham had equalised through an Issa Kabore own-goal.

Half-time substitute Johnson was responsible for forcing Kabore into the mistake with a dangerous cross after swapping passes with Pedro Porro.

He also played a part in Son’s winner, which deflected off Daikio Hashioka, by stabbing the ball back into the path of the forward from Timo Werner’s cross.

Luton fell back into the relegation zone thanks to Son’s late goal and manager Rob Edwards said: “I feel sick right now. To lose so late from our own attacking set-piece is difficult to take.”