Harry Kane believes he is as fit as he has ever been after netting his first goal of 2020 as Tottenham kickstarted their challenge for a Champions League place next season with a 2-0 win over West Ham on Tuesday.
The England captain looked far more like his old self after a laboured performance in his first appearance for six months against Manchester United on Friday, and was rewarded with a goal eight minutes from time.
“I’m in good shape. I’ve been working very hard through my rehab, lockdown and training. I feel as fit as I probably ever have done before,” Kane, who had surgery on a hamstring injury prior to the season’s shutdown due to coronavirus, told Sky Sports.
“When you have been out for six months it is just getting that feeling back on the pitch. You can train as much as you want but being out here is totally different.”
Tomas Soucek’s own goal had opened the scoring as West Ham remain precariously poised outside the relegation zone only on goal difference.
But Hammers boss David Moyes was furious the opener was not ruled out for a handball by Davinson Sanchez as he flicked a corner into Soucek’s path.
“I can’t believe they have ruled that as a goal,” said Moyes. “Who is on VAR tonight? He needs subbed I know that. That’s the rules.”
Jose Mourinho’s men were well worthy of a first win in eight games dating back to February.
Victory takes Spurs to within six points of the top four and within one of Manchester United in fifth.
Should Manchester City’s appeal against a two-season ban from European competitions not prove successful, fifth would be good enough to qualify for the 2020/21 Champions League.
“I am happy with the result, the clean sheet, it means the team is more solid, the players have fewer doubts,” said Mourinho.
In keeping with many of the 14 games since the Premier League’s restart seven days ago, this was another slow burner as Spurs took time to start picking holes in West Ham’s rearguard.
Son Heung-min thought he had broken the deadlock on the stroke of half-time with a smart finish at Lukasz Fabianski’s near post, but the goal was ruled out for offside after a VAR review.
Mourinho launched an impassioned defence of his record of working with world-class strikers on the eve of the game after criticism that his playing style could see Kane look for pastures new.
And Kane had no shortage of opportunities after the break as his near post flick was turned behind by Fabianksi before he fired wide after sprinting the full length of the field as Spurs broke dangerously from a West Ham corner.
“He has been phenomenal in lockdown, he did amazing work at home and he is in the condition to help the team,” added Mourinho.
In between times, Pablo Fornals dragged wide West Ham’s big chance to go in front and aid their battle to beat the drop.
Moyes’s men were undone by one of their own when Soucek unwittingly turned a corner into his own net 26 minutes from time.
Jarrod Bowen smashed a shot against the post as the visitors suddenly had to alter their gameplan of containing Tottenham to look for an equaliser.
But in doing so, they left themselves exposed at the back and Kane timed his run perfectly from a Son pass before coolly slotting past Fabianski and collapsing to the ground in a mixture of relief and exhaustion.
“I probably should have scored one other but it was nice to put that one away,” added Kane.
“As a striker, it’s what you want to do. You want to score goals and want to help win the games.”
Schmeichel saves Leicester with penalty stop in Brighton draw
Brendan Rodgers hailed Kasper Schmeichel as “world class” after the Leicester goalkeeper saved Neal Maupay’s penalty in his side’s 0-0 draw with Brighton on Tuesday.
Schmeichel came to Leicester’s rescue when he plunged to his right to stop Maupay’s spot-kick early in the first half at the King Power Stadium.
That was the highlight of a patchy performance from third-placed Leicester in Rodgers’ 50th game in charge.
“Kasper has made a great save from the penalty, he’s invaluable,” Rodgers said of the Denmark international.
“He’s a world-class goalkeeper. There is absolutely no doubt that he is one of the top goalkeepers in this league.
“Just his presence in the goal and his leadership. He studies penalty takers and puts in the work and he’s so agile.
“He’s been absolutely brilliant in the two games back.”
The Foxes are now four points clear of fourth-placed Chelsea and nine ahead of fifth-placed Manchester United in the race to qualify for the Champions League.
Brighton move six points clear of the relegation zone, but Maupay’s miss denied them a second successive victory after the French striker scored the winner against Arsenal on Saturday.
Brighton gave first Premier League starts to Tariq Lamptey, 19, and Alexis Mac Allister, 21, making Graham Potter’s starting line-up the youngest the Seagulls had ever fielded in the Premier League.
Potter hailed his raw team’s never-say-die spirit, saying: “We have to fight all the way. From the last two games, you can see we are ready for the fight.
“We had to battle. The first half we were really good, carried a threat and reduced a good side to not too much.
“I’m proud of the endeavour and work rate. Sometimes Kasper Schmeichel is good at saving them. It happens, you move on.”
Just 24 hours after a ‘White Lives Matters’ banner organised by Burnley fans flew over their match against Manchester City, both teams at the King Power maintained the trend of taking a knee before kick-off in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Leicester were held to a 1-1 draw at Watford in their first game back from the coronavirus hiatus on Saturday, with Ben Chilwell’s 90th-minute strike cancelled out by Craig Dawson’s stoppage-time equaliser for the hosts.
The only drama came early this time and it was another of Brighton’s youngsters, 20-year-old Aaron Connolly, who unlocked the Leicester defence in the 14th minute.
Racing onto Aaron Mooy’s long pass, Connolly muscled his way ahead of Leicester defender James Justin, who responded to the threat by clipping the forward in the penalty area.
The penalty was confirmed after a VAR review, but Schmeichel came to Leicester’s rescue as he dived to his right to save Maupay’s strike.
It was a miss that might have drawn a few smiles from the Arsenal players Maupay accused of lacking “humility” after a stormy clash that saw the forward accused of deliberately injuring Gunners keeper Bernd Leno.
Brighton keeper Mat Ryan nearly gifted Leicester a goal when he threw the ball behind him by mistake as he attempted a roll out, only avoiding huge embarrassment by scrambling to save at Jamie Vardy’s feet.
On a scorching hot summer evening, Leicester were dominating possession but their top-scorer Vardy was held in check as he chased his 100th Premier League goal.
Vardy did have a penalty shout in stoppage-time when his header struck Lewis Dunk’s arm, but Leicester’s appeals were in vain.