Richarlison has last laugh with Antonio Conte as Tottenham beat Forest


Tottenham delivered a professional response to their toothless Champions League exit at the hands of AC Milan on Wednesday night as they went six points clear of Liverpool in fourth place with a 3-1 victory over Nottingham Forest. Harry Kane struck twice in the first half for Antonio Conte’s rejuvenated side before Son Heung-min added gloss to the scoreline to mark the end of a difficult personal run of form. It was Steve Cooper’s relegation-threatened side who finished strongly, however, as captain Joe Worrall netted an 81st-minute consolation before Fraser Forster denied Andre Ayew from the penalty spot in stoppage time after Dejan Kulusevski handled in the area. Here are some of the key takings from the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Richarlison responds to Conte decision and earns applause

Although he did not get the goal his work-rate deserved, Richarlison issued a very respectable response following his midweek antics when he described Tottenham’s season as “s***” during an interview with TNT Sports following the stalemate with AC Milan.

Conte later declared on Friday that he felt Richarlison was actually critiquing his own season and that the remark was justified given the Brazilian’s injury struggles and failure to score a Premier League goal to date for Spurs.

But despite putting his £60million signing in his place, the Italian was prepared to reinstate Richarlison into his starting XI and the attacker responded well.

In fact, he had the ball in the net inside three minutes when he collective a long, lofted ball that went straight over the top of the Nottingham Forest defence before slamming home in style.

But following a lengthy VAR check, the goal was ruled out for the most marginal offside of all much to the fury of both Richarlison and the Tottenham crowd.

Yet he didn’t drop his head and instead, the former Everton man used his frustration as inspiration to help Tottenham impose some authority on the match in the final third.

He would later win a penalty that was converted by Kane after he was chopped down by Forest skipper Joe Worrall.

It wasn’t Richarlison’s afternoon in front of goal but his desire, commitment, spirit and determination was evident and his hard work was rewarded in the second half when he teed up Son Heung-min for Spurs’ third goal of the afternoon.

Conte loved his perseverance and applauded the assist as his side wrapped up all three points with 30 minutes of action left to play.

Spurs are undoubtedly a sexier side when Dejan Kulusevski is at the top of his game but that has not been the case for several months now and you can’t argue with the fact Richarlison epitomises 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 the hard-working perfomance with clapping and a hug.

Porro catches eye

After a promising cameo in Wednesday night’s excruciatingly painful draw with AC Milan, Pedro Porro finally started to show glimpses of the player Tottenham thought they signed from Sporting CP in January.

The powerful, strong-legged right wing-back was still a little shaky at points – one being when he was sent for a hotdog by Morgan Gibbs-White – but ultimately, he was a major asset from Tottenham when they went on the attack.

His crossing was a real weapon and he got his reward in the 19th minute when his floated cross found the head of Harry Kane, who planted his header beyond Keylor Navas and into the net.

Porro provided Spurs with attractive balance and his high and positive positioning allowed Richarlison to tuck into the centre of the field alongside Kane where he was a big threat.

At times, the Spaniard was almost operating as a right-winger as he displayed the attacking quality that Emerson Royal is so often lacking, despite the recent improvements he has made to his game.

The 23-year-old has a wide range of crossing styles and that was on display in the first half when he flung both lofted and whipped deliveries into the penalty area.

Kane was clearly relishing the volume of service from the right flank as he reached 20 Premier League goals for the sixth time in nine seasons in north London.

Kane exercises penalty demons

Harry Kane exercised any lingering mental demons from his World Cup quarter-final penalty heartbreak against France by burying his first spot-kick since blazing the ball over the ball in Qatar.

If there was ever any doubt over Kane’s mental toughness and mindset, this was perhaps a great game for him to blow away the penalty cobwebs given he had already given his side the lead.

Keylor Navas dived right and the England captain clipped the ball down the middle of the goal and into the top of the net to make it 2-0 to the hosts inside 35 minutes.

There was no over the top celebration from Kane, this was simply business as usual as he reached 20 top-flight goals this season with 10 matches left to play.

He makes finishing look effortless, although it must be noted that the contrast in pressure between here against Forest and against France in the last eight of the World Cup is simply incomparable.

Conte shows rare passion

Passion has always been Antonio Conte’s greatest asset but the life has quite literally been sucked out of the Italian in the past few months after undergoing an operation to remove his gallbladder.

He jokingly declared the club could sack him before his contract expired after the 0-0 draw with Milan and if that had been the case, not many Spurs fans would have complained.

But Tottenham were back to their best today and Conte was right at the heart of it. He paraded the touchline like a catwalk, shouting and hollering instructions at his fired-up players.

The Italian is largely expected to leave at the end of the season but as he said on Friday, he does look ready to “die for Tottenham” all the while he will be here, on the basis of this showing.

That hasn’t always been the case in recent weeks, when he has looked seriously disinterested as Tottenham’s season threatened to finish with a whimper. Here he was invested and Spurs were better for it.

Forest dismal as lack of midfield quality proves detrimental

Besides a few bright half-chances on the counter-attack, this was another really lacklustre away performance from Nottingham Forest besides a spirited finish.

For a team that has been so impressive on home soil, they really need to fix their struggles on the road or they could be dragged back into the relegation dogfight.

Steve Cooper’s issues stem from midfield, where there is just not another quality to manoeuvre the ball forward into the players that can hurt the opposition.

Jonjo Shelvey looked off the pace and Tottenham were overrun by Oliver Skipp and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in the middle of the park, which allowed Spurs to gain a foothold.

Forest’s real danger man are Morgan Gibbs-White and Brennan Johnson but they did not see enough of the ball on this occasion.


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