Harry Kane showed his renewed commitment to his club’s cause by scoring twice on his first start of the season. Passage to the group stages of the Europa Conference League, which Giovani Lo Celso secured by claiming a third goal, may not be the summit of Spurs’ ambitions but Kane’s role in a rousing team performance lifted the mood music around Tottenham.
A day after pledging his immediate future to Spurs, and perhaps while still trying to block out envious thoughts about the draw for the group stages of the Champions League, Kane made his first start of the season – in Europe’s third-tier club competition.
Entrusted with the captain’s armband after shelving his Manchester City leanings, he represented the ultimate available upgrade to Spurs’ attack after last week’s limp 1-0 defeat in the first leg. Lucas Moura also proved to be a dynamic addition to a lineup that featured eight of the players who started that loss.
Spurs fans cheered Kane on to the pitch and Cristian Romero, who gave an accomplished performance in central defence, presented him with a chance to raise the volume higher within 20 seconds of kick-off. But after taking down the defender’s splendid diagonal pass, Kane steered his shot wide as the goalkeeper André Ferreira closed him down. That merely delayed the almost inevitable.
Kane opened the scoring for the dominant hosts in the ninth minute. Harry Winks was the instigator, personifying the hosts’ vigour by sliding in to win the ball in midfield and then releasing Bryan Gil down the left. From the byline the impressive Spaniard picked out Kane, who took a touch to control the ball before prodding it past Ferreira from seven yards.
With Gil and Moura incisive on the flanks and Winks and Lo Celso progressive in midfield behind Kane, who alternated between dropping deep and leading the line, Spurs threatened to overwhelm their opponents. They were aggressive, smart and incisive. Lo Celso dodged two defenders in the box in the 17th minute and sent the ball rolling towards the back post, where Ryan Sessegnon tried to help it into the net but could not get a touch.
Gil struck the post with a deflected shot from the edge of the area just after the half-hour, and it seemed only a matter of time before Spurs would get themselves in front on aggregate. Very little time, as it turned out: Kane scored his second in the 34th minute, slotting into the net from 10 yards after a blocked shot by Lo Celso.
Paços, who sit 12th in the Portuguese league, were technically adroit but struggled to match Spurs’ energy and quality. They approached the second half the same as the first, keeping compact while seeking chances to break. But Spurs had no intention of easing off. Lo Celso curled a free-kick inches wide in the 50th minute.
After that Paços grew bolder, their hints of menace reminding Spurs that the lead was precarious. Lo Celso should have secured it but scuffed his shot after high-class service from Matt Doherty. Then Gil drilled wide after another slick move. Lo Celso finally made sure of the win with unwitting assistance from Vitorino Antunes, who helped flick the Argentinian’s free-kick from the right into his own goal.
Then Nuno Espírito Santo withdrew Kane to save him for this Sunday and – perhaps – his first league start of the season. “He did a good job,” said Nuno. “He’s improving. He had his chances and scored and that’s the best help he can give the team. We are happy we can count on Harry.”