Tottenham climbed to fourth in the Premier League as first-half goals from Harry Kane and Dele Alli helped them down Southampton 2-0 at St Mary’s Stadium.
The visitors saw their 14-game unbeaten league run ended by Newcastle United last weekend, but after enduring a nervy opening 20 minutes, they proved too strong for a Southampton side that has now gone six games without a win in all competitions.
The victory, Tottenham’s third on the road in the top flight this season, proved enough to lift them into the final Champions League qualification spot as Manchester United fell to a shock home loss against Norwich City.
Just two minutes and 50 seconds separated their two goals at St Mary’s, with Kane making it nine from his last 11 Premier League appearances and Alli claiming an assist before finding the net for the fourth time this season.
Ronald Koeman’s side lost their way after falling behind just before the break and rarely looked likely to halt their alarming slide down the table.
It was Southampton who made the brighter start, with Sadio Mane twice going close to giving them the lead in the opening seven minutes.
The Senegalese striker’s first effort was blocked by a timely challenge from Toby Alderweireld and his second forced a smart stop from Hugo Lloris.
Tottenham’s first meaningful effort came after 15 minutes when Christian Eriksen, looking for his fourth goal in as many appearances against Southampton, dragged a right-foot shot wide from just inside the box.
Eric Dier did then loop a header narrowly over the crossbar and Kane was denied by Paulo Gazzaniga, but by and large it was the hosts who continued to look the more likely.
With Dusan Tadic and Cedric Soares causing plenty of problems out wide, Tottenham’s defence never looked especially secure and they also struggled to contain the lively Mane.
So it came as a surprise when it was the London club who broke the deadlock five minutes before the break.
Having won the ball just inside the Southampton half, Kane headed for goal, shrugged off a weak challenge from Virgil van Dijk and calmly beat Gazzaniga.
And fewer than three minutes later, the home defence crumbled again.
Kyle Walker was allowed to make inroads down the right, his cross found its way to the back post and Alli popped up completely unmarked to apply the close-range finish.
With the rain sweeping in off the Solent at the start of the second half, Southampton again started brightly, but after top scorer Graziano Pelle missed two decent chances in as many minutes, they rarely threatened a Tottenham side more than happy to sit on their two-goal lead.
Neither Shane Long nor Junami made much of an impact for the home side after being introduced from the bench and, indeed, Kane could have made the victory even more emphatic had he managed to get a meaningful touch on Eriksen’s teasing free-kick 10 minutes from time.
That would have been harsh on a Southampton side who battled manfully to the end and came close to grabbing a late consolation when substitute James Ward-Prowse was denied by a superb save from Lloris in stoppage time.
Ultimately, however, it was Tottenham’s day and a sweet return to his former club for boss Mauricio Pochettino.
Key Opta facts:
– Tottenham have won six and lost none of their last seven Premier League meetings with Southampton.
– Southampton have conceded at least twice in their last four home Premier League games against Spurs, having kept a clean sheet in the five prior to that run.
– Dele Alli has scored or assisted four goals in his last four Premier League games (two goals, two assists).
– Southampton failed to score in a Premier League home game against Spurs for the first time since November 1999.
– Spurs are unbeaten in seven Premier League away games (W3 D4).