Tottenham wins first game at new stadium

AP, Kyodo

To the accompaniment of a marching band, tenor Wynne Evans serenaded the players and 59,215 fans with “Glory, Glory Tottenham Hotspur.”

Fireworks exploded over the stadium, illuminating the north London sky and the golden cockerel atop the roof.

The club wasn’t celebrating a trophy but a homecoming.

And there was still a game to be won after Tottenham’s much-delayed new stadium finally opened on Wednesday after 689 days, 51 games on the road at Wembley and costs exceeding £1 billion ($1.3 billion). But the return to White Hart Lane inspired a first Premier League victory in almost two months as Tottenham beat Crystal Palace 2-0 to climb back into third place

Both goals came in front of the stadium’s sweeping 17,500-seater single tier stand, the largest in England, although a sense of unease was starting to creep in before the breakthrough finally came in the 55th minute.

Son Heung-min received the ball in the penalty area and sent the ball into the net with a shot that took a deflection off Palace defender Luka Milivojevic, carving the South Korea forward’s name into Tottenham history.

“We found the goal at an important time,” said Son, who also scored his first Premier League goal against the same opposition nearly four years ago.

The stadium could only truly begin to party in the 80th minute once Christian Eriksen pounced on the loose ball after Harry Kane was tripped by Martin Kelly.

“It was a little bit of pressure,” manager Mauricio Pochettino said. “But the excitement, the energy made everything possible.”

A top-four finish is still very much possible for Spurs as well, even though the prospect of qualifying for the Champions League for a fourth successive season is suddenly far from a sure thing after the two-month collapse in form.

But the bigger target for Pochettino is to win titles, something the Argentine has lacked since arriving at Tottenham in 2014. And the new stadium will only increase the pressure on the club to take the next step in terms of competing for trophies.

Not that there is more recent tradition of silverware in an area of London ruled for so long by Arsenal. Tottenham’s last English title was won in 1961. Only cups have been collected since, the last time in 2008 with the lesser-regarded League Cup.

“Tottenham is going to be a real contender for big things,” Pochettino said. “We have to think big. . . . We are World Cup winners in terms of facilities.”

In Austria, Takumi Minamino scored in Salzburg’s 6-0 away win over third-tier Grazer AK on Wednesday to help send the defending first-division champions into the Austrian Cup final.

Minamino was involved in the build-up when Hannes Wolf scored in the 13th minute to make it 2-0 before converting a header from short range right before halftime to put his side 4-0 up. The goal came as revenge after the 24-year-old had been denied by ‘keeper Patrick Haider just minutes earlier.

Minamino’s goal was Salzburg’s 1,500th in competitive soccer since its refounding by Red Bull in the 2005-06 season, according to the club.

Moanes Dabour and Wolf each bagged a brace, and Patson Daka added Salzburg’s sixth goal in extra time.

Salzburg reached the Austrian Cup final for the sixth consecutive time and will look to win its first title in two seasons when it plays third-division side Rapid Vienna on May 1.

In the Belgian first-division Europa League playoffs, Kosuke Kinoshita scored for Sint-Truiden in its 2-1 away win over Beerschot Wilrijk.

Kinoshita was substituted for Takahiro Sekine late in the second half. Daichi Kamada, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Wataru Endo all played full matches for Sint-Truiden.

In other soccer news, legendary Brazilian star Pele was hospitalized in Paris on Wednesday because of a urinary infection following a meeting with Kylian Mbappe in the French capital, his spokesman said.

Pepito Fornos told The Associated Press the three-time World Cup champion will be in the hospital for up to two days.

“He was a little shaky and they detected a urinary infection,” Fornos said.

He added that Pele had a fever and is being treated with antibiotics, but “it is all under control.”

“Doctors want him to stay in hospital one or two days so he can leave fully recovered,” Fornos added.

He did not specify which hospital Pele was being treated in.

Earlier, Brazilian TV network Globo said Pele had a cold and was medicated at his hotel on Tuesday. He woke up still feeling ill and was taken to a hospital on Wednesday.

The 78-year-old Pele and Mbappe, the French forward who has drawn comparisons with the Brazilian great after helping France win the World Cup last summer as a teenager, met as part of their ambassador roles for a Swiss watchmaker.

Pele has frequently been admitted to hospitals in the last few years for kidney and prostate procedures.

In November 2014 the Brazilian great stayed in a Sao Paulo hospital for two weeks, including some time in intensive care, because of a urinary tract infection.

At the time, his Brazilian doctors said intensive care was needed because of excessive inflammation in his body caused by the infection.

Pele’s meeting with Mbappe had initially been planned for last November but was postponed because of the Brazilian’s poor health at the time.