BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) — Son Heung-min scored a sensational hat trick as Tottenham took control of the race for a Premier League top-four spot with a 4-0 win at Aston Villa on Saturday.
After Manchester United and Arsenal both lost earlier in the day, Son’s treble and Dejan Kulusevski’s strike sent Spurs three points clear in fourth place.
It was a fourth win in a row and seventh from the last nine, making it difficult to look past Tottenham in the fight for Champions League qualification following Antonio Conte’s transformation of the team.
The lethal front three, with Harry Kane involved in three of the goals, sealed the victory but Spurs also had captain Hugo Lloris to thank just as much.
After Son’s third-minute opener, Tottenham was under pressure for most of the first half, with the Frenchman’s heroics keeping a rampant Villa at bay.
The visitors’ quality on the break in the second half saw them run away with it and consign Villa to a fourth straight defeat.
Tottenham would have enjoyed watching the results from earlier in the day come in, providing the team with a real opportunity to take control of their top-four hopes. Arsenal lost 2-1 at home to Brighton after United was beaten 1-0 at Everton.
And Spurs could not have dreamed of a better start.
Kane’s drilled shot hit Matty Cash in the midriff and fell perfectly to Son, who smashed a fine first-time effort into the bottom corner.
Villa’s response was admirable and Spurs needed their captain to step up with three big saves.
First Lloris palmed away a low effort from Cash, then somehow clawed away Jacob Ramsey’s effort at the near post after the Villa midfielder weaved into the area, before also stopping John McGinn’s swerving shot from distance.
The hosts were all over Spurs and the chances kept on coming.
Danny Ings shot straight at Lloris from a well-worked free kick and Ollie Watkins headed over from Philippe Coutinho’s cross.
Lloris was the busiest player on the pitch and had to keep out Coutinho’s free kick at the near post as he ended the first half with seven saves to his name.
Gerrard will have been scratching his head as to how his side was not comfortably in front by the interval, so he probably knew what was coming in the second half.
Just five minutes after the restart, Spurs doubled their lead with a moment of real quality.
Kane flicked on Lloris’ long ball into the path of Kulusevski and the Swede did brilliantly to fire a low shot across goal and into the far corner in the 50th.
Villa had run out of steam and Spurs landed a killer blow in the 66th as the Kane-Son partnership delivered again.
It was Kane’s brilliant awareness that set Son clear, knowing exactly where to direct his headed flick from the center of the field, and the South Korean ran clear and coolly converted past Emi Martinez.
Son completed his hat trick five minutes later, putting the finishing touches to a brilliant team move.
Kane and Son combined to play Kulusevski in down the right and, after a mazy run, he cut back to Son, who swept home a finish in style to claim the match ball.
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