Tottenham made a winning start to the new Premier League season as they beat 10-men Newcastle 2-0 at St James’ Park.
Newcastle made a good start to the match, but had it all to do when their captain Jonjo Shelvey was sent off early into the second-half for stamping on Dele Alli.
The England international opened the scoring just a few minutes later, when he latched onto Christian Eriksen’s diagonal pass into the box.
And less than ten minutes later full-back Ben Davies made sure of the win with a smart close-range finish.
Here are five things we learned from the match.
Walker-Peters makes an instant impression
The 20-year-old enjoyed an impressive Spurs debut and was even spotted animatedly waving Moussa Sissoko further forward up the pitch at one moment in the first-half, with all the exasperation of a hardened first-team regular.
It was a confident start to life in the Premier League for the youngster and, with half an hour of the game gone, no player on the pitch had touched the ball as many times as Walker-Peters. That’s largely because Newcastle ran at him whenever possible, but he stood up well to everything that was thrown at him and proved that he can be a viable alternative to Kieran Trippier this season.
Shelvey is not captain material
Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez has defended his decision to hand Shelvey the captain’s armband on more than one occasion. And this is not the first time the Spaniard has been let down by his skipper.
Shelvey may be a fantastically talented player – and arguably the best player Benitez has available at his disposal – but his tendency to self-destruct means he simply cannot be trusted. His petulant stamp on Dele Alli was a pathetic moment of ill-discipline and went a long way to costing Newcastle this match.
Alli makes the difference when it matters
The England international didn’t so much as have a quiet half as an exceptionally poor one. Well tracked by former Arsenal man Isaac Hayden and restricted largely to a role on the fringes, Alli was growing visibly frustrated as his usual repertoire of flicks, tricks and dinks failed to delight.
But the 21-year-old is a big-game player and has a habit of popping up and making the difference when he is most needed. After being stamped on by Shelvey and hacked down by Matt Ritchie, Alli latched onto a perfectly weighted Christian Eriksen pass to nudge the ball past Rob Elliot at the back post. It was a big finish at a big moment.
Newcastle fans should not be too disheartened (yet)
Newcastle supporters can be forgiven for not feeling entirely optimistic about the season ahead, especially after Benitez made it known he wants to make more signings before the transfer window swings shut. Owner Mike Ashley has already poured cold water on that idea.
But until Shelvey’s sending off, Newcastle looked comfortable against Tottenham – the side that finished runners-up in the Premier League last season. Benitez is a manager who knows what he is doing and his side were tough to break down and looked lively on the counter. It is imperative that the club retain his services.
Tottenham’s squad is deeper than people think
It would be fascinating to know what Pochettino really thought of Antonio Conte’s recent comments about the cripplingly small size of Chelsea’s squad – even with the recent arrivals of Antonio Rüdiger, Tiemoué Bakayoko and Álvaro Morata for a combined £127m.
Tottenham, of course, are still yet to spend a single penny and many pundits have tipped the side to struggle this season because of their failure to bolster their squad this summer.
But Spurs still have options: Son Heung-min, Vincent Wanyama and Harry Winks are first-team players whom Pochettino decided to leave on the bench against Newcastle, while Trippier, Danny Rose and Erik Lamela are all due to make their respective returns from injury soon.