So now the pressure is on Arsenal. Tottenham have pushed past their local rivals to the top of the mini-league in north London, fourth and perhaps perfectly timed their attack. A second win in four days again involved a controversial penalty, but regardless of why they’re awarded, Harry Kane converts them and his 37th Goal of the season for club and country made Burnley contemplate life in the Championship.
The Champions League could instead beckon to Tottenham with a win, if not necessarily by a margin that reflects their transformation. The low point of Antonio Conte’s reign was defeat at Burnley, leading to his theatrical threat to retire, but he is poised to make this season a success. He only needs a win at Norwich and Arsenal to drop points.
A ground fit for Champions League football at times echoed with the sound of Conte’s name; a season that began here with Nuno Espirito Santo’s win over Manchester City found a rousing conclusion this week under his replacement. If the foundation was laid to beat Arsenal, and that was the more spectacular goal line and emphatic performance, Spurs dominated possession and chances. They should have taken at least one in open play. Burnley’s tactics resulted in something of a role reversal: eight days earlier Jurgen Klopp had accused Conte of being overly defensive, now they faced a side that were.
Spurs were faced with a back five which would have been anathema to Sean Dyche, that famous supporter of the 4-4-2, but while he was on the team list as Burnley manager, caretaker Mike Jackson showed a willingness to step away from Turf to remove Moor’s orthodoxy with a 5-3-2 formation. Lacking first-choice centre-backs in the injured Ben Mee and James Tarkowski, he opted for a numerical safety policy. It meant right-back Matt Lowton was reinvented on the left side of a central trio. In their midst, the precocious Nathan Collins led the resistance.
Challenged to break Burnley, Tottenham were potentially weakened by a stomach problem that affected five players. Dejan Kulusevski had to start on the bench, reviving unhappy memories of the ‘lasagna goal’, the food poisoning that may have cost her Champions League football in 2006. A second virus may not have the same consequences.
Burnley’s game plan was hoping to grab the box and try to withstand the pressure. Although there was little sense of perfect drill, they kept men behind the ball and, despite 79 percent possession and 12 shots, lasted until the edge of the break. Then they conceded in the 53rd minuteapprox minute of the first half when Tottenham scored from a penalty for the second time in four days the goal denied by the visitors.
Davinson Sanchez pushed the ball onto Ashley Barnes’ outstretched arm. A penalty was awarded after one of the longer VAR assessments of the season. Kane drilled it past a motionless Nick Pope and his last 21 penalties for Spurs yielded 21 goals.
His persistence is among his best qualities and it was evident on a day when he wasn’t at his most clinical. He had squandered a hat-trick of earlier chances, lavishly firing into the billboards minutes earlier. He was rejected by Pope with a header while Collins managed to hook another off the line.
While they maintained par, Burnley’s attacks were rarities but Spurs owed a debt of gratitude to Hugo Lloris for saving when Maxwel Cornet escaped unmarked in the left inside channel. They had to focus their efforts from behind and Kevin Long headed just wide when Dwight McNeil threatened set pieces.
It was a damning charge against Wout Weghorst as he was benched for a player with no goals this season. If Barnes’ role in Tottenham’s decider suggested he had too little influence in opposition’s box and too much in his own this season, he nearly ended a 27-game goal drought and unleashed a shot that hit the post.
On the other side, Pope made two sharp saves to deny Son Heung-min and smashed away the second after a quick spin. He’s a valiant attempt to extend Burnley’s six-year Premier League stint. Now they only have to face Aston Villa and Newcastle, with back-to-back defeats suggesting Jackson’s rebound has ended and a flimsy, injury-plagued side looking for favor elsewhere.