With Tottenham’s attacking options getting increasingly thin amid a striker crisis, Mauricio Pochettino is going to need goals from unlikely sources to keep alive his team’s hopes of silverware this season.
Harry Winks was the player to step up on Sunday.
Nearly 800 days since his first goal for his boyhood club, the center midfielder scored his second to clinch Tottenham’s 2-1 win at Fulham in the Premier League. It came in the third and final minute of injury time, and the nature of the goal by Winks made it even more improbable — beating taller players to a header from close range inside a crowded penalty area.
“I can’t even remember the last time I scored, to be honest,” Winks said. It was in November 2016, on his fifth Premier League appearance.
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It wasn’t all good news in a frenetic end to the match between teams at opposite ends of the standings at Craven Cottage.
Dele Alli, the scorer of Tottenham’s equalizer, hobbled out of action with a left hamstring injury in the 86th minute. With Harry Kane out for two months with an ankle injury and Son Heung-min now with South Korea at the Asian Cup, Pochettino is set to be without his three leading scorers for the next few weeks.
Crucially, this is arguably the most critical period of the season, with Spurs facing matches across four different competitions across the next month as they seek a first trophy under Pochettino. First up is Chelsea in the second leg of the English League Cup, with Tottenham protecting a 1-0 lead.
The Premier League might be the toughest to win, despite the comeback at Fulham.
Tottenham is back to nine points behind first-place Liverpool, with 15 games of the campaign remaining. Maybe as importantly, the gap to fifth-placed Arsenal in the race for the four Champions League qualification positions is now seven points again.
Manchester City is more likely to catch Liverpool. The champions ultimately sauntered to a 3-0 victory at last-place Huddersfield thanks to goals by Danilo, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane.
City manager Pep Guardiola wasn’t happy with the performance, though.
LLORENTE FAILS AUDITION
With an own-goal and a glaring miss, Fernando Llorente failed his audition to be the short-term replacement for Kane.
The injury to Alli surely will mean Llorente is given more chances by Pochettino, however.
The tall Spanish striker came into the game having played just 36 minutes of Premier League action this season, from six appearances as a late substitute. He is a back-up to Kane and Son, a Plan B because of his aerial threat.
He produced the kind of near-post finish Kane would have been proud of against Fulham. Unfortunately, it was into his own net at a corner to put Tottenham behind in the 17th minute.
Alli equalized in the 51st minute, heading in powerfully from Christian Eriksen’s cross, but didn’t finish the match. The England international, an attacking midfielder who can play up front, stayed down clutching the back of his leg after sliding into an advertising hoarding following a tackle.
He eventually got up and hobbled to the tunnel.
“We need to assess him in the next few days,” Pochettino said. “It doesn’t look great.”
Llorente further blotted his performance when heading the ball wide from inside the six-yard box at a free kick, when the score was 1-1.
Ever the perfectionist, Guardiola demanded more from his Man City players despite seeing them pass the 100-goal mark for the season with an easy win at Huddersfield.
“This game can teach us and show what we have to do to improve,” said Guardiola, who was particularly unimpressed with the pace his team played at, as well as the quality of the passing in the first half.
City was perhaps fortunate to lead at halftime, with Danilo’s long-range strike only finding the net because of a deflection off the head of Huddersfield defender Christopher Schindler. That goal saw City reach 100 goals for the season in all competitions.
City was better after the break, with wingers Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane scoring as City eased to a fifth straight win in all competitions.
Fulham stayed in next-to-last place in the standings, seven points from safety. Huddersfield is in even bigger trouble, 10 points from safety and without a permanent manager after David Wagner stood down on Monday.
More AP English soccer: https://apnews.com/PremierLeague and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80