How Patrick Vieira must have savoured this victory. Six games into his tenure at Crystal Palace, a brilliant performance inspired by Wilfried Zaha ended Tottenham’s 100% start to the season and perhaps gave a glimpse of what the former Arsenal captain might be capable of as a manager.
Japhet Tanganga’s dismissal early in the second half for two reckless challenges may have ultimately decided the contest although Spurs can have no complaints after being outplayed. But while Nuno Espírito Santo will be scratching his head over this strangely lacklustre performance from his side, Odsonne Édouard’s two goals on his debut – including one with his first touch – rounded off the perfect afternoon for his opposite number.
Tottenham’s unblemished start to the new campaign may have surprised even the most die-hard of supporters but the absence of Son Heung-min and Davinson Sánchez following the international break meant this was always going to be a real test of their credentials under Nuno.
Having secured only their second point of the season in a spirited comeback against West Ham, Palace were clearly in the mood despite the early kick-off as Vieira named an unchanged side with a trio of new signings – Will Hughes, Michael Olise and £14m striker Édouard – on the bench. While Nuno handed £25m new right-back Emerson Royal his debut, the Spurs bench looked inexperienced by comparison as Harry Winks started in midfield and Lucas Moura replaced Son after he picked up a calf injury on international duty.
With Sánchez required to quarantine after travelling to South America last week, there was further blow to the visitors’ makeshift defence when Eric Dier limped down the tunnel after clashing with Jordan Ayew, although Dier will not have thanked Hugo Lloris for the pass which led to his injury. Joe Rodon was brought on to partner Tanganga in central defence as Palace sensed an opportunity to go on the attack.
This was the second successive match that Vieira’s side had faced the league leaders having lost to Chelsea on the opening day and was also their fourth game of the season in London – not exactly the easiest introduction to the rigours of Premier League management. But there were positive signs here that the former Arsenal midfielder’s influence is spreading as his side dominated possession in the first half, even if creating chances remains an issue.
The excellent Conor Gallagher came closest to breaking the deadlock just before half-time following a period of sustained Palace pressure. Having failed to muster a single shot, Nuno sent his players out five minutes early for the second half. But while Moura hit the target from distance almost immediately following the restart, once more it was Palace who looked more likely to score.
Lloris was grateful to see Gallagher’s volley deflect wide via deflections off Rodon and Sergio Reguilón before Zaha lost his temper after being taken out in full flight by Tanganga. Both received yellow cards but it could easily have been worse for the Ivory Coast international, who appeared to raise his hands towards the Tottenham defender’s face during the melee.
Tanganga’s misery was complete when he was shown a second yellow card within two minutes for a needless challenge on Ayew. Nuno responded by withdrawing Winks for Ben Davies as Tottenham were forced to dig in with their third central defensive partnership of the afternoon.
They could do nothing about a brilliant cross from Tyrick Mitchell that eluded everyone in the 74th minute, although there was no one at the back post to apply the finishing touch. The home fans did not have to wait long for their big moment however.
In another incident to forget for Tottenham’s defenders, Davies inexplicably handled Gallagher’s cross, allowing Zaha to convert from the penalty spot. He wasn’t quite finished.
Édouard was given a rapturous welcome when he replaced Christian Benteke with seven minutes to play and Zaha’s gift was to supply an inch-perfect cross from the left for the Frenchman to slide home. Édouard’s second in injury time after excellent buildup play between Gallagher and Olise only made it sweeter for Vieira.