LONDON – Tottenham Hotspur edged closer to a third consecutive season in the Champions League despite a laboured performance, as goals from Dele Alli and Harry Kane saw off Watford 2-0 at Wembley.
A first win in four games re-establishes Spurs’ five-point lead over fifth-placed Chelsea with just three games of the Premier League season to go.
An 11th defeat in their last 12 away games leaves Watford still in need of a point to mathematically secure survival.
But the visitors were left to rue a host of missed chances after matching the under-par hosts for long spells.
A bright start from Watford was undermined on 16 minutes when goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis spilled a simple cross from the right.
The loose ball fell kindly to Christian Eriksen, and he teed up Alli to tap home his fourth goal in five games.
Watford had more than enough chances to be at least level at the break, but were denied by a return to form by Hugo Lloris.
The French number one had cost his side with a series of errors in recent weeks, but Lloris stood up well to block from Andre Grey with Watford’s first opportunity.
A purposeful run and deflected shot from Abdoulaye Doucoure then stung Lloris’ palms.
And the Spurs captain got down well low to his left to deny Jose Holebas before rushing from his line to tackle Doucoure as Tottenham lost control of midfield for the latter part of the opening half.
However, having escaped unscathed, Mauricio Pochettino’s men doubled their lead within three minutes of the second period.
An inopportune slip prevented Kane turning home Son Heung-min’s initial cross, but the England international quickly picked himself up to slot home when Kieran Trippier flashed the loose ball back across goal for his 38th goal of the season.
Watford have now not scored in eight straight away games, and it was easy to see why, as more chances came and went for the visitors, most notably when Richarlison blasted well over with the goal at his mercy.
And even when Watford did finally put the ball in the net through substitute Gerard Deulofeu, the on-loan Barcelona winger was flagged for offside.
Kane was also denied a second by the offside flag, but it made little difference to the outcome as Spurs bounced back from their FA Cup semi-final disappointment at the hands of Manchester United last weekend.
That defeat ensured Pochettino will still be without a trophy as Spurs boss after four seasons in charge.
However, sustained progress in terms of Champions League qualification ahead of a move to the club’s new 62 000-capacity stadium could be confirmed as early as this weekend should Chelsea fail to beat Liverpool.