If this is the season when Tottenham finally live up to the high expectations of their long-suffering fans, then this was the way to start. A superb comeback prompted by Dejan Kulusevski’s brilliant feet allowed Antonio Conte’s team to bounce back from the shock of falling behind James Ward-Prowse’s early shot and record a convincing first day.
Goals from defenders Ryan Sessegnon and Eric Dier stabilized Spurs for the break, while a comical own goal from Mohammed Salis and the outstanding Kulusevski ended a perfect day for the hosts.
There has been a lot of anticipation in this part of north London in recent weeks after a summer of early signings, although Antonio Conte has decided to keep five of his signings – Ivan Perisic, Yves Bissum, Clement Lenglet, Fraser Forster and Jed Spence – on hold. bench. They and the suspended Richarlison were brought onto the pitch before kick-off, much to the delight of local fans who are still on the wave of euphoria that ended last season and Champions League qualification.
A lone point from the last six matches of the previous campaign meant there was not much positivity among Southampton fans, although Ralph Hassenhüttl added three new faces to his starting line-up – goalkeeper Gavin Bazuna and midfielders Romeo Lavia and Joe Aribo.
While the tanned Conte looked relaxed on the touchline in his polo shirt, his Austrian counterpart opted for a vest, tie and sneakers without socks. A nerve-wracking moment in the first exchanges, when Bazunu – a 20-year-old Ireland international who spent last season on loan at Manchester City’s Portsmouth – was nearly caught by Jan Bednarek’s back pass, did little to resolve the situation. his nerves.
However, Tottenham’s vaunted winger three struggled to find a way out despite some early pressure, and Ward-Prowse landed the first strike instead. At first Moussa Genepo looked like he missed the opportunity, but his cross caught the England midfielder who drove the volley into the ground, leaving Hugo Lloris to gasp for air.
A few cheers from some of the home supporters were almost audible, but their spirits were lifted in just eight minutes when Sessegnon blasted past Kyle Walker-Peters to header Kulusevski’s brilliant cross and his first Premier League goal for Spurs.
Tottenham were immediately more confident and Bazunu had to be on the lookout to deflect Son Heung-Min’s shot when he shot on goal. However, there was nothing he could do to stop Dyer’s deft header to deflect Son’s cross when the resulting corner was not properly cleared. It could have been worse for Southampton if Bazunu hadn’t reacted quickly to beat Ben Davies and then Harry Kane from close range, while Son was uncharacteristically wasteful at half-time after an error by Jan Valéry. A visibly annoyed Hassenhüttl brought in Jack Stevens to replace the French defender after the break, while striker Adam Armstrong made way for the eponymous Stewart.
Sessegnon’s second goal within 60 seconds of the restart was correctly credited for offside, but as Kane continued to find space at will, it seemed it was only a matter of time before Tottenham would extend their lead. Emerson Royal saw his header fall over the bar, while Sessegnon’s attempt to complete a smooth counterattack was thwarted by Walker-Peters’ back post save.
In the end, the goal was achieved from an unexpected source when an unfortunate Salisu inexplicably transferred Royal’s weak effort into his own goal. Barely a minute later, Royal provided another assist with a clipping ball and Kulushevki’s standout shot through Bazuna and put Tottenham out of sight.
Sessegnon left the pitch to a standing ovation and was replaced by Perisic, with the Croatian among those protesting a penalty against Stevens when the ball appeared to hit his hand late on. But while that call may have gone against him, Conte and Spurs have plenty of reason to be optimistic.