BY SAM SMITH
An emphatic first-half performance by Tottenham Hotspur dismantled a below-par Crystal Palace in north London.
The Eagles had only conceded twice in the Premier League before this, but the hosts were dominant and scored all four of their goals before half-time. Harry Winks firing over and Heung-min Son testing Vicente Guaita inside the first two minutes were just a taster of what was to come.
It was Son who gave Spurs the lead. The forward cut inside Mamadou Sakho and Gary Cahill before rolling into the net via the post.
Tottenham right-back Serge Aurier was starting a Premier League game for the first time since February 23 but caused Patrick van Aanholt several problems. The 26-year-old twice created goals in quick succession midway through the first half.
First, Van Aanholt failed to intercept the initial pass to the Ivorian and inadvertently converted the resultant cross when attempting to chase back. the Dutchman and Andros Townsend then allowed Aurier too much time to pick out Son at the back post – who had peeled away from Joel Ward and side-footed low into the net.
This was the polar opposite of the performances you have come to expect from Palace away to top six sides. Against Manchester United last month, the Eagles were tight and compact – but here they were easily picked apart. In attack, Cahill should have scored early on after Sakho kept alive a free-kick, but all they could muster thereafter were speculative efforts from range.
And their misery was compounded two minutes before half-time. Another sweeping Spurs move ended with Harry Kane teeing up the unmarked Erik Lamela to squeeze his shot under Guaita.
The Palace goalkeeper denied Winks a fifth Tottenham goal just 14 seconds after the Eagles had kicked off for the second half. Roy Hodgson’s side were improved on their woeful first half – Wilfried Zaha began to see more of the ball and his trickery earned several free-kicks – but the South Londoners remained inferior.
And while they were keeping the score down, there was further worry when Cheikhou Kouyate was forced off with what appeared to be a knee injury. Christian Benteke and James McCarthy were brought on but still the visitors lacked impetus.
Benteke created an opportunity to score a consolation but his deflected effort was easily held by Hugo Lloris. Zaha also found the Frenchman difficult to beat on a frustrating afternoon.