Spurs 1-0 Wolves in Korean derby that never was
Korean fans tuning in to the generously-scheduled Tottenham Hotspur vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers clash on Saturday were left disappointed as Son Heung-min and Hwang Hee-chan never actually set foot on the pitch at the same time.
Hopes that the match would turn into an unofficial Korean Derby fell apart when Wolves manager Bruno Lage opted to leave Hwang on the bench until the 81st minute, bringing him into the game five minutes after Spurs’ manager Antonio Conte took Son off.
The Spurs-Wolves match-up — a fairly uninspiring fixture for most Premier League fans — is one of the most highly-anticipate games of the season in Korea as it provides the rare opportunity to watch two of Korea’s biggest players face each other in Europe.
Only the Bundesliga provides a similar chance to watch Korean players face-off, although while Lee Jae-sung has similar national team exposure to Son and Hwang, the other players active there are younger and perhaps less well-known.
But despite the anticipation, Saturday’s game was an exceptionally uninspiring affair. Not only did Son and Hwang never appear on the field at the same time, but they also both failed to do anything while they were there.
It was a particularly unimpressive performance from reigning Golden Boot winner Son, who achieved practically nothing in his 76 minutes on the pitch.
Son was barely present throughout the first half, as Wolves hammered away at the Spurs defense while the home side barely got a shot off. Son wasn’t the only one proving ineffectual, with Harry Kane and Dejan Kulusevski also essentially invisible.
After the break, the attacking trio started to push forward more, but Son’s attempts were still lackluster. Set pieces were the one area where the Korean continued to shine, although even there he was off his game in the first half, sending a corner straight into the side of the net.
Tottenham did eventually walk away with a 1-0 win, with Kane scoring in the 64th minute. That play did start from a well-placed Son corner, with Ivan Perisic heading it back to Kane, who nodded it home.
Son’s only other notable contribution to the game was a foul in the 72nd minute just outside his own box that gave Wolves a free kick and very nearly an equalizer. Luckily for Son, Rúben Neves narrowly missed the bottom right corner, leaving Spurs’ lead intact.
With Son out the game it was Hwang’s turn to have a go, coming on with just over 10 minutes left to play.
Hwang looked confident and made the most of his short time on the pitch, but it was far too late for him to have any real impact on the game.
The Korean midfielder was likely sidelined for the majority of the game as Lage looked to take advantage of recent signee Matheus Nunes. In fact, Lage ended up starting seven Portuguese players on Saturday and it was not necessarily a bad decision — the Wolves attack was far fierier that it has been in recent games.
For Hwang, Saturday’s outing extends his goalless run to 16 Premier League games, perhaps explaining exactly why he spent most of the afternoon on the bench.
But while it might not have been a particularly exciting fixture, Saturday’s game did see a few key milestones reached and a record beaten.
Harry Kane’s 64th-minute goal was his 250th for Tottenham across all competitions and his 185th in the Premier League, making him the top scorer for a single club in league history.
Sergio Aguero formally held the title, with 184 goals scored for Manchester City, but Kane has surpassed him with 185 for Spurs. That also sees him take the No. 4 spot on the all-time Premier League top scorer table, after Andrew Cole with 187, Wayne Rooney with 208 and Alan Shearer with 260.
That goal was also Spurs’ 1,000th Premier league goal at home, making Tottenham the fifth club to reach the milestone, after Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea.
Tottenham will be back in action on Aug. 28 as they face Nottingham Forest on the road, while Wolves have a Carabao Cup match against Preston at home on Tuesday.
BY JIM BULLEY [email@example.com]