Heung-Min Son stepped up in Harry Kane’s absence and produced two fierce strikes to help Tottenham into the fifth round of the FA Cup with a 3-0 win at Championship side Preston.
The forward had managed just one goal in his previous 17 games for club and country but unleashed a beauty from distance five minutes into the second half and then fired home another (69) from inside the box to maintain Spurs’ hopes of finally ending what is a now a 15-year trophy drought.
The win was capped late on by a goal for debutant Arnaut Danjuma (87), who glanced in a third to make his first appearance after signing on loan from Villarreal a memorable one.
Antonio Conte’s side had been short on quality against their well-organised hosts in the first half, with a Ryan Ledson block denying Dejan Kulusevski and Freddie Woodman saving twice from Son at a rain-soaked, atmospheric Deepdale.
But the Korean’s moment of magic shortly after the break transformed the tie and his second all but ended it.
It also meant Conte could keep unwell Kane wrapped up on the bench and, with their name now in the hat for Monday’s draw, Spurs can turn their attentions to next Sunday’s big Premier League clash with Manchester City, which is live on Sky Sports. The fifth round of the FA Cup will take place in the week commencing February 27.
How Son re-found his magic to sink Preston
Spurs controlled possession in the opening period, with 73 per cent of the ball, but not for the first time this season, it was another frustrating first half for their followers.
- Harry Kane was on the bench after suffering with illness, with new loan signing Arnaut Danjuma also among the subs for Spurs. Antonio Conte made seven changes for the cup tie, with a completely fresh defence in front of back-up goalkeeper Fraser Forster.
- Preston made two changes, with Ben Whiteman back from injury and Ched Evans in for Liam Delap, who is cup tied. Ben Woodburn dropped to the bench and Troy Parrott, on loan from Spurs, wasn’t eligible to face his parent club.
They only applied pressure sporadically and, after Ledson’s last-ditch block had denied Kulusevski an early opener, Son found Woodman alert when he did hit the target.
Preston’s first shot of the game came 21 minutes in and saw Perisic get in the way of Andrew Hughes’ volley from a well-worked free-kick but despite not being unduly threatened defensively, wayward crosses from the Spurs wing-backs Matt Doherty and Ryan Sessegnon at the end of the half rather summed up the visitors’ lack of sharpness.
It felt like a change was needed – but rather than the introduction of Kane, Spurs supporters were gifted the rejuvenation of Son, with his goal-of-the-round contender serving as a reminder of his class.
Strangely, the strike seemed to galvanise Preston instead, with Whiteman shooting wide as the home side were roared forward, but that left spaces at the back and, after Woodman had to tip over a Perisic header, the Croatian flicked the ball through for Son to swivel and shoot in the box for his second.
There was no way back for Preston then and Conte had the luxury of making a flurry of changes, with former Bournemouth man Danjuma coming on for his Spurs debut.
Twice he was frustrated by intercepted passes when he looked set to be played in but eventually he was able to sweep home Kulusevski’s low cross to make it an ideal start to life back in England and boost Conte’s attacking options.
Son on the ‘really important’ goals for his confidence
Tottenham’s Heung-Min Son to BBC: “I needed those goals for my confidence. It was really important. It was the kind of position I like to shoot. In the first half I had a couple of chances to shoot but the ‘keeper made a good save.
“As a striker or as an attacking player, the important thing is that you get that goal. It’s important that I could help the team go to the next round. I’m very, very happy.”
Analysis: Smiling Son shows class is permanent with timely return to form
Sky Sports’ Peter Smith:
“Heung-Min Son is smiling again. They were two brilliant strikes but also crucial ones, with Spurs’ main man Harry Kane on the bench after being unwell this week. In his absence, Son took responsibility.
“But it’s what these goals can do for Son which could be even more important for Spurs’ season. The Korean has looked a shadow of himself for large parts of this campaign, with the 2021/22 Golden Boot winner managing just one goal in his past 17 games for club and country before Saturday.
“It had been hoped that his deflected strike at Crystal Palace at the start of January would be the turning point but perhaps these two efforts at the end of the month are more significant than that rather fortuitous goal.
“At Deepdale, Son had twice caught the ball cleanly from range in the first half before bending a beauty beyond goalkeeper Freddie Woodman. Form is temporary, class is permanent and this was the perfect example of that. His second, swivelling and striking firmly home, was a result of his returning confidence.
“If this is to be the transformative moment for Son, it has come at a crucial time for Spurs. Their indifferent form has left them work to do in the Premier League and they have Manchester City visiting on Sunday – a side who swept them away in the second half when the sides met at the Etihad recently, when Son’s struggles were laid bare. The first leg of their Champions League tie with AC Milan follows soon after.
“Conte and Spurs have stood by Son during his lean period. Saturday showed why. Can he now repay them in the big moments of this season to come?”
Spurs assistant Stellini: We want to see this in every game
Tottenham assistant manager Cristian Stellini to BBC: “We started very well. We hoped to start very well. We were ready and made good choices for the team. We need to say a lot of congratulations to the players.
“The three at the back today were so good, they played very well. We started the game with the right pace. The build-up from the back was good. [Preston] spent a lot of energy on running. In the second half it was easier.
“We have a tough schedule and we need to work. We have to recover energy, but we’re happy. This is the behaviour we want to see in every game.”
Lowe: We were fantastic without the ball
Preston boss Ryan Lowe to BBC: “With the first two goals we’d have obviously liked to get closer to [Son], but they were two top finishes. The third one is a little bit disappointing, and in the build-up to the third we should have had a foul, but there’s no disgrace in getting beaten by a team like that.
“We had a plan to get behind them a little bit more. We wanted them to go around us and not through us. If you get to 0-0 at 70 minutes, maybe they change their plan. We could have done a little bit better with the ball, but we were fantastic without it.”
Preston return to Championship action on Saturday, with Bristol City visiting Deepdale; kick-off 3pm.
Ryan Lowe’s side then take on Lancashire rivals Burnley at Turf Moor on Saturday February 11; kick-off 3pm.
Tottenham’s next game is in the Premier League, with champions Manchester City visiting north London on Sunday February 5, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 4.30pm.
Sunday 5th February 4:00pm
Kick off 4:30pm
Spurs then travel to Leicester on Saturday February 11; kick-off 3pm.