At times like these, with Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur utterly rampant, it is the points that got away from them earlier in the season which come to feel more and more significant. How about the two they dropped in the 0-0 draw at Bournemouth last October? With just an extra couple to their tally, it would be possible to paint their Premier League title pursuit in an even more exciting light.
As it is, this stroll in the north London sunshine against a Bournemouth team with glaring defensive flaws moved them to within four points of the leaders, Chelsea, who play at Manchester United on Sunday. Tottenham are close but will they be close enough?
What can be said with certainly is that they are finishing the season with a bang. There was so much to enjoy about this performance, particularly the zip, movement, flicks and incision while their defence – which is the meanest in the division – was never troubled. It said everything that the Bournemouth fans were reduced to mock celebration when their team had a couple of shots towards the end.
There was a collector’s item goal for Mousa Dembélé to get Tottenham up and running – his first since January last year – while Son Heung-min, Harry Kane and the substitute, Vincent Janssen, got the others. It was the 12th time this season that Bournemouth had conceded three goals or more in a game and, in truth, they were lucky that the final result was not even heavier. Tottenham have now won 15 consecutive matches in all competitions at White Hart Lane.
Pochettino had been consumed simply by beating what was in front of his team here and they were two goals to the good by the 19th minute.
Bournemouth’s season has been scarred by aberrations at the back and the space they afforded to Dembélé inside the penalty area for the first was yet another exhibit for the prosecution.
Toby Alderweireld had tried but not really succeeding in flicking on Christian Eriksen’s corner and, when the ball ran on to Dembélé, he had the time to take a touch and ram a low shot past Artur Boruc from eight yards.
The corner had been awarded when Simon Francis allowed the ball to go out, believing that a goalkick would be awarded.
Eddie Howe had started with Jack Wilshere in the centre of an attack-minded 4-4-2 formation and Tottenham’s second goal followed an error from the on-loan Arsenal midfielder who, predictably, was jeered and taunted throughout.
Wilshere was closed down quickly by Eric Dier, who blocked his attempted pass out of defence and, when it broke for Kane, the striker executed a lovely flick for Son. He flicked on the afterburners, charged around Steve Cook and finished low past Boruc from a tight angle. Pochettino leapt high in delight inside his technical area.
Wilshere’s afternoon would go from bad to worse. Early in the second half, he raced back to challenge Kane as the striker shot and he felt the impact on his foot. He stayed down and, after treatment, he came back on only to realise that the pain was too great. It looked as though Howe had told him to carry on while he readied the substitute, Lewis Cook. “I can’t move,” Wilshere shouted back to him. The Tottenham fans lapped it up.
Pochettino had been unable to find room in his starting line-up for the fit-again Victor Wanyama, which was a reflection of his strength in depth and, also, the recent form of Dier and Son. The South Korean, who was moved to the left to accommodate the return of Kane, has now scored eight goals in six appearances. Pochettino faces a selection dilemma for the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea. Surely, Son has to start?
The home crowd were subdued for long spells. It was as though they knew their team did not need them to drive them on. Tottenham might have scored more before the interval. Dembélé had seen Boruc keep out a rasping 12th-minute shot while Eriksen had two sightings, extending the goalkeeper on the first one.
Pochettino wanted his team to keep the boot on Bournemouth’s throat. In first-half stoppage time, he exploded in rage when his defenders got themselves into a slight tangle. Tottenham’s focus comes from the manager.
He had stomped off down the tunnel at half-time but he was smiling again early in the second period when Kane scored the third – his sixth in three games against Bournemouth. The ease with which he got away from Francis inside the area was remarkable. His finish was low and true.
Kane and Eriksen went close thereafter, with Junior Stanislas and Charlie Daniels offering the crumbs to the travelling support, before Janssen scored his sixth of the season in all competitions from close-range to set the seal on the rout.