LONDON – Tottenham celebrated the opening of the club’s state-of-the-art new stadium by ending a five-game winless Premier League run with a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Wednesday.
Second-half goals from Son Heung-min and Christian Eriksen ensured Spurs got off to the perfect start at their new home, and moved Mauricio Pochettino’s side back up to third at the expense of north London rivals Arsenal.
The Gunners have a game in hand over Tottenham, but victory also maintained a slender one-point lead over fifth-placed Chelsea, and opened up a three-point advantage over Manchester United in the race for a top-four finish.
Pochettino underlined the need for what he believes is the “best stadium in the world” to have Champions League football next season before kickoff.
The Argentine hailed his players as “heroes” for remaining in the top-four fight, despite playing nearly an entire second season at a temporary home in Wembley.
However, a run of just one point from their last five league games has left them with plenty of work still to do in their remaining six matches.
After 690 days since saying goodbye to the old White Hart Lane, Spurs returned home with plenty of pre-match pomp and ceremony, with an operatic performance of “Glory Glory Tottenham Hotspur” and fireworks before kickoff.
Yet, the hosts were nearly caught cold in the opening minutes when Kieran Trippier lost the run of Jeffrey Schlupp, and the Ghanian fired wastefully over.
That was Palace’s only effort of the first 45 minutes as Tottenham dominated without much cutting edge.
Eriksen and Son forced saves from Vicente Guaita, but the best opening fell to the wrong man from Spurs’ point of view when Danny Rose tried to pick out Harry Kane in the middle rather than go for goal himself just before the break.
At halftime, Spurs were facing the prospect of dropping out of the top four for the first time since November, with Chelsea beating Brighton at Stamford Bridge.
And it was an on-loan Chelsea striker who nearly did his parent club a huge favour five minutes into the second half, when Michy Batshuayi curled just beyond Hugo Lloris’ far post.
Pochettino’s men were left lamenting their luck when Toby Alderweireld’s last-minute own goal cost them a deserved point at Liverpool on Sunday.
But they had fortune on their side moments later, to the huge relief of most of the near 60 000 in attendance.
Son’s shot was headed straight down Guaita’s throat, until a big deflection off Luka Milivojevic left the Spaniard completely wrong-footed as the ball rolled into the bottom corner.
From then on, a seventh straight league win over Palace for Spurs rarely looked in doubt.
Kane could have capped a momentous night for the club by grabbing his first goal on the new ground, but put too much power on his effort that sailed high and wide.
However, the England captain was involved in the goal that sealed a vital three points as he broke into the area 10 minutes from time, and the ball fell kindly for Eriksen to force home from close range.AFP