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BC-SOC--Tottenham-Crystal Palace,1st Ld-Writethru

April 3, 2019
AP Global Soccer Writer

LONDON (AP) — To the accompaniment of a marching band, tenor Wynne Evans serenaded the players and 59,215 fans with “Glory, Glory Tottenham Hotspur.”

Fireworks exploded over the stadium, illuminating the north London sky and the golden cockerel atop the roof.

The club wasn’t celebrating a trophy but a homecoming.

And there was still a game to be won after Tottenham’s much-delayed new stadium finally opened on Wednesday after 689 days, 51 games on the road at Wembley and costs exceeding 1 billion pounds ($1.3 billion). But the return to White Hart Lane inspired a first Premier League victory in almost two months as Tottenham beat Crystal Palace 2-0 to climb back into third place

Both goals came in front of the stadium’s sweeping 17,500-seater single tier stand, the largest in England, although a sense of unease was starting to creep in before the breakthrough finally came in the 55th minute.

Son Heung-min received the ball in the penalty area and sent the ball into the net with a shot that took a deflection off Palace defender Luka Milivojevic, carving the South Korea forward’s name into Tottenham history.

“We found the goal at an important time,” said Son, who also scored his first Premier League goal against the same opposition nearly four years ago.

The stadium could only truly begin to party in the 80th minute once Christian Eriksen pounced on the loose ball after Harry Kane was tripped by Martin Kelly.

“It was a little bit of pressure,” manager Mauricio Pochettino said. “But the excitement, the energy made everything possible.”

A top-four finish is still very much possible for Spurs as well, even though the prospect of qualifying for the Champions League for a fourth successive season is suddenly far from a sure thing after the two-month collapse in form.

But the bigger target for Pochettino is to win titles, something the Argentine has lacked since arriving at Tottenham in 2014. And the new stadium will only increase the pressure on the club to take the next step in terms of competing for trophies.

Not that there is more recent tradition of silverware in an area of London ruled for so long by Arsenal. Tottenham’s last English title was won in 1961. Only cups have been collected since, the last time in 2008 with the lesser-regarded League Cup.

“Tottenham is going to be a real contender for big things,” Pochettino said. “We have to think big. ... We are World Cup winners in terms of facilities.”


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