Tottenham made a winning start to the 2017-18 Premier League season as 10-man Newcastle endured a difficult return to the top flight.
The Magpies, promoted as winners of the Championship last term, had captain Jonjo Shelvey sent off early in the second half for standing on Dele Alli.
The Spurs attacker then put his side ahead with a close-range finish before Ben Davies finished off a neat move for Tottenham’s second.
It was a harsh re-introduction to life back in the Premier League for Newcastle, who were relegated from the division at the end of the 2015-16 season.
Rafael Benitez’s side did not really threaten Hugo Lloris in the Tottenham goal until late on, Christian Atsu forcing the goalkeeper into a low save and Ciaran Clark going close with a volley from 12 yards.
Instead, Spurs could have added to their lead as Harry Kane, last season’s Premier League top scorer with 29 goals, struck the post in injury time.
Relive Tottenham’s win at Newcastle
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?
Tottenham are the only Premier League side yet to make any signings this summer and the lack of transfer activity has frustrated some fans, especially after the sale of right-back Kyle Walker to Manchester City for £45m.
Mauricio Pochettino’s team were runners-up to an imperious Chelsea side last season but finished the campaign strongly, winning 12 and losing one of their final 13 league games.
It could therefore be argued that the adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ suits Spurs. Alli and Christian Eriksen combined to score or assist 48 goals for Tottenham in 2016-17 and it was little surprise both were involved in the opener, Eriksen setting up his team-mate to finish at the back post.
Pochettino also boasts an excellent record of promoting players from the club’s academy at the correct time. Walker’s place at right-back was filled by 20-year-old youth product Kyle Walker-Peters, a World Cup winner with England Under-20s over the summer, and the youngster put in a man-of-the-match display with some strong runs and crosses.
Shelvey sending off the turning point
Newcastle, while lacking bite, were good value for a point until Shelvey’s sending off.
The 25-year-old, who was banned for five games last season after being found guilty of making racist comments towards Wolves midfielder Romain Saiss, stood on Alli’s ankle in the 49th minute. Just 12 minutes later Spurs took the lead.
Shelvey’s dismissal means Newcastle will now be without the influential midfielder for their next three games – against Huddersfield and West Ham in the Premier League and Nottingham Forest in the EFL Cup.
Newcastle midfielder Christian Atsu revealed after the game that Shelvey had apologised to his team-mates.
“That’s football. Mistakes do happen,” Atsu told Sky Sports. “He’ll learn from his mistakes.
“He’s upset with himself. He thinks he let the team down. We are really behind him. We believe he will come back stronger. He apologised to everyone.”
Alli, meanwhile, said “there was no need” for Shelvey to react as he did.
“I’m sure he’ll be disappointed,” said the Tottenham attacker. “It was important we stayed professional. I don’t want to talk about it too much.
“I’ve had a few talks with the gaffer in the past [about his temperament]. I’ve been pulled up for my temper before but today we had to keep our cool. There was no need to react today.”
Toon troubles highlight the need to strengthen
Of the three teams promoted to the Premier League – Newcastle, Brighton and Huddersfield – Rafael Benitez’s side are the ones who have been backed by many as the most likely to flourish.
However, Benitez has been frustrated in his efforts to build a squad capable of doing just that.
Newcastle brought in five players over the summer, defenders Florian Lejeune and Javier Manquillo and midfielders Mikel Merino, Atsu and Jacob Murphy, but the club missed out on some of Benitez’s targets.
Sunday’s match highlighted their need to strengthen in one area in particular – attack. The last time Newcastle hosted Tottenham, in May last year, the Magpies ran out 5-1 winners but there was never any danger of a repeat of that scoreline.
The hosts managed just one shot on target in more than an hour before finishing with a flourish but by then Tottenham were 2-0 up and had slowed down the tempo of their own attacks.
Shevley’s dismissal, coupled with the first-half departure of defenders Paul Dummett and Lejeune to injury, will only strengthen Benitez’s desire to add to his squad before the end of the month.