LONDON: Antonio Conte said Tottenham are starting to understand his philosophy after Son Heung-min’s first Premier League goal since October sealed a 2-0 win against Brentford on Thursday.
Conte’s side were last in action seven days ago for an embarrassing 2-1 defeat against Slovenian minnows NS Mura in the Europa Conference League.
Rocked by that chastening loss, Conte this week admitted the Tottenham job was “the biggest challenge for me. The club, in the last years, has been slipping”.
While Tottenham remain very much a work in progress under the Italian, Conte could take heart from the most convincing performance of his brief reign.
A Sergi Canos own goal gave Tottenham the lead in the first half and Son wrapped up their second successive Premier League win after the interval.
It was Son’s 75th top-flight goal since joining the north Londoners from Bayer Leverkusen in 2015.
Tottenham are up to sixth place after extending their unbeaten league run under Conte to three matches since he replaced the sacked Nuno Espirito Santo in November.
“It was a good performance against a dangerous team. I’m happy because I have seen great commitment and good passion from the players. It’s a good reaction,“ Conte said.
“The players are starting to understand my philosophy. With the ball we can do better but at the same time the second goal was really good.
“The three points are good for the confidence. We have started on a new path. The players are showing me great desire to change the situation.”
Maintaining an alarming trend for Tottenham, Harry Kane was anonymous for much of the match.
The England striker has scored just once in the Premier League this term and has only two goals in his last 10 appearances in all competitions.
“I’m not worried about Harry Kane. He played a really good game. He was in every offensive situation and the point of reference,“ Conte said.
“To have a player like this and to play with his commitment, desire and passion makes me very happy. It doesn’t matter if he scores as long as he plays in this way.”
In their first league meeting with Brentford since 1949, Tottenham came close to an early opener when Lucas Moura’s rising drive was tipped over by Alvaro Fernandez.
Tottenham had lost all four of their previous London derbies this season, but they were on track to end that painful streak of capital punishment by the 12th minute.
Son whipped a cross towards Ben Davies and the clearing header from Brentford’s Pontus Jansson deflected in off the unlucky Canos’s face.
Brentford were smooth in possession but lacked a cutting edge and Bryan Mbeumo volleyed wide from the edge of the Tottenham area.
Son forced a brave save from Fernandez, who inadvertantly used the side of his head to keep out the forward’s stinging strike.
When Kane finally had a sight of goal from Oliver Skipp’s pass, he wasted the chance with a tame shot straight at Fernandez.
Even with Kane subdued, Conte’s men were superior for long periods and their pressure finally produced a second goal in the 65th minute.
Kane at last had an influence as he picked out Sergio Reguilon’s rampaging run down the left and the Spaniard’s cross was perfect for Son to tap in his sixth club goal this season.
Ivan Toney’s close-range effort was repelled by Hugo Lloris in the closing stages as Brentford were beaten for the fifth time in their last seven league games. — AFP