Belfast Telegraph

Mauricio Pochettino hopes Spurs can reap rewards of a refreshed Harry Kane

The striker scored twice in the final four minutes against Aston Villa.

Pochettino hopes Spurs will reap the benefits of a rested Harry Kane (John Walton/PA)
Pochettino hopes Spurs will reap the benefits of a rested Harry Kane (John Walton/PA)

By Jonathan Veal, PA

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino hopes Harry Kane’s summer of bliss fires him towards the Premier League golden boot.

Kane broke his duck at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium at the fourth time of asking as two goals in the final four minutes helped his side to a 3-1 opening day win over Aston Villa.

The England captain rushed back from another ankle injury at the back end of last season in time for the Champions League final and the Nations League semi-finals but enjoyed a rare summer off, getting married and spending a month in the Bahamas.

And Pochettino hopes that can be a catalyst for another goal-laden season.

“To score the two goals, he is very sharp,” Pochettino said. “It is normal. We are talking a lot because he scored twice. I hope this season, please, that he starts to score and doesn’t stop until the end.

“We talk very highly about him. I think he’s been on a nice holiday as you saw everything on Instagram.

“He’s had a wedding and he’s a happy man. When you’re professional like he is, the pre-season is not to get fit but to try to improve.

“The mentality is to enjoy your holidays and then prepare, arrive fit and improve in the four, five or six weeks we have.

“If not, you’re going to pay the problems with injuries or different things can happen. That for me is one of the keys of Harry Kane to be in the shape that he is today.”

Kane’s late goals rescued Spurs as they looked like being held by a Villa side who impressed on their first game back in the Premier League since 2016.

Dean Smith’s side had gone ahead in the ninth minute through John McGinn but Tottenham’s record signing Tanguy Ndombele drew level with a fine goal from outside the area.

It was the introduction of Christian Eriksen that proved the catalyst for Spurs’ comeback after Pochettino opted to leave him on the bench ahead of a possible exit before the European transfer window shuts.

Stalwart Jan Vertonghen was left out of the matchday squad completely, which was a surprise given both Pochettino and the defender confirmed that he was not injured.

The Belgian is a trusted ally of Pochettino so his omission – and the manager’s explanation of it – seems odd.

Pochettino said: “I want to play the players who deserve to play, who I think to deserve to play and who are playing well.

“My decision today was to play Toby (Alderweireld). If the players didn’t play today, they need to work hard to get their opportunity.

“With all the players fit you struggle to find a starting 11. We have more than 25 players and everyone needs to understand we have plenty of good players in every position. We can only play with 11.

“It’s always the judgement of the manager and the coaching staff. After five years I’m going to play the players who deserve to play, there is not any issue but my decision today was play with Toby and Davinson (Sanchez) to provide a good balance for the team.”

Villa boss Dean Smith was dreaming of pulling off a shock, but knew his side were well beaten in the end.

“It was a tough baptism of fire coming here,” he said. “Performance wise I thought was very good. The defensive organisation was very good but we came up against a superior team who deserved to win at the end.

“I was disappointed with our second-half performance, I thought we were too cheap on the ball.

“When you keep giving the ball away and have to chase as hard as we did today their physicality shone through at the end.”

PA

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