Both Harry Kane and Ivan Toney scored after a difficult few weeks for the pair as Brentford and Tottenham tied the points in a dramatic 2-2 thriller to host Premier League football again after the World Cup.
Kane led Spurs’ fightback 2-0 in his first game since missing out in the World Cup quarter-final for England, heading home from close range before Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg completed the comeback as Antonio Conte’s side scored twice in six minutes.
Vitaly Janelt had made Spurs pay for another slow start by putting the hosts ahead on 15 minutes, while Toney – playing his first game since his FA charge for 262 alleged betting violations – doubled the Bees’ advantage just after half -time.
But there was VAR controversy ahead of Brentford’s second goal as Kane was denied what looked like a clear kick for a hug from Ben Mee, who had both hands on the Spurs striker.
In the frantic final 10 minutes, Kane hit the bar and Toney missed from six yards as Premier League football reminded fans of his drama and his worth just 90 minutes after his return.
Brentford: Raya (6); Zanka (6), Mee (7), Pinnock (6); Roerslev (6), Jensen (7), Norgaard (8), Janelt (7), Henry (6); Mbuemo (5), Toney (7)
Subtitles: Ghoddos 6, Dasilva 6, Wissa 5
Away team: Forster (5); Tanganga (6), Dier (6), Lenglet (5); Doherty (6), Bissouma (5), Hojbjerg (7), Perisic (6); Kulusevski (6), Kane (7), Son (6)
Subtitles: Sanchez (6), Davies (n/a)
Player of the game: Christian Norgaard (Brentford)
How Spurs produced another stunning comeback
Antonio Conte was without World Cup finalists Cristian Romero and Hugo Lloris for this Boxing Day clash, so Japhet Tanganga and Fraser Forster entered the squad for their first Premier League minutes since January and May respectively.
With Spurs coming on after conceding in their last eight competitive matches, it was no surprise to see their makeshift defense struggling and starting slowly.
Brentford put the pressure on from the start, forcing Forster and Co into wayward passing and while Kane had the first shot of the game when his free-kick hit the wall, Brentford finally made their pressure count after 15 minutes.
Toney launched Mbeumo down the left, and his cross was met by Mathias Jensen’s first volley. A Clement Lenglet deflection meant Forster could only hand the effort over to the pressed and unmarked Janelt, who could not miss.
Tottenham suddenly woke up with Heung-Min Son and Dejan Kulusevski testing the palms of David Raya on three occasions, but they were easy efforts for the Brentford keeper.
At the other end, Zanka recovered a stray ball from a dangerous Brentford throw-in, but his effort at the near post was well saved by Forster at the near post.
Brentford thought they had a second goal when Toney burst in after Bissouma gave away the ball in the center circle and rounded Forster home. But the Bees striker was rightly flagged for offside.
Tottenham came out after half-time in a much more positive mood, but a controversial 60 seconds saw the game slip away from them.
Son’s cross headed towards Kane in the Brentford penalty area and the Spurs striker went down with Mee holding him with both hands. Referee David Coote and VAR dismissed Spurs’ complaints, before Brentford came up the other end and doubled their lead.
Eric Dier conceded a corner unnecessarily with a wild clearance under pressure from which Norgaard kicked in and Toney was there to tap home at the near post.
It wasn’t long before Spurs cut the deficit in half, with Lenglet providing a superb deep cross, which Kane headed home into the far corner after the Raya dive to maintain his 100 per cent record on Boxing Day.
Kane continues to break records
- Tottenham striker Harry Kane has scored against all 32 teams he has faced in the Premier League – the best 100% record by any player in the competition’s history.
- Kane has now scored more Premier League goals on Boxing Day than any other player in the competition’s history (10), netting in all seven of his appearances that day.
And another Tottenham comeback was completed six minutes later as Hojbjerg struck from the edge of the box to bring Conte’s side back to parity.
What followed was a topsy-turvy affair that saw the odds multiply and penalty cries fall on deaf ears. First, Matt Doherty’s crash into the box under Zanka’s challenge was fended off, before Mbuemo was booked for a dive as he tried to round Forster.
The same Brentford striker fired over when found by Rico Henry’s cross from 12 yards out, while Kane failed to connect with a bicycle kick in the six-yard area from the other surface.
Tottenham substitute Davinson Sanchez saw a 30-yard volley go straight at Raya, before Kane hit the bar after meeting Ivan Perisic’s cross before Raya.
Toney missed a better chance moments later as Mads Roerslev headed in a deep cross towards the striker from just six yards out. The Brentford man got to the ball before Forster but only pushed.
Stoppage time saw Son test Raya with a low drive, which the Brentford goalkeeper was equal to, but the final whistle concluded a game no one wanted to see end.
Analysis: The Premier League is back in full force
Sky Sports football reporter Sam Blitz at the Gtech Community Stadium:
The biggest reminder of why the Premier League is so popular was not the swinging pendulum action, the VAR controversy or the personal stories that come with games like these – but the moaning from all four corners of the pitch full time when David Coote ended things.
No one wanted this game to end. It was a game where the sheer amount of downtime we saw at the World Cup would have been welcome.
The two men in the center of the stage before the game have moved to the fore. Kane and Toney must have felt the weight of their very different recent experiences as they lined up for kickoff. They ended it with a full-time embrace – both players relieved to put the last few weeks behind them.
But the beauty that comes with the Premier League is that it was all so predictable. The match made sense, if you look at recent matches.
Tottenham started the game slow, as they always do – and came back to salvage a result, as they always do.
Once again, Brentford have made things difficult for a top-six side at home, highlighting their status as goalscorers but a team that also lacks consistency against the teams around them.
In the end, the Premier League is exactly the same as it was a month ago when it stopped for the World Cup. If the rest of the games in volume two of this thrilling campaign are just as good…