West Bromwich Albion 0-1 Tottenham Hotspur
It was an all to brief encounter, but Jose Mourinho looked down upon his rivals from the Premier League summit and although playing the situation down, it was clearly the view Tottenham’s Portuguese chief is more than comfortable with.
He’s been here before of course. A different time and at a place somewhat less than appealing to the N17 faithful. But as he continues to shape for another potential tilt at the title, the answers came across far more pragmatic than those provided by the Mourinho from five years previous.
“When a team is champion or plays for the title, there is always a direct relation to your direct opponents,” he explained.
“I would say that this team could be champions in many European countries. The Premier League is the most difficult one to be because in the Premier League you can do a good season, can have lots of points, but in the end, Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea, Man United, Leicester, Arsenal.
“So you can have a good season and not be champion. So what can we do? We go match after match. We try to win, we don’t care about the others.”
On this occasion, the opposition provided Spurs with a resolute conundrum. Slaven Bilic’s West Brom side haven’t yet adapted to life back in the top flight and banked heavily on defending in numbers in a bid to stifle the Lilywhites considerable threat.
In the end, it was a familiar source which provided the decisive moment following a hard slog – Harry Kane glancing Matt Doherty’s centre beyond the stranded Sam Johnstone in the Baggies goal two minutes from time.
It was the England skippers 150th Premier League goal drawing praise from his manager: “When you go to stats in relation to the strikers, I always say that the stats should be how many goals has a striker scored, and what he did for his team in the matches where he didn’t score,” Mourinho said.
“And many of the strikers that history will show an incredible number of goals that they score, plus zero. Harry Kane, you have to say, has this many goals, this many assists, this number of balls recovered, this number of duels won, this number of balls that he saved his team in a defensive set-piece.
“This is Harry Kane. It’s goals plus this and this and this and that. For me, it’s not one more goal or one less goal, it’s about what he is as a player.”
Of course, by the time Mourinho had finished, the dynamics at the top of the Premier League had changed again. Leicester City’s win over Wolves lifting them into the top spot as this intriguing race continues to hot up.
But rather than slip back and suggest – ‘it was nice while it lasted’ – there is a believe growing that this Spurs group, who are learning to win in different ways, could be the real deal. And with an invigorated three-time Premier League title-winner at the helm, they might now possess the mental ingredient to experience that special feeling a little more as the campaign unfolds.
West Bromwich Albion: Johnstone, Bartley, Ajayi, O’Shea, Furlong, Gallagher, Livermore (Capt) (Edwards 89’), Krovinovic, Townsend, Robinson (Diangana 67’), Grant (Phillips 84) Subs not used: Button, Peltier, Gibbs, Sawyers
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris (Capt), Doherty, Alderweireld, Dier, Reguilon, Hojbjerg, Sissoko (Vinicius 78’), Ndombele (Lo Celso 64’), Bale (Lucas 78’), Son, Kane Subs not used: Hart, Aurier, Rodon, Davies