If Harry Kane does leave Tottenham in the summer then it is in this type of match they will miss him most of all. The England captain’s 28th goal of the season took him ahead of Wayne Rooney into second place in the Premier League’s all-time list of top scorers and delivered a first victory as interim head coach for Ryan Mason to revive their hopes of qualifying for European competition.
While this was far from a vintage performance against Roy Hodgson’s in-form Crystal Palace side who could feel hard done by not to have earned at least a point, none of that really matters when Spurs have Kane in this kind of form.
Created and scored by the striker who turns 30 in July, his 209th Premier League goal – only Alan Shearer on 260 is ahead of him – on the stroke of half-time could even be the incentive his team need to nail down a place in Europe for next season and perhaps even convince Kane that the grass is not always greener on the other side.
“He is a real example for young players to follow,” said Mason. “His goals get the headlines but fundamentally Harry is a team player and he inspires others to be better every time he plays. He is a special, special player.”
Already the Premier League’s youngest-ever manager after his first stint as a caretaker at the age of 29 in 2021, Mason gave away 44 years in experience to Hodgson, who handed him and Kane their England debuts back in 2015.
But having opted to drop Dejan Kulusevski, Eric Dier and Ivan Perisic after the dramatic defeat at Liverpool last weekend and field Pedro Porro in a more advanced position, he was rewarded by a committed performance that was just about enough to inflict a second defeat on Hodgson since he replaced Patrick Vieira in March.
“The only thing that stands between Harry and the record is if he can stay fit,” said the Palace manager, whose side find themselves back in the familiar position of 12th once again. “But we made life very difficult for Spurs at times.”
An early well-worked corner routine that led to a Joachim Andersen header across goal that just eluded Jordan Ayew was a warning of the threat Palace posed, although it was Tottenham who produced the first significant moment of danger when Cristian Romero’s header struck the bar from Porro’s corner.
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg was miles off target with another good chance after linking up with Kane, while Michael Olise – who was linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain this week – drilled a shot straight at Fraser Forster in the Tottenham goal. Two precise crosses from Olise in the space of 60 seconds also caused the Spurs defence problems as Palace pushed forward but, having conceded 15 goals in their past four matches, they stood firm.
That was to prove vital on the stroke of half-time when Kane took full advantage of some slack marking to spray the ball wide for Porro before emphatically powering home the Spaniard’s cross at the back post.
It was his 10th headed goal of the campaign – the first player to achieve that feat in the Premier League era – and the kind of finish he has made look routine over the years, although the question over what the future holds for Tottenham’s all-time top scorer remains, with Manchester United reportedly waiting in the wings.
Could the prospective appointment of Julian Nagelsmann after he reportedly held talks this week with the chairman, Daniel Levy, about taking over next season be enough to persuade Kane to stay?
Zaha also faces a pivotal summer in his career as he weighs up whether to sign a new four-year deal from Palace worth £200,000 a week or a seek a potential move away. The 30-year-old showed he has plenty to offer when his mazy run set up Eberechi Eze for a golden opportunity to equalise, only for him to drag his shot well wide.
Cheick Doucouré was more accurate with his effort after more dazzling feet from Zaha but found Forster equal to his effort. Sam Johnstone then had to be alert to tip Porro’s deflected shot over the bar.
Son Heung-min should have wrapped things up after racing through on goal from Romero’s long pass but he could not find a way past Johnstone before Andersen came close to equalising in the dying minutes only to be denied by a goalline clearance from, you guessed it, Kane.