Tottenham made a winning start to the 2017-18 Premier League season as 10-man Newcastle endured a difficult return to the top flight.
The Magpies, promoted as winners of the Championship last term, had captain Jonjo Shelvey sent off early in the second half for standing on Dele Alli.
The Spurs attacker then put his side ahead with a close-range finish before Ben Davies finished off a neat move for Tottenham’s second.
It was a harsh re-introduction to life back in the Premier League for Newcastle, who were relegated from the division at the end of the 2015-16 season.
Rafael Benitez’s side did not really threaten Hugo Lloris in the Tottenham goal until late on, Christian Atsu forcing the goalkeeper into a low save and Ciaran Clark going close with a volley from 12 yards.
Instead, Spurs could have added to their lead as Harry Kane, last season’s Premier League top scorer with 29 goals, struck the post in injury time.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?
Tottenham are the only Premier League side yet to make any signings this summer and the lack of transfer activity has frustrated some fans, especially after the sale of right-back Kyle Walker to Manchester City for £45m.
Mauricio Pochettino’s team were runners-up to an imperious Chelsea side last season but finished the campaign strongly, winning 12 and losing one of their final 13 league games.
It could therefore be argued that the adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ suits Spurs. Alli and Christian Eriksen combined to score or assist 48 goals for Tottenham in 2016-17 and it was little surprise both were involved in the opener, Eriksen setting up his team-mate to finish at the back post.
Pochettino also boasts an excellent record of promoting players from the club’s academy at the correct time. Walker’s place at right-back was filled by 20-year-old youth product Kyle Walker-Peters, a World Cup winner with England Under-20s over the summer, and the youngster put in a man-of-the-match display with some strong runs and crosses.
Shelvey dismissal the turning point
Newcastle, while lacking bite, were good value for a point until Shelvey’s sending off.
The 25-year-old, who was banned for five games last season after being found guilty of making racist comments towards Wolves midfielder Romain Saiss, stood on Alli’s ankle in the 49th minute. Just 12 minutes later Spurs took the lead.
Shelvey’s dismissal means Newcastle will now be without the influential midfielder for their next three games – against Huddersfield and West Ham in the Premier League and Nottingham Forest in the EFL Cup.
Newcastle midfielder Christian Atsu revealed after the game that Shelvey had apologised to his team-mates.
“That’s football – mistakes do happen,” Atsu told Sky Sports. “He’ll learn from his mistakes.
“He’s upset with himself. He thinks he let the team down. We are really behind him. We believe he will come back stronger. He apologised to everyone.”
Alli, meanwhile, said “there was no need” for Shelvey to react as he did.
“I’m sure he’ll be disappointed,” said the Tottenham attacker. “It was important we stayed professional. I don’t want to talk about it too much.
“I’ve been pulled up for my temper before but today we had to keep our cool. There was no need to react today.”
Toon troubles highlight the need to strengthen
Of the three teams promoted to the Premier League – Newcastle, Brighton and Huddersfield – Rafael Benitez’s side are the ones who have been backed by many as the most likely to flourish.
However, Benitez has been frustrated in his efforts to build a squad capable of doing just that.
Newcastle brought in five players over the summer, defenders Florian Lejeune and Javier Manquillo and midfielders Mikel Merino, Atsu and Jacob Murphy, but the club missed out on some of Benitez’s targets.
Sunday’s match highlighted their need to strengthen in one area in particular – attack. The last time Newcastle hosted Tottenham, in May last year, the Magpies ran out 5-1 winners but there was never any danger of a repeat of that scoreline.
The hosts managed just one shot on target in more than an hour before finishing with a flourish but by then Tottenham were 2-0 up and had slowed down the tempo of their own attacks.
Shevley’s dismissal, coupled with the first-half departure of defenders Paul Dummett and Lejeune to injury, will only strengthen Benitez’s desire to add to his squad before the end of the month.
Man of the match – Kyle Walker-Peters
What the said
Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez to BBC Sport: “It was difficult from the beginning. We had to adapt things [after injuries]. The red card changed everything. I think we were defending well. We have to improve. We had our chances but we missed them.”
He thought Harry Kane’s foul on Florian Lejeune, which resulted in a yellow card and an injury, was worse than Jonjo Shelvey’s stamp on Dele Alli, for which he was sent off.
“The Harry Kane tackle was worse than this one. It’s more dangerous. We lost one player from that. We made a mistake, but I think maybe someone has to analyse these things to see what’s more dangerous.”
Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino to BBC Sport: “We knew how they play, so narrow and deep. It was difficult to move the ball quickly. We had control and we were helped by the red card but I think we deserved to win the game.
“It was not easy to find the space and create chances. It’s important to improve. In a stadium that doesn’t have good memories for us, it was important to win. It was a clear red card.
“If Harry Kane had scored to make it 3-0 at the end, that would have been a bit more fair.”
Putting promoted sides to the sword – the stats
- Tottenham have won 29 of their last 31 Premier League games against newly-promoted sides, drawing the other two.
- Dele Alli has scored 13 Premier League goals in 2017; among English players, only Harry Kane (21) has scored more.
- Shelvey has been sent off twice under Rafael Benitez at Newcastle, more than any other player. He was also red carded in a Championship match at Nottingham Forest in December 2016.
- Since the start of the 2015-16 season, Christian Eriksen has assisted more Premier League goals than any other player (30).
- Florian Lejeune became the 200th French player to feature in the Premier League and also the 27th to represent Newcastle, more than any other side in the competition’s history.
- Spurs have now won 13 of their past 14 Premier League games (L1), winning each of their past four, scoring 17 goals in the process.
- Ben Davies has scored twice in his past two Premier League appearances, as many as in his previous 102 combined.
- None of the past 10 winners of the Championship have won their opening match in the Premier League the following season (D2 L8).
- This was Rafael Benitez’s first home Premier League defeat against Spurs, having won five and drawn three of his previous eight matches on home soil against them.
Newcastle were promoted with Huddersfield from the Championship last season and the two sides meet at the Terriers’ John Smith’s Stadium on Saturday (13:30 BST).
Tottenham, meanwhile, have the chance to deliver an early blow to title rivals Chelsea. Spurs host Antonio Conte’s men at Wembley on Sunday, 20 August (16:00 BST).
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