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 By John Crace

World Cup stars Jan Vertonghen, Dele Alli lead weary Tottenham

Most of Tottenham's World Cup stars featured from the start and overcame fatigue and an inspired Newcastle team to get three points away from home.
ESPN FC's Craig Burley reflects on the first Saturday of Premier League action, including a debut victory for Chelsea's Maurizio Sarri.
ESPN FC's Steve Nicol and Shaka Hislop had a case of deja vu after watching Tottenham's opener against Newcastle.
Mauricio Pochettino says if Tottenham are to win trophies, they need players focused on the team's goals and not individual targets.

First-half goals from Jan Vertonghen and Dele Alli were enough to give Spurs all three points. Tottenham started brightly and took the lead when goal-line technology ruled that Vertonghen's header had just crossed the line, only for Newcastle to draw level almost immediately. The visitors regained the lead but were unable to find the third goal that would have given breathing space as they tired.

Positives

After a dormant transfer window in which no players were bought or sold, Spurs needed to make an early statement that the current squad can press on and challenge and trophies; as such, this win will have eased nerves and silenced some doubters. It was not always pretty but sometimes results have to be ground out. Not many teams will come to Newcastle and take all three points.

Negatives

As expected, many of the World Cup stars looked undercooked, having had little proper rest or preseason training. In particular, Christian Eriksen, Harry Kane and Eric Dier were all below their best as Spurs struggled to turn possession into dominance.

Manager rating out of 10

7 -- Mauricio Pochettino would probably have preferred to give more of his Russia 2018 players longer to get fit before throwing them into a competitive fixture but, given the lack of options and need for Spurs to make a strong start to the season, his hands were tied. Pochettino got his tactics just about right, though Serge Aurier's defensive weaknesses might have suggested he was better off bringing in Toby Alderweireld and playing a back five.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Hugo Lloris, 7 -- Had little chance with Newcastle's goal but otherwise showed good command of his area, coming out decisively on several occasions to make timely interceptions. His main weakness continues to be his distribution, which frequently puts his defenders under pressure.

DF Serge Aurier, 6 -- With Kieran Trippier rested, Aurier started and always looked a threat going forward; his cross to the back post for Alli's header was sublime. Defensively, though, he was less than secure and Newcastle frequently got behind him.

DF Davinson Sanchez, 7 -- A lapse of concentration allowed Joselu a free header for Newcastle to equalise but, that apart, the Colombian international was solid and always quick to spot danger. Sanchez also posed a genuine threat at the other end from Eriksen's corners.

DF Jan Vertonghen, 8 -- Spurs' man of the match started this season where he finished last: On top of his game. He must have been tired from a summer of football but scored the opener -- his first Premier League goal for five seasons -- and made a crucial block to prevent Salomon Rondon equalising.

DF Ben Davies, 7 -- A curiously quiet game from one of the few players to have the benefit of a summer break. Was always solid in defence but made few efforts to get forward and provide width down the left flank.

MF Moussa Sissoko, 7 -- Assigned to the unglamorous role of breaking up the home team's rhythm, Sissoko stuck to his task. However, he still leaves the feeling that there is a far better footballer hidden away than the one so often on view.

MF Eric Dier, 6 -- In control for the first 45 minutes but seemed to tire badly in the second half, when he was caught out of position on several occasions. Lucky not to pick up a second yellow card and Spurs looked more secure after he was substituted.

MF Lucas Moura, 6 -- After a wonderful preseason, much was expected. However, apart from a few early touches he appeared at odds with himself and his game, producing few of the driving runs that had earned him a start.

MF Christian Eriksen, 6 -- Struggled to impose himself on the game, with his contribution limited to flickering cameos. Whipped in some dangerous crosses from dead-ball situations but was otherwise easily contained.

MF Dele Alli, 7 -- Along with Vertonghen, one of the few players involved in the latter stages of the World Cup, who did not look jaded until the final minutes when he was substituted. Was always alert and lost his marker to head home Spurs' winner.

FW Harry Kane, 6 -- You cannot fault his willingness; even when Kane is playing poorly, he never goes missing. The telltale sign that all was not well, though, was in his hold-up play as many of his lay-offs were misplaced. Kane looks like he could do with a few weeks of preparation, but is unlikely to get them.

Substitutes

MF Mousa Dembele, 7 -- Came on midway through the second half to replace the ineffective Lucas and Spurs immediately looked more cohesive. Despite the rumours of a move during the transfer window, he looks committed to the cause.

MF Son Heung-Min, NR -- Looked lively in his short time on the pitch and Spurs will miss him when he goes off to play for South Korea in the Asia Cup.

MF Luke Amos, NR -- Got his Premier League debut in the closing minutes and, though he had few touches, looked at home.

John Crace is one of ESPN FC's Tottenham bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @JohnJCrace.

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