Crystal Palace - 0 Tottenham - 1: Soldado scores on debut as Spurs dictate opener (Video)
A stubborn Crystal Palace side, backed by a rocking home crowd, performed valiantly against Tottenham Hotspur at Selhurst Park, but had little possession and their counter-attack wasn’t enough as a Soldado penalty proved the difference.
The scoreless first half - while the build-ups were quality for both sides - offered little as far as solid chances on goal go.
The Palace midfield exerted everything they had to maintain possession, but often had to spend long spells trying to quell Spurs buildup play flowing through Mousa Dembele and new signing Paulinho.
However, the visitors found it difficult to get the ball into the box as the Eagles defenders marked the Spurs frontmen solidly, and Palace goalkeeper Julian Speroni positioned himself well all match.
The 35th minute saw the opening half’s best chance when a spinning Gylfi Sigurdsson fired a knuckling shot from the top of the box which Speroni brilliantly parried over the bar while leaping high into the air. Mousa Dembele also whipped in a laser beam earlier on in the 12th minute that fizzed just over.
Spurs finally broke through in the 51st minute as Aaron Lennon broke down the right side of the box and sent in a cross, which found the outstretched arm of Eagles defender Dean Moxey, and referee Mark Clattenburg - who had a fantastic match - gave the penalty. New Spurs striker Roberto Soldado stepped up immediately to take, and he wrong-footed Speroni to net the opener on his debut.
Palace had a counter-attack opportunity 15 minutes later when Palace captain Mile Jedinak dispossessed Paulinho and the loose ball fell to Dwight Gayle, who flashed up the left side, cut back in, and fired a laser just over the bar.
Sigurddson, who had a tough year last season, had a beautiful chance to seal the deal just after when Soldado found him all alone in the middle of the box but he slid and touched it just wide of the left post. The game began to open up as Palace boss Ian Holloway threw on all three substitutes at once. Substitute Marouane Chamakh, recently acquired on loan, nearly released Gayle but the ball was just long. Lloris was then forced to come out of his box as sub Kevin Phillips latched onto a long ball but Lloris came out to make the tackle.
The home side pushed forward towards the end but couldn’t find the final ball. Spurs sub Jermain Defoe had the goal gaping with a chance to put it away, but inexplicably went near post when the other side was completely open, and he dragged it wide. Lloris had to make two more last-ditch saves off the feet of former Fulham man Kagisho Dikgaccoi at the death to preserve the lead.
It’s a great start for Spurs as they look to overtake rivals Arsenal this season, after two seasons of falling agonizingly short of Arsenal for the final Champions League spot.
Tottenham: Hugo Lloris; Kyle Walker, Michael Dawson, Jan Vertonghen, Danny Rose (Younis Kaboul, 86'); Aaron Lennon, Mousa Dembele (Etienne Capoue, 57'), Nacer Chadli, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Paulinho; Roberto Soldado (Defoe 83').
Crystal Palace: Julian Speroni, Joel Ward, Daniel Gabbidon, Damien Delaney, Dean Moxey, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Mile Jedinak, Owen Garvan (Marouane Chamakh, 66'), Stephen Dobbie (Jonathan Williams, 66'), Dwight Gayle, Aaron Wilbraham (Kevin Phillips, 66').