LONDON — In his 300th Premier League appearance, Harry Kane equalled the late Jimmy Greaves’ record of 266 goals for Tottenham as his first-half winner gave Tottenham a key 1-0 win at Fulham on Monday.
Kickoff was delayed by nearly 20 minutes due to local transport chaos, and it was Fulham who enjoyed much of the better play in the first half. But Kane had the key say on proceedings with a wonderfully taken goal in first-half injury time.
Tottenham were the better of the two sides in the second 45 minutes with Kane drawing a superb save from goalkeeper Bernd Leno with a close-range header. Fulham could have snatched a late equaliser, but goalkeeper Hugo Lloris did brilliantly to tip Manor Solomon’s effort round the post.
1. Kane saves Tottenham after a dismal start
It was an abject first half from Tottenham. They repeatedly misplaced passes — Cristian Romero a chief perpetrator here — and failed to build any real momentum, until the final throes of that first half.
Just before the halftime whistle, Dejan Kulusevski and Son Heung-Min started to find space and the previously watertight Fulham defence granted Tottenham the odd glimpse of goal. And that’s all that Harry Kane needed.
There’s plenty of talk at the moment about Kane’s contract, with it expiring next summer. If Kane is on the market, he won’t be short of admirers as one of the great strikers. And he proved his worth once again, on his 300th appearance for Spurs, as he turned a half-chance into a goal.
It came in first-half injury time as Kane collected the ball on the edge of the box. Side-on to goal, he shifted the ball onto his right foot, had a few inches to aim for in the corner and found it, leaving goalkeeper Bernd Leno with no hope. The goal saw him draw level with the late, great Greaves on 266 goals for Spurs — it was also his 199th in the Premier League.
Kane nearly added a second in the 58th minute as his bullet header was well-saved by Leno.
Whatever the future holds, Kane is a Tottenham legend. His record in front of goal is truly remarkable and Spurs will be keeping everything crossed they can persuade him to pen a new contract.
2. Spurs’ mixed bag performance sums up their subpar season
This win should go some way to helping restore some of the good feeling around Tottenham.
The fans let their frustration known at various stages on Monday as they sang demands for change in club leadership. It probably hasn’t helped that Spurs manager Antonio Conte is facing questions about his future most weeks with his deal up at the end of the season.
On Monday, though, we saw both sides of this season’s Spurs. The first-half performance looked like they were lacking in confidence. Their inability to play out from the back in the first half was baffling — the forwards were starved of any ball, Kane had just three touches and one completed pass in the first 25 minutes. Spurs forward Son Heung-min was incredibly lucky to have not been sent off with a red card in the first half, as well.
But you can also see why Spurs are linked with a move for right-back Pedro Porro. Fulham had plenty of joy down Tottenham’s right side — with Antonee Robinson and Willian enjoying space there — so they need reinforcements there with just eight days of the transfer window left.
The second half was better — as they played higher up the field and restricted Fulham to a series of half chances at best. Their attacking play had more composure, they were better at keeping the ball and frustrated the opposition.
But above all, Spurs got the three points they badly needed and snapped their poor run of form, which had seen them win just one of their last five in the league heading into this match. They also kept an elusive clean sheet, with Lloris pulling off at least one brilliant save.
3. Fulham look better than their concern of relegation
At half time, there was a familiar face on the field being handed a life-time achievement award by Fulham: Roy Hodgson was back at Craven Cottage and received a wonderful welcome from his old fans. He led Fulham to the Europa League final in 2010 — a run which included that incredible quarterfinal win over Juventus — in a dream of a season.
Since then Fulham have been through six managers, with Marco Silva the seventh. They were relegated three times but bounced back each time. They still talk about avoiding relegation this season — Silva mentioned it midweek, saying the team are still targeting that 40-point mark, which is usually enough to keep a team in the Premier League.
But though they fell on Monday night, surely they can start planning for another season in the top flight and improving on this superb campaign.
Their signings have been well-judged and successful: Willian was an inspired signing, Joao Palhinha has been one of the finest central midfielders in the league this season while Andreas Pereira is an assist king and their creative lynchpin. Silva has also got the best out of some players frozen out under Scott Parker: Tim Ream and Aleksandr Mitrovic. The future’s looking bright.
Best and worst performers
Best: Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur
Again showed his world-class ability with a great goal, and was a constant threat in the second half.
Best: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Tottenham Hotspur
Dominated the middle of the park and was a calm presence for Spurs.
Best: Antonee Robinson, Fulham
Alongside Palhinha as Fulham’s standout player, he did well against Dejan Kulusevski.
Worst: Aleksandar Mitrovic, Fulham
Harsh as he lacked service, but struggled to get into this game.
Worst: Harrison Reed, Fulham
Had a decent first half chance, but had a quiet match overall.
Worst: Cristian Romero, Tottenham Hotspur
There’s no doubting his class, but he was poor in the first half here and was guilty of giving the ball away far too many times. He also picked up a booking for a high boot on Mitrovic.
Highlights and notable moments
The match really wasn’t going well for Tottenham in the first half — possession was nearly even, but Fulham had more shots on goal and generally looked more dangerous.
But Harry Kane has made his long career at Tottenham by being able to score all different kinds of goals, and he plucked one out of nowhere in stoppage time just before the break.
He dribbled, swiveled and fired from the top of the box through traffic past goalkeeper Bernd Leno to put Spurs up 1-0, seemingly out of nowhere.
Harry Kane with a BEAUTY!
He ties Jimmy Greaves for most goals in club history. 👏
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) January 23, 2023
After the match: What the managers and players said
Tottenham manager Antonio Conte on the win: “I had a good answer from my players. I asked them for solidity of the last season and the will and desire to fight and to be resilient. A good result for the fans and we showed when you play as a team it is difficult to play against us. I was happy with the performance in the last few games but we had two losses, against Arsenal and Manchester City. Today has to be a starting point for us to give everything then we will see what happens at the end. We have to try to stay in the race for the Champions League and try to go to the next round in the FA Cup. It was important to speak in the past few days and to explain the situation. Compared to last season, we continued to score goals, but to concede 21 goals in 10 games it wasn’t positive. But I am happy with the response.”
Conte on his love for the club: “I am really proud to be Tottenham manager. I had the possibility of being the manger of an important club, it makes me proud and this has to be clear to everybody. For this reason I want to fight until the end with my players. We are a team that works a lot and under this aspect I can’t tell anything about my players. In the last period, we were sleeping maybe because we we were losing some characteristic from last season. I spoke with my players and I have good players, but especially good men. They understand we have to fight until the end for the important positions, we have to be ready to suffer.”
Spurs’ Harry Kane on winning for Conte: “Antonio Conte has been through a difficult time outside football with his personal life. Being a part of the team it is not just the players, but the manager and staff and being there for each other. We want to win every game for him and we want to repay him with victories. We had a good meeting with the manager to talk about what we are good at, we want to fight, he is a passionate manager and want to keep working had for him.”
Fulham’s Marco Silva on the result: “Very good first hour — very good level. We had a good dynamic, we were the best team for the first 45 minutes, most dominant team. I think we were clearly the best team on the pitch, but we lost control in the last five minutes. Kane’s a great footballer, it was a great finish.”
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)
This game marked Harry Kane’s 300th Premier League appearance for Tottenham, making him the second player to reach 300 Premier League appearances for the club after goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
With his goal, Harry Kane tied Jimmy Greaves as Tottenham’s top scorer with 266 goals.
Kane is now one goal shy of becoming the third player in Premier League history to score 200 league goals after Alan Shearer and Wayne Rooney.
Fulham: The Cottagers turn their focus to the fourth round of the FA Cup, where they face Sunderland on Saturday, Jan. 28 (watch live on ESPN+ at 10 a.m. ET). Then, Fulham head to Chelsea for Premier League action on Friday, Feb. 3 at 3 p.m. ET.
Tottenham: Spurs also continue the FA Cup on Saturday, Jan. 28 when they will head to Preston North End (watch live on ESPN+ at 1 p.m. ET). Then, Tottenham hosts Manchester City in Premier League action on Sunday, Feb. 5 at 11:30 a.m. — and the last time these two teams faced off, it was a thriller that ultimately turned into embarrassment for Spurs.