Son Heung-min 55 Eriksen 80
CRYSTAL PALACE 0
AT TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR STADIUM
The inherent problem with sitting back and hoping not to concede for 90 minutes is that it only takes a solitary mistake to unravel the game plan.
So it proved at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Heung-min Son picked up the ball on the right following not one, not two but at least three errors from Crystal Palace, cut inside and with the aid of a significant deflection off Luka Milivojevic, became the first person to score at this brand new ground.
Christian Eriksen would double the lead late on and cap a positive night for the hosts.
It was a grandiose opening ceremony, complete with fireworks shooting off the roof of the stadium. When it got loud, it was deafening, both ends behind the goal designed to maximise the atmosphere. The Palace fans played their part, but this was of course Tottenham’s night.
There were early sparks when Jeffrey Schlupp blazed over after bursting into the box, and at the other end, Patrick van Aanholt was alert to stop Eriksen but that was almost as good as it got for the first half.
It was Eriksen who almost christened the new stadium with its opening goal after 15 minutes following an excellent team move which ended in Kieran Trippier cutting the ball back to the Danish midfielder but he slightly scuffed his shot and Vicente Guaita was able to get down to prevent it from rippling the net.
Counter-attacking has served the Eagles well this season on their travels and their away form over the previous six matches was the second best in the league, but the intent was even more defensive here.
Batshuayi did have an opportunity early in the second half when he cut back inside and curled an effort narrowly wide of Hugo Lloris’ goal.
But this was a thoroughly underwhelming night in north London. Palace came here to avoid defeat, and for 55 minutes it seemed like there would be no goal to mark the occasion from either side, but Son had other ideas.
Hodgson has done well since joining Palace, and they are more or less out of the relegation battle, but his lack of alternative plan when his side concede the first goal is alarming.
Essentially, they bypass the midfield, with three combative battlers in the centre. Only James McArthur truly provided any semblance of attacking contribution.
Kouyate fails to offer anything with the ball at his feet, while Milivojevic is a defensive midfielder first and foremost. Their play is grating at times, misplaced passes equally frustrating.
Indeed, Martin Kelly epitomised this when he tried to thread a ball through on half way, only to pass straight to a white shirt. Harry Kane was in on goal almost instantly, but fluffed his lines by firing over.
Some will view things differently, pointing to the defensive strength for most of the game, the lack of clear-cut opportunities for the hosts, but this was a poor performance from Palace.
Hodgson’s in-game management has been inconsistent this season, it worked perfectly against Huddersfield on Saturday, and yet with less than 20 minutes remaining he had not made a single change in tactics or personnel. It made little sense.
The away supporters were restless. Cries of “Hodgson, make a sub” were audible, and not for the first time this campaign. For every two steps forward, it’s a step back. When things seem to be changing, they revert.
Zaha seldom had the chance to run at Ben Davies throughout the game, but when he did with just four minutes remaining, he worked his way past the left-back and unloaded an effort on goal only to see Lloris save well. A rare foray forward.
It was yet another misplaced pass from Kelly which allowed Spurs to double their lead. Kane protruded into the area and as he was tackled the loose ball fell to Eriksen to slot home.
Spurs were professional to the last, they were patient, worked the ball well and despite wasting a handful of decent openings, were clinical enough to punish Palace, who, incidentally, registered their only shot on target very much near the end of the 90 minutes.
But, for the Eagles, this was another disappointing game.
Crystal Palace (4-2-3-1) Guaita 7, Wan-Bissaka 7, Kelly 5, Tomkins 7, Van Aanholt 5, McArthur 5, Milivojevic 5, Kouyate 4 (Townsend 79), Zaha 5, Schlupp 5, Batshuayi 5 (Benteke 81). Not used: Hennessey, Ward, Dann, Meyer, Ayew.