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Son cures Tottenham's Champions League hangover with second-half winner

It took Tottenham Hotspur until around 1 p.m. local time on Sunday afternoon to snap out of its Champions League-induced slumber. And it might have taken longer, if not for the ever-ebullient Son Heung-Min.

The Korean forward woke up a sleepy Wembley Stadium and a sleepy Spurs team with a fantastic left-footed strike that earned Tottenham a 1-0 victory over 20th-place Crystal Palace.

Having beaten Real Madrid on Wednesday, and with Dele Alli, Toby Alderweireld and Hugo Lloris out injured, Spurs were shaky and slow for much of the afternoon. There was a clear letdown after the emotion and quality of the 3-1 midweek victory.

Crystal Palace came the closer of the two sides to scoring in the first half. Tottenham third-string goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga was far from convincing on two occasions. On one, two minutes into the match, he flew out to a cross, but hesitated, and clattered into Mamadou Sakho:


In the second half, Serge Aurier played a halfhearted, sloppy pass near midfield with Spurs having committed numbers forward. Andros Townsend took the gift and played in Wilfried Zaha. Gazzaniga again hesitated, eventually came for the long through-ball, but didn’t get there in time. Zaha rounded the Argentine keeper, but placed his shot past the far post of a gaping net.


Gazzaniga, however, also had to come up with several crucial saves to pick up his defense. Spurs’ vulnerability was no one player’s fault. It was a team-wide lethargy that allowed Palace to assert itself in the game from the opening kickoff and stay there.

On one of Palace’s nine corners, Scott Dann beat Eric Dier in the air, and saw his header pushed away by Gazzaniga. The rebound was scrambled away by the Spurs defense.


Early in the second half, with the game still 0-0, Townsend almost broke the deadlock against his former club:


Spurs bossed the ball, and had chances of their own. Before the goal, much of their pressure was funneled wide. Quality low crosses from Danny Rose on the left and Serge Aurier on the right troubled Palace’s center backs. Eventually, one of their clearances fell to Son at the edge of the box, and the highest-scoring Asian in Premier League history made no mistake.

Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-Min celebrates his winner against Crystal Palace. (Getty)

Tottenham had several chances to put the game away on the break. Son, in particular, got behind a suddenly wide open Palace defense, but this time wasn’t clinical.

Palace maintained its threat all the way to the 90th minute, when Townsend drove past Jan Vertonghen in the box. His low cross was cut out by Davinson Sanchez, and the hosts held out for the victory.

Spurs never quite looked comfortable. And Palace certainly didn’t look like a relegation struggler, much less a last-place team. But Son’s goal condemned Roy Hodgson’s side to another frustrating result, and kept Spurs in position to potentially profit other results later on Super Sunday.

– – – – – – –

Henry Bushnell covers soccer – the U.S. national teams, the Premier League, and much, much more – for FC Yahoo and Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.

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