Match Report: Spurs 1-0 Middlesborough

Tottenham re-established a nine-point gap to Premier League leaders Chelsea with a workmanlike victory over Middlesbrough at White Hart Lane.

Chelsea had moved 12 points clear with their impressive 3-1 win over Arsenal in the lunchtime kick-off, but Harry Kane’s second-half penalty ensured Spurs did not cede any ground to their London rivals.

Tottenham now have clear air in second place after defeats for nearest challengers Arsenal and Liverpool, although fifth-placed Manchester City could close back to within a point when they play on Sunday.

Tottenham’s seventh successive home win was secured when Kane fired home from 12 yards after Son Heung-min was hauled down in the area by Bernardo Espinosa and referee Mark Clattenburg correctly pointed to the spot.

The hosts were without injured defenders Danny Rose and Jan Vertonghen, but Middlesbrough did not do enough to put pressure on their understudies, with the visitors failing to produce a shot on target over the 90 minutes.

Boro have won just one of their past 10 matches and are being sucked ever closer to the relegation fight, with one point now separating them from third-bottom Hull City.

This will not go down as one of the great nights at White Hart Lane – far from it – but winning when playing below par is a hallmark of all great teams so there are plenty of positives to take away.

And it should not be forgotten that Middlesbrough’s campaign to date has been built on frustrating the opposition, with their 12 away games so far producing just 21 goals in total.

Aitor Karanka’s men have drawn six times on the road this term and very nearly succeeded in snatching a point again, and would have done so but for Bernardo’s ill-judged tackle on Son, which allowed Kane to score his ninth league goal in his past eight appearances at home.

That spared Spurs the frustration of failing to score in back-to-back league games since May 2015, having been held to a 0-0 draw at Sunderland in their last outing.

The goal aside, Spurs also came close when Christian Eriksen’s well-hit shot brought a good save from Victor Valdes, while Toby Alderweireld and Son both hit the frame of the goal and Kane had an effort ruled out for offside.

“We created the chances, we just weren’t finishing them,” said Kane. “We are delighted with the win. No game is easy in the Premier League. We’ll take 1-0.”

Boro’s failure to get a shot on target is perhaps as misleading statistic, as they certainly applied pressure on the Tottenham goal on more than one occasion.

Alvaro Negredo headed over the bar in the first half and in the second executed a superb bicycle kick from the right side of the area that Hugo Llloris could only watch as it flashed past his right post.

Their best chance arrived at the death when Marten de Roon flashed a volley just wide, but it would have been a barely deserved equaliser had it found the net.

Boro have attempted a league-low 56 shots on target in the Premier League this season, 16 fewer than any other team, and will need to show greater ambition in the coming months if they are to pull clear of danger.

(BBC Sport)

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