Football Features

Heung-min Son is Spurs’ biggest superstar: Anatomy of a goal as Mourinho’s men batter Burnley

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 17:18, 7 December 2019

In an emphatic afternoon of football, Spurs thrashed Burnley 5-0 at Tottenham Stadium.

Heung-min Son isn’t Spurs’ best player, that’s Harry Kane. But it’s increasingly hard to argue against the idea that Son is Spurs’ most impressive player. Every time you watch Spurs, Kane does good things (well, not at Old Trafford – but still!) and you acknowledge that he is excellent, but he doesn’t blow your mind. His brilliance is understandable.

Take today against Burnley for instance. Kane scored twice, both stonking good finishes, and picked up a delicious assist for Moussa Sissoko. By all rights he was the dominant attacking personality as Spurs battered Burnley. But no one will leave the match thinking about Kane, because he was out-done. By Heung-min Son.

With 30 minutes gone at Tottenham Stadium, José Mourinho’s men led 2-0. Kane had scored already (technically assisted by Son but only technically). This was significant as it gave them a cushion but we’ve seen them throw away a two goal lead before so whilst everyone was happy with how things had been going against Burnley no one was sitting comfortably.

So it’s coming up to 31 minutes on the clock when Burnley get a set-piece. It’s just inside the Spurs half but this is still a danger zone given Burnley’s set-piece prowess. And considering that Spurs haven’t kept a Premier League clean sheet since the middle of September against Crystal Palace (they’ve had three since then, one against Colchester in the Carabao Cup and two against Red Star Belgrade in Europe) people were understandably weary.

So the ball came in and the Spurs players must have wondered what all the fuss was about. The ball was loopy but wide, Jan Vertonghen (who has been lowkey superb under Mourinho’s reign) simply jabbed it clear. Well, it wasn’t really clear it fell to Heung-min Son just outside the Spurs box. There was still a way to go before it was clear. The clock said 30:55.

Still, with Dele Alli and Lucas Moura on the move ahead of him it should have been no effort at all for Son to ping a pass into the channels and Spurs to drive upfield and look to pick up their third, right? Wron–well, not wrong. That was the smart thing to do and it would have been easy too. Dele was accelerating up the left-flank and a nice pass in behind a retreating Clarets defence would have done the trick.

But sometimes the easy option isn’t the right option. Kane would have made the pass. Not because he’s boring, but because he does the right thing. He makes the smart plays. He is utterly world-class but in a very defined way. Son, on the other hand, is a maverick. Heung-min Son does stupid things sometimes because Heung-min Son has the talent to make stupid things work.

So he’s literally 80 yards from the Burnley goal and he starts sort of casually jogging forwards. He’s looking up at Dele and with every millisecond he doesn’t pass the ball you realise more and more that he’s gonna go for it. Then his head drops a inch or two and his gait switches up, and he’s off.

Son approaches the half-way line and has two Burnley men behind him and three ahead of him in a triangle. This is a stupid decision. A normal footballer would realise at this point that they had made a terrible mistake and try to clip it through to Dele. Son isn’t normal, though. So he puts his foot down.

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Son accelerates away from the men chasing him and approaches Dwight McNeil. Now, Dwight McNeil is a dazzling winger. He actually played really well at Tottenham Stadium, but he’ll go away from the ground realising that Heung-min Son destroyed him. In fact no, destroyed is too violent this was a move of supreme grace let’s say Son now owns McNeil’s soul in the afterlife like that one Simpsons episode.

See McNeil tries to help out here. It’s the Burnley way, everyone pitching in. So he steps up thinking he’s going to stop Son but the Korean is just too smart for that. He takes one small touch to bait McNeil into going for the ball then as soon as he moves, Son jabs it into the space behind McNeil. It’s a masterful thing to see, two gentle touches that leave one player so bereft he just sort of stands there looking glum.

But forget McNeil, Son is away now. He’s into the Burnley half and only one man stands between him and Nick Pope, and that is Erik Pieters. The Dutchman could slide across to try and jockey Son but he just saw what happened to McNeil so he goes for the rough approach. He dives in for a sliding tackle.

Oh, Erik, why?

Son’s whole plan would have been shot if Pieters had just stood his ground. But that’s what mavericks do sometimes; they make audacious moves in the hope that the sheer audacity will cause you to briefly lose control of your sense of right and wrong. And, well, that happened to poor Pieters.

So Pieters lunges in and Son just puts his foot down even harder. You know that one note in The Dark Knight that just keeps rising in pitch, over and over again? It plays when The Joker is around and is meant to increase the tension? Yeah, play that back over Son’s run. As the note keeps going higher and higher, he just keeps getting faster and faster.

But okay, right, Pieters lunges in and boom, Son gets faster and he’s away. He’s clear. Matt Lowton is desperately chasing back to try and stop the inevitable, but it’s too late for Burnley. At this point it’s over. Son has the Infinity Stones in his gauntlet and he’s about to snap his fingers.

Nick Pope doesn’t even rush out like a madman to try and clear Son out, because he’s seen what Son has just done to his team-mates. So he stands his ground, one goalkeeper against the might of Son who was charging forward with the energy of a hundred men. He needed a miracle, but there was nothing on Pope’s left except for the ball as Son planted it into the far corner of the net. The clock said 31:07.

3-0. Game over.

12 seconds from one box to the other.

12 seconds to turn an impressive win into a proper thrashing.

12 seconds to steal all the headlines from Harry Kane.

12 seconds to prove that he is the biggest superstar playing for Tottenham Hotspur today.

Take a bow, Heung-min Son.