Tottenham Hotspur enjoyed some respite in a tumultuous week for the club as Son Heung-min’s late penalty earned it a 2-1 victory over Southampton on Wednesday to revive its hopes of a top-four finish in the Premier League.
After Jose Mourinho’s sacking on Monday and the club’s ignominious role in the Super League drama which has rocked football, it was left to 29-year-old caretaker manager Ryan Mason to try to steady the ship.
It looked as though the former Tottenham midfielder, handed the reins until the end of the season, would start with a loss when Danny Ings headed Southampton into a halftime lead. But Gareth Bale, who Mason restored to the starting line-up for the first time since mid-March, curled home an equaliser on the hour as Tottenham improved after a dismal first half.
Son then gave Tottenham some much-needed cheer as he beat Alex McCarthy from the penalty spot in the 90th minute.
Victory lifted Tottenham into sixth place with 53 points, two points behind fourth-placed Chelsea which has a game in hand.
Mason became the first manager under the age of the 30 to take charge of an English top-flight team since Queen’s Park Rangers’ Frank Sibley in 1977.
A proud night for the local lad who was forced to retire in 2019 after a head injury and who has since become part of the club’s youth set-up, had become a side-show in a week dominated by the creation, and disintegration, of a breakaway European Super League for which Tottenham signed up along with five other Premier League clubs.
Fans demonstrated outside the stadium before kickoff calling for chairman Daniel Levy, forced into a humiliating U-turn on Tuesday evening after a global backlash against the Super League, to resign.
There was some cheer for Levy, sitting alone in the empty stadium, but it was Mason’s night.
He will take the side into Sunday’s League Cup final against Manchester City at Wembley with morale restored as the Spurs bid to win their first trophy since 2008.
“It's important to go into a big game on the back of a win,” Mason said. “The energy was outstanding in the second half.”
Asked his thoughts on the Super League saga and whether Levy should apologise to the fans, he said: “To be honest all my thoughts have been focused on this game.”
Tottenham had won only once in its last five games, ending Mourinho’s 17-month spell in charge.
Without injured Harry Kane it was poor in the first half and Southampton would have taken the lead inside two minutes had keeper Hugo Lloris not made reaction saves from Mohammed Salisu and Che Adams. Lloris had no chance in the 30th minute when James Ward Prowse’s corner was met by Ings who angled a superb glancing header inside the far post.
Tottenham was far more threatening after the break and Bale curled home a beauty with his trusty left foot.
Son converted Sergio Reguilon’s cut back, only for Moura to be adjudged offside, but Son got his goal when a goalmouth scramble ended with a foul by Moussa Djenepo and the South Korean tucked away his 15th league goal of the season.
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