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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Jacob Steinberg at Craven Cottage

Harry Kane equals Spurs’ all-time scoring record in win at Fulham

Harry Kane scores Tottenham’s first goal against Fulham.
Harry Kane scores Tottenham’s winner against Fulham from outside the penalty area. Photograph: Simon Dael/Shutterstock

Touch, turn, shoot. This was Harry Kane making the art of goal-scoring look like the easiest thing in the world. Fulham did not know what had hit them. One minute they had the biggest threat on the pitch under control; the next Kane was swivelling into space and pulling back his right foot before wheeling away to celebrate the goal that finally drew him level with the late Jimmy Greaves as Tottenham’s record scorer.

It was the 266th strike of the forward’s Spurs career and, as the ball nestled in the back of the Fulham net, it was tempting to wonder where this team would be without him. As ever, it was not exactly a flowing performance from Antonio Conte’s team. They were outplayed by Fulham at times and, although they were professional enough to see out a win that lifts them three points below fourth-placed Manchester United, their overall display hardly suggested that they are about to shake off the inconsistency blunting their hopes of Champions League qualification.

Yet if anything gives this plodding side a chance it is Kane. Much like Greaves, he does not hang around when there is a chance to shoot. The technique is usually perfect and it is no wonder that United hope to convince Kane to leave Spurs this summer. It is a fascinating situation, the biggest decision of Kane’s career, and one that will surely have a bearing on whether Conte decides to extend his stay in north London.

The mood away from the pitch remains uncertain at Spurs. The snippy tone begins with Conte, who continues to give no indication that he wants to extend his deal when it runs out at the end of the season, but a sulky manager is not the only problem. There is also a sense of drift in the boardroom, with pressure growing on Daniel Levy. Nothing heightened that impression more than one of the subplots around this game being the alleged false accounting at Juventus somehow impacting Spurs, who do not know if their director of football, Fabio Paratici, will be banned from operating on transfers because of the situation at his former club.

This is not a happy ship at the moment and it was not a surprise to see Conte’s team make the usual slow start. It was all too passive from the visitors. All the early enterprise came from Fulham. They snapped into Spurs, Aleksandar Mitrovic pressuring Eric Dier into conceding an early corner, and they almost led when a cross reached Harrison Reed, who volleyed straight at Hugo Lloris.

Spurs, who had angered Conte by conceding 21 goals in their previous 10 league games, needed to wake up. They had already seen Lloris save from Kenny Tete after sloppy distribution from Cristian Romero, but signs of an improvement took a while to materialise. Fulham were pressing and did not merely want to play pretty football. The style was accompanied by occasional snarl – take the moment when João Palhinha took out Pierre-Emile Højbjerg – and the hunger was epitomised by Willian’s industry on the left wing.

Slowly but surely, though, Spurs found some control. The back three began to handle Mitrovic and chances arrived at the other end. There was a warning from Kane, who whistled a shot over from 20 yards, then a drive from Emerson Royal that forced Bernd Leno to react smartly at his near post.

Aleksandar Mitrovic of Fulham and Cristian Romero of Tottenham battle for the ball.
Aleksandar Mitrovic and Cristian Romero battle for the ball. Photograph: Simon Dael/Shutterstock

Fulham’s passing grew ragged and Spurs punished them. There was a long spell of pressure just before half-time, with Dejan Kulusevski causing problems, and the opener arrived when Højbjerg found Son Heung-min, who dribbled forward and slipped a pass to Kane.

It was over to the England captain at that stage. So what if Kane had his back to goal and was surrounded by white shirts? It all happened in a flash: Kane spinning away from a bewildered Tim Ream and then, before anyone could close him down, using the inside of his right foot to shape a beautiful effort round the bodies, leaving Leno rooted to the spot as the ball whizzed beyond him.

Here was the master goalscorer at work, the depth of Kane’s imagination, the versatility of his forward play, and the speed and efficiency of his finishing lifting him above everyone else on the pitch. But Fulham had to respond. They made a strong start to the second half, Bobby Decordova-Reid full of eager running on the right, and only brave defending from Dier denied Palhinha an equaliser.

Yet Fulham needed more conviction. Spurs looked comfortable and could have extended their lead when Ben Davies sent a header into the six-yard box for Kane. Only stunning reflexes from Leno prevented Spurs from going 2-0 up.

It did not matter. Fulham, who could have gone above Spurs with a win, were limited to one tame header from Mitrovic. Kane’s ruthlessness made the difference.

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