Steve Cooper made two changes from Nottingham Forest’s draw against Everton, handing starts to Orel Mangala and Jesse Lingard, in place of Jack Colback and Chris Wood. Following a midweek Champions League exit, Antonio Conte named Harry Kane and Son Heung Min in his starting XI, alongside Richardson despite a public spat between player and manager.
A back and forth start of the game followed kick off but Forest fell behind just three minutes into their first visit to tahe Tottenham Hotspur stadium. Richarlison was found in acres of space between the Forest defence by a long ball from midfielder Oliver Skipp, as the Brazilian glided towards goal. With the angle narrowing, he clinically leathered a near-post strike into the back of the net.
Tottenham’s early joy would evaporate though, with VAR judging Richarlison was leaning into an offside decision, an early lifeline for the visitors. Chances would be few and far between after this point, with Christian Romero coming closest after 13 minutes with a near-post header going wide.
While renowned for being a counter-attacking side, Conte’s men were seeing a lot of the ball and forcing Forest to chase after it. This meant a lack of attacking energy once the Reds gained possession.
Someone who is never short of attacking energy is Kane, and the Englishman got on the scoresheet with 18 minutes played. After Forest failed to clear the first delivery, wing-back Pedro Porro dinked a cross in from the right wing where Kane leaped above his marker and guided a header into the corner.
Tottenham had won all three of their last Premier League home games without conceding, so Forest faced an uphill task on a bitter day in North London.
With the lack of any defensive support, Renan Lodi was having a tough time with Spurs constantly probing down their right wing. A ball into that channel caused Joe Worrall problems on 34 minutes, as Richarlison was found by Kane and brought down by a sliding challenge, with referee Craig Pawson pointing straight to the spot. Only one man would step up and indeed Kane doubled the lead as he lifted his penalty down the middle after a very early dive from Keylor Navas.
Kane grabbed his 20th goal for the season in front of his home crowd, the sixth time he’s reached that landmark in his Premier League career.
Having taken a convincing lead, the Lilywhites were happy to allow Forest to see more of the ball, with the Reds being too predictable and slow in possession to cause them any issues. In contrast, Spurs were fluid in attack, not afraid to go long or come short and pass through Forest — variety that the visitors lacked.
Kane came close to his hattrick two minutes before the break, as Porro once again attacked and sent a cross to the head of the England captain, his header dropping over the crossbar.
As the second half came about Forest made two changes at the break, with Emmanuel Dennis and Andre Ayew being introduced, as Forest aimed to stamp their mark on the game.
The Reds had more balance with these changes and got forward much more in the opening period of the half, with their best chance falling to Brennan Johnson after 62 minutes. On the break, Navas cleared long to Dennis who chested the ball into the path of Gibbs-White on halfway. The midfielder angled to the right and played in Johnson, who sprinted into the box on the right wing but saw his low shot stopped by Fraiser Forster.
With Forest attacking more in the second half, they were always vulnerable to conceding on the counter, and that’s exactly what they did just a minute after Johnson’s missed chance. Richarlison’s cross from the right was blocked by Worrall, but the Brazilian kept it in and pinged a second cross back post towards Son. The South Korean took a neat touch before guiding goalwards and past Navas into the bottom corner.
Forest’s troubles on the pitch were worsened further as they would lose both Johnson and his substitute Chris Wood to injury just five minutes between each other; concerning potential additions to the Reds’ injury list.
A very quiet Tottenham stadium were treated to a frantic few moments between 75 and 80 minutes. Firstly, Serge Aurier rose high from a Gibbs-White corner and was ready to wheel away in celebration when Forster acrobatically tipped over.
Navas would then have his time to shine a minute later when Son found Richarlison in the box, the Costa Rican scrambling across his line to keep the Brazilian out. Navas would deny Son from very close range as Forest surrendered possession just seconds after his first save, with Son shocked not to have scored his second.
A first goal of the season in London would finally come for Forest after 81 minutes, as they finally made one of their 10 corners count. Felipe rose highest ahead of Forster following Gibbs-White’s delivery, Worrall lurking at the back post to nod home and give the away support something to cheer.
VAR had bailed Forest out early on and it would present the Reds a chance to score their second in stoppage time, with Pawson deciding that substitute Dejan Kulusevski had handled the ball after a lengthy wait. Having waited since January for an away goal, what was left of the away support would not see a second, with Forster denying Ayew from the spot.
And that just about summed up Forest’s day. Second best all over the pitch. With wins for sides around them, the Reds now find themselves three points above the relegation zone, two if you count their ludicrous goal difference of -26. They now aim to continue their unbeaten home run as they host Newcastle United next Friday night.
Cooper said: “We didn’t compete enough in the first half and that was frustrating and disappointing. You look at the first two goals and look at the individual moments and there moments where we have to be stronger and more competitive.
“It was always going to be a tough game away from home against a side full of quality but you have to give 100% in the fight and that was the difference between the first and second half.
“Football starts and ends with competing, winning duels, one v one, and running and the difference in the first half compared to the second half was based around all of those things.
“We were more aggressive and the changes helped with that, players wanted to make a bit more of a difference. We were always going to run the risk of the counter attack but we looked a better team in the second half but in the end we gave ourselves too much to do.”