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Men’s football Conte’s Spurs make a statement with comfortable 4-1 win over Saints

Spurs 4-1 Southampton
by Bella Katz 
at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

THE Premier League returned to screens this weekend to the delight of fans across the country, and Spurs took full advantage of their first full pre-season under Antonio Conte to come back with a bang and thrash Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Southampton 4-1 at home.

A sea of travelling fans dressed in red and white celebrated wildly when Saints captain James Ward-Prowse floated a stunning right-footed shot past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, to give his side the lead 12 minutes in. 

That was the high point for Southampton, as it only got worse in the remaining 80 or so minutes — sometimes it can be a curse to score the first goal. 

A dejected Hasenhuttl discussed what went wrong for his side after Ward-Prowse’s opening goal: “It felt a little bit like the opponent switched into the next gear and we cannot follow,” he said.

“This was frustrating to see how big the gap is between the two teams. After the first goal we had the feeling they were absolutely in the game and they smashed us with their crosses and we couldn't defend.”

Tottenham didn’t wait long to fight back in the sunshine at N17, and equalised with a strike from Ryan Sessegnon just nine minutes later, assisted by an on-form Dejan Kulusevski, who angled an inch-perfect long ball for the young left-back to tuck away.

The 22-year-old Swede’s performance really stood out, with his consistent creativity and immaculate ball control. He appears to have hit the ground running since joining Spurs back in January, and will almost certainly be an integral part of Conte’s plans to end their notorious trophy drought. 

Another chance for Spurs came as a Cristian Romero long ball met Heung-Min Son, who went one-on-one with Saints keeper Gavin Bazunu, who managed to make a strong save.

Bazunu’s luck soon ran out though, as moments later Son took a corner and Eric Dier headed home for Spurs to make it 2-1.

Just before the break, Son saw a chance to get on the scoresheet himself, but couldn’t quite get the angle right and ended up firing over and into the north stand.

Sessegnon attempted to secure himself a brace in the first moments of the second half, and although the ball rolled into the back of the net, the linesman rightly called offside.  

It was heartbreak for the Saints after Emerson Royal took a shot on goal, with defender Mohammed Salisu taking a deflection and instead of clearing it to safety, he found the oppositions’ net.

A Kulusevski strike assisted by Royal hit the back of the net in the 63rd minute, and kept Spurs marching on to secure three points in the opening weekend.

New signing Ivan Perisic made an appearance in the second half, replacing Sessegnon, as did Clement Lenglet and Yves Bissouma, who debuted his number 38 shirt.

A handful of other chances arose for Southampton, but it was nothing that Lloris couldn’t deal with fairly comfortably. 

Conte gave as passionate a performance as ever on the touchline, and seemed satisfied with the conclusion of his side’s first game of the season. He gave insight into his decision over the starting line-up, after leaving his latest signings on the bench for the opening half: “My message was very clear. I trust a lot in the old players and in this moment they are more reliable than the new players because they need to continue to work with us and to implement their football knowledge.

“With the old players, I am a step forward than the new players. For this reason, I prefer to count on the old players. I think that it was right after this game and the final result.

“But I am really happy because we have new signings who will go into our process and they will help us to improve but at the same time they have to know that they have to fight and give me the possibility to rotate.”

“Now we are going to play one game in a week, but in September we start to play every three days and for sure I have to rotate. It's important for a club like Tottenham to not drop the level or drop the quality when rotating,” he added.

“I think it was the first target and I was very clear with the club and the club totally agreed with me.”

 

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