The budding connection between Harry Kane and Gareth Bale makes a compelling case for José Mourinho to throw caution to the wind on a more regular basis. There have been too many occasions this season when Tottenham have sat back on slender leads and invited pressure before throwing points away. It has become a costly habit and, on the evidence of this destruction of Crystal Palace, a wholly unnecessary one.
With two elite forwards operating on the same wavelength, Spurs had no need for negativity. Kane and Bale were quite the double act, combining to devastating effect against a limited Palace side. The former was splendid in his dual role as incisive playmaker and lethal finisher, while the latter’s resurgence has given Spurs a new lease of life and an excellent chance of Champions League qualification. Mourinho, so sullen a few weeks ago, suddenly finds himself with an attack that can take on anyone; his task is making the most of it.
Palace can certainly attest to the danger of Kane’s partnership with Bale and the added satisfaction for Mourinho was how his side responded after conceding an equaliser to Christian Benteke at the end of the first half. Spurs were controlled. Kane provided his second assist of the night for Bale, who is looking sharper with every outing, and went on to kill the contest with two clinical strikes, the first a glorious shot from 20 yards. “He is there with the best strikers,” Mourinho said. “I wouldn’t change him for anyone.”
Spurs, who are up to sixth and two points behind fourth-placed Chelsea after three consecutive wins, had punched through Palace’s low block. Although Dele Alli was on the bench after impressing in last Thursday’s win at Fulham, the hosts were rampant, with Lucas Moura impressive in the No 10 position. “It was enthusiastic,” Mourinho said. “Minute 35 to 46 we lost control. The goal was a consequence. But the first half was not bad and the second half was very good.”
Palace, who stuck with the template from their goalless draws with Fulham and Manchester United, had set out to absorb pressure. Rather than offering any surprises, the visitors simply relied on plenty of organisation and workrate in their old-fashioned 4-4-2.
The pattern of play meant that Palace were at their most vulnerable when they had the ball. Uncomfortable when Spurs exerted a high press, they conceded an awful goal in the 25th minute. Luka Milivojevic was culpable, dithering near his own area. Moura dispossessed the midfielder and the ball broke to Kane, who crossed for Bale to score from close range.
Starting for the fourth consecutive game, Bale was a constant threat. The 31-year-old winger almost had an early assist when he cut inside from the right before crossing for Son Heung-min, who headed straight at Vicente Guaita, and it should have been 2-0 when another of his centres found Sergio Reguilón, who volleyed wide.
Reguilón’s miss gave Mourinho cause for concern. After offering nothing as an attacking force, Palace pushed Spurs back before equalising in added time, Milivojevic atoning for his error by crossing for Benteke, who crept in front of Toby Alderweireld before planting a header beyond Hugo Lloris.
It was a goal that demonstrated why Mourinho struggles to trust his defence. Palace had scored out of nothing and were sufficiently emboldened to make a positive change at the break, removing the disappointing Eberechi Eze for Wilfried Zaha, who was available after shaking off a hamstring injury.
Yet there was barely time for Zaha to have a touch before Bale took charge, driving inside from the right in the 49th minute and spraying the ball out to Reguilón. The left-back took a touch before sending a deep cross to the far post. The danger looked minimal but Kane was more alert than Palace’s defenders and headed the ball back into the six-yard box for Bale, who was perfectly placed to nod past Guaita.
Kane swiftly followed his 13th assist in the league with more inspiration. Once again Palace did not appear to be in any significant danger when Bale sent a pass down the right for Matt Doherty. But when the right-back found Kane, the forward surprised Palace by using the inside of his right foot to whip a first-time shot past Guaita.
Although Zaha hit a post, Palace were beaten and lie eight points above the bottom three. Erik Lamela came on for Bale and helped create the fourth with a chip to Son, who gave Kane a tap-in. The goal survived a VAR review for offside and Mourinho could celebrate an emphatic win.