Spurs bolster unexpected title pursuit

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LONDON:

Tottenham surged to the top of the Premier League as Son Heung-min and James Maddison sealed a 2-0 win against Fulham on Monday.

Ange Postecoglou’s side extended their unbeaten start to nine league games thanks to Son’s opener and Maddison’s first goal at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium since his close-season move from Leicester.

Tottenham leapfrogged Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool to go two points clear at the top of the table.

Fulham are the only team to beat Tottenham this season, knocking them out of the League Cup on penalties in August.

But they avenged that loss by recording a third successive league victory to strengthen their unexpected title challenge.

The north Londoners’ superb start to Postecoglou’s debut season have awoken dreams of the club’s first top-flight title since Bill Nicholson’s 1961 double winners.

While that ambitious target may yet prove beyond Tottenham, who haven’t won a major trophy since 2008, the Australian has undoubtedly had a huge impact on a club that was in turmoil when he arrived from Celtic.

A toxic combination of Tottenham’s poor results and dour displays under Antonio Conte last term, combined with Harry Kane’s close-season move to Bayern Munich, left many expecting another year of turmoil.

Yet Postecoglou has astutely guided Tottenham to calmer waters, winning over doubters with his down-to-earth personality and attacking game-plan.

Monday’s victory gave Postecoglou the record for most points gained by a new manager in their first nine Premier League matches, with his 23 surpassing the mark previously held by Mike Walker and Guus Hiddink.

Postecoglou’s next challenge is ensuring his players are ready for a quick turnaround, with their London derby at Crystal Palace scheduled for Friday.

In keeping with their vibrant form under Postecoglou, Tottenham made an enterprising start and Son was denied an early goal by Bernd Leno’s smart save from his close-range shot.

Heading into this weekend, no player had provided more assists in the competition this term than Maddison’s five.

The playmaker nearly added to that tally when his free-kick was volleyed over by Micky van de Ven.

Fulham almost snatched a shock lead through Joao Palhinha, whose header was brilliantly clawed to safety by Guglielmo Vicario.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg tested Leno with a fierce strike before Richarlison side-footed just wide from the edge of the area.

Tottenham’s pressure was rewarded in the 36th minute as Calvin Bassey carelessly surrendered possession and Richarlison flicked a pass to Son on the edge of the area.

Son’s deft touch took him away from two flat-footed Fulham defenders, giving him time to curl a fine finish into the far corner for his seventh goal this season.

Dejan Kulusevski’s goal-bound strike was deflected wide for a corner as Tottenham pushed for a second.

They had to wait just nine minutes after half-time before delivering the knockout blow, with a hearty assist from Fulham’s lacklustre defence.

Kane’s departure was expected to destabilise Tottenham, but Son and Maddison have formed a dynamic duo almost as effective as the South Korean’s prolific partnership with the England captain.

Hojbjerg intercepted a miscued Bassey clearance and picked out Son, who laid a composed pass into Maddison to apply the finishing touch with a low strike from 10 yards.



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