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Dublin: 5°C Tuesday 2 March 2021

Mourinho delight as Spurs pip Wolves to final automatic European spot

Harry Kane scored his 14th goal in 19 games against Crystal Palace.

Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho (centre) reacts after the final whistle.
Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho (centre) reacts after the final whistle.
Image: Will Oliver

TOTTENHAM BOOKED their place in next season’s Europa League after a 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace.

Spurs had to better Wolves’ result at Chelsea to guarantee a top-six finish and they did the job as Harry Kane’s 14th goal in 19 games under Jose Mourinho helped earn the decisive point.

It was far from convincing, though, as Palace levelled through Jeffrey Schlupp and were the better team in the second half at Selhurst Park as they ended a seven-game losing streak.

Nonetheless, to secure their place in Europe has to be heralded as as impressive achievement as they were seven points off sixth after defeat to Sheffield United earlier this month, but a six-game unbeaten streak has got them there, even if it is on goal difference.

For Roy Hodgson, the manner of their display will give him reason to be optimistic after a horrible few weeks of the return.

It looked like it would be an easier afternoon for the visitors than it turned out to be.

Spurs had threatened in just the fourth minute when a fast break saw Lucas Moura’s cross just evade Son Heung-min, with Giovani Lo Celso firing straight at Vicente Guaita.

So, there was little surprise when they went ahead in the 13th minute and even less surprise at who scored it.

Kane has been in a rich vein of form since the restart and scored his seventh goal in eight games with a fine finish.

Lo Celso did the hard work by silkily beating his man to feed Kane and there was little doubt about the end result as the England captain cut inside and fired into the bottom corner.

That gave Mourinho’s men what they needed and they were happy to allow Palace possession and look to hit them on the counter-attack.

Another lightning break saw Harry Winks’ cross just evade Kane while Moura’s surge into the box saw him round goalkeeper Guaita but could not pick out a man.

Spurs were punished for failing to assert themselves and Palace levelled eight minutes after the restart.

Scott Dann climbed highest from Jordan Ayew’s corner and his header eventually fell to Schlupp, who fired home from close range.

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Mourinho’s men were rattled and were on the back foot as Palace smelled blood.

They almost got lucky with one as a cross from the right bamboozled Hugo Lloris and hit the near post while Ayew fizzed an effort wide after Moussa Sissoko lost control in a dangerous area.

Spurs were living dangerously, failing to have a shot on target in the second half, and almost lost it in added time.

Palace forced a late free-kick and an inviting delivery was met by Dann, but his free header was placed wide.

The visitors nervously held on to ensure European qualification, with Mourinho and his staff celebrating at the end.

Elsewhere, Che Adams’ brace inspired Southampton to an impressive 3-1 comeback victory against his former club Sheffield United as Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men ended the season on a high.

Chris Wilder’s side have earned plenty of plaudits for a superb first season back in the Premier League and Saints also deserve immense credit for the way they have turned relegation form around.

Nobody could have foreseen Saints finishing 11th when they were humbled 9-0 by Leicester in October, but nine months on they blunted the Blades as Adams’ double and a Danny Ings penalty secured victory at St Mary’s.

Saints have been one of the stars of ‘Project Restart’ and head into the summer on the back of a seventh match unbeaten – something that had looked unlikely during a shaky first half.

Wilder’s men took the lead through John Lundstram and would have put the match to bed had the midfielder not been denied a second by the superb reflexes of Alex McCarthy.

Saints overcame that wobble and kicked on after the break, with Adams following a superb near-post finish with another emphatic strike midway through the second half.

Ings scored a penalty late on but fell one goal short of the Golden Boot after a season to cherish for the striker, with the Blades ending the season in ninth.

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