LONDON – If this was a first taste of life without Harry Kane for Tottenham, maybe that prospect isn't so terrifying after all.
At least not while Son Heung-min is still at the club.
Son netted a second-half winner Sunday as Tottenham opened the Premier League season with an impressive 1-0 home victory over defending champion Manchester City — the team that has spent the summer trying to buy its talisman striker.
New Tottenham manager Nuno Espirito Santo left Kane out of his team altogether amid continued speculation about a pending move to City, but still ended up with a statement victory on his debut.
Son finished off a quick counterattack in the 55th minute and Tottenham effectively neutralized City’s many attacking threats in front of a packed home stadium of about 58,000 fans.
“I think this means a lot for us, for the start of the season,” Son said. “First game, with the fans finally, it’s just an incredible performance.”
Kane’s absence was the big pregame talking point, although Nuno said the decision was made solely because the England striker only returned to full training on Friday after his holiday.
Son insisted the Tottenham players had no difficulties putting all the speculation aside.
“We are all professionals. We wanted to focus on this game,” Son said. “Obviously, Harry is so, so important for us. But let’s see.”
Based on this performance, City might need Kane more than Spurs do — especially after letting Sergio Aguero leave on a free transfer this summer.
This was the final game of a crowd-pleasing opening Premier League weekend and City was the only big title contender that failed to start with a win. Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool all opened with big victories on Saturday.
City dominated possession but struggled to break down a disciplined Tottenham side, which was content to sit back and wait for opportunities to counter.
“You see the stats, the intention to create chances, to create much more," City manager Pep Guardiola said. "Unfortunately we were not clinical enough.”
City’s record signing Jack Grealish showed early flashes of his abilities — breaking forward in the opening minutes to draw a free kick just outside the area — but missed his best chance to score when his shot from a tight angle was easily saved by Hugo Lloris in the 75th.
Riyad Mahrez had City’s best chance of the game in the 35th when he met a cross from Raheem Sterling but shot wide after failing to cleanly connect with the ball.
Son had already threatened on a couple of counterattacks by the time he put Spurs ahead. The South Korea international collected the ball down the right flank, drove at defender Nathan Ake and then cut inside to bend a low shot inside the far post.
Steven Bergwijn had a great chance to double the lead on another counter just before the hour mark, but shot wide.
Guardiola brought Kevin De Bruyne off the bench in search of an equalizer and the Belgian forced a save from Lloris with a dipping shot from distance in the 84th.
Tottenham will hope it was the kind of performance that could help convince Kane to stay at Spurs after all. And Nuno insisted he expects to soon have the striker back in the team.
“Look, Harry is one of the best players in the world, honestly," Nuno said. “So we are very lucky to have him. So he has to get ready and help the team.”
HAMMERS FIGHT BACK
In Sunday's early game, West Ham twice came from a goal down to beat Newcastle 4-2 in an entertaining encounter at St James’ Park.
Callum Wilson put Newcastle ahead in just the fifth minute and the game continued at a furious pace until the final whistle, with West Ham scoring three unanswered goals in 14 second-half minutes to get the win.
Aaron Cresswell scored the visitors’ first equalizer in the 18th minute but Newcastle retook the lead five minutes before the end of an entertaining first half as Jacob Murphy headed home a cross from Matt Ritchie.
West Ham hit back again eight minutes after halftime, with Said Benrahma heading in at the back post following a cross from Michail Antonio.
West Ham then got a penalty when Antonio's header hit the post and landed in front of Murphy, who was adjudged to have brought down Pablo Fornals in the area in an attempt to clear the ball. Goalkeeper Freddie Woodman saved Antonio’s penalty, but Soucek converted the rebound in the 63rd.
Antonio netted the fourth just three minutes later after a quick counter.
“It was a really good game, if you were a neutral you would have said it was a good game of football, plenty of action at both ends,” West Ham manager David Moyes said.
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