Richarlison had the last laugh as Antonio Conte showed rare passion as Tottenham beat Forest
TOTTENHAM 3-1 NOTTINGHAM FOREST: Antonio Conte’s side worked hard to a seemingly routine win, responding well to midweek Champions League elimination at the hands of AC Milan before suffering an unexpectedly shaky finish.
Tottenham made a professional response to their toothless Champions League exit at the hands of AC Milan on Wednesday night, moving six points clear of Liverpool in fourth with a 3-1 win over Nottingham Forest. Harry Kane scored two first-half goals for Antonio Conte’s rejuvenated side before Son Heung-min added spark to the scoreboard to mark the end of a difficult personal run. However, it was Steve Cooper’s relegation-threatened team that finished well, with captain Joe Worrall scoring an 81st-minute consolation before Fraser Forster denied Andre Ayew from the penalty spot in injury time after Dejan Kulusevski hit the penalty area. Here are some of the top shots at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Richarlison responds to Conte’s decision and wins applause
Although he didn’t get the goal his work rate deserved, Richarlison gave a very respectable response after his midweek antics, when he described Tottenham’s season as “shit” during an interview with TNT Sports after the standoff. with AC Milan.
Conte later stated on Friday that he felt Richarlison was actually criticizing his own season and that the comment was justified given the Brazilian’s struggles with injuries and failure to score a Premier League goal to date for Spurs.
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But despite putting his £60m signing in his place, the Italian was prepared to reinstate Richarlison into his first team and the striker responded well.
In fact, he had the ball in the net within three minutes when he collected a long, high ball that went straight over Nottingham Forest’s defense before hitting the target in style.
But after a lengthy VAR check, the goal was disallowed for the most marginal offside of all, much to the fury of Richarlison and the Tottenham crowd.
However, he didn’t put his head down and instead the former Everton player used his frustration as inspiration to help Tottenham impose some authority on the match in the final third.
He would later win a penalty which was converted by Kane after he was fouled by Forest captain Joe Worrall.
It wasn’t Richarlison’s afternoon in front of goal but his desire, commitment, spirit and determination were evident and his hard work paid off in the second half when he set up Son Heung-min for Spurs’ third goal of the afternoon.
Conte loved their perseverance and applauded the assist as his side took the three points with 30 minutes remaining.
Spurs are undoubtedly a sexier side when Dejan Kulusevski is at the top of his game, but that hasn’t been the case for several months and you can’t argue with the fact that Richarlison epitomizes Conte’s fighting spirit. He is effective.
The 25-year-old received a standing ovation as he left the field, while Conte also showed his appreciation for his hard work with a clap of hands and a hug.
Porro draws attention
After a promising appearance in Wednesday night’s excruciatingly painful draw with AC Milan, Pedro Porro has finally begun to show glimpses of the player Tottenham thought they signed from Sporting CP in January.
The powerful, strong-legged right-back was still a little shaky at points – one when he was sent for a hot dog by Morgan Gibbs-White – but ultimately he was a key asset for Tottenham when they went on the attack.
His cross was a real weapon and he got his reward in the 19th minute when his cross found Harry Kane’s head who planted his header past Keylor Navas and into the net.
Porro gave the Spurs attractive balance and his high, positive positioning allowed Richarlison to move into center field alongside Kane where he was a huge threat.
At times, the Spaniard almost played as a right winger, showing the offensive quality that Emerson Royal so often lacks, despite the recent improvements he has made to his game.
The 23-year-old has a wide range of crossing styles and this was on display in the first half as he lashed shots and volleys into the area.
Kane was clearly enjoying the volume of service from the right flank as he hit 20 Premier League goals for the sixth time in nine seasons in north London.
Kane exercises penalty demons
Harry Kane exercised any mental demons lingering from his penalty heartbreak in the World Cup quarter-final against France, dunking his first penalty since hitting the ball in Qatar.
If there was ever any doubt about Kane’s mental toughness and mentality, perhaps this was a great game for him to brush away the cobwebs from the penalty spot, given that he had already given his team the lead.
Keylor Navas dove to the right and the England captain put the ball in the middle of the goal and at the top of the net to make it 2-0 for the hosts in 35 minutes.
There was no over-celebration from Kane, that was just normal as he has reached 20 top-flight goals this season with 10 games to go.
He makes finishing look easy, although it should be noted that the pressure contrast between here against Forest and against France in the World Cup Round of 16 is simply unmatched.
Conte shows rare passion
Passion has always been Antonio Conte’s greatest asset, but the life has literally been sucked out of the Italian in recent months after undergoing an operation to remove his gallbladder.
He jokingly stated that the club could sack him before his contract expired following the 0–0 draw with Milan, and had that been the case, few Spurs fans would have complained.
But Tottenham were back to their best today and Conte was at the heart of that. He paraded down the sidelines like a catwalk, shouting and bellowing instructions to his excited players.
The Italian is expected to leave at the end of the season but, as he said on Friday, he looks ready to “die for Tottenham” while he’s here based on this performance.
That hasn’t always been the case in recent weeks, when he’s looked seriously uninterested as Tottenham’s season threatened to end with a whimper. Here he invested and the Spurs were better for it.
Forest discouraged as lack of quality in midfield proves detrimental
Aside from some brilliant half chances on the break, this was another really mediocre away performance for Nottingham Forest, aside from a spirited finish.
For a teaaaaaaaaaaaam that have been so impressive at home, they really need to fix their away struggles or they could be dragged right back into the relegation fight.
Steve Cooper’s problems come from midfield, where there is simply no other quality to maneuver the ball to players who can hurt the opposition.
Jonjo Shelvey looked off the pace and Tottenham were overtaken by Oliver Skipp and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in the middle of the park which allowed Spurs to gain a foothold.
Forest’s real dangers are Morgan Gibbs-White and Brennan Johnson, but they haven’t seen enough of the ball on this occasion.