Fernando Llorente leads Tottenham to hard-fought win at rainy Swansea
SWANSEA, Wales -- Three conclusions from Tottenham's 2-0 win at bottom-club Swansea in the Premier League.
1. Llorente shows he can cover for Kane
Pep Guardiola's description of Tottenham as "the Harry Kane team" riled Mauricio Pochettino in October but Spurs are yet to prove the Man City boss wrong, losing their only league game without Kane before tonight.
Kane was hoping to become the first player to score a hat trick of hat-tricks in the Premier League but he was benched after a heavy cold, leaving Fernando Llorente to make his first league start of the season against his former club. Given the torrential rain, a sluggish pitch and Thursday's upcoming match against West Ham, it looked a sensible decision not to risk the England striker against bottom-club Swansea, particularly when Llorente made his mark after 12 minutes.
On a sodden surface, set-pieces were always likely to be decisive and Swansea were warned when Christian Eriksen whipped in dangerous free-kick from the right. Moments later, the Denmark international did the same from the other flank and Llorente planted a fine header past Lukasz Fabianski after getting the wrong side of Federico Fernandez. There was a hint of offside and the Spain international did not celebrate his first Premier League goal for Spurs.
Swansea should know Llorente as well as anyone after selling him to Spurs in the summer but he nearly repeated the trick, stretching to volley Eriksen's free-kick onto the roof of the net just before half-time.
Llorente was more sidelined after the interval as Spurs increasingly struggled to move the ball forward and Kane was introduced for the final 25 minutes. Not to be silenced, Kane proved there is more to his game than goals, assisting Dele Alli's messy winner -- an appropriately poor goal -- with a fine diagonal pass.
It may have only been Swansea but given the conditions, this was a difficult game for Spurs and Llorente, who had done nothing of note in 11 substitute appearances in the Premier League for Spurs prior to Tuesday night, ultimately did his job and made the difference. Spurs have not proved Guardiola wrong yet but Pochettino will not care this time.
2. Wanyama's return a timely boost for Spurs
Swansea finished the first half strongly and continued to press Spurs after the break, forcing Davinson Sanchez, who had already been booked, into a rash late challenge on Martin Olsson on 58 minutes. Though referee Bobby Madley decided not to send the Colombia international off, Pochettino responded by immediately replacing him with Victor Wanyama.
The Kenya midfielder has not played since the first two games of the season due to a knee complaint and Spurs have suffered in his absence, particularly since Toby Alderweireld injured his hamstring on Nov. 1. Yet it didn't take long for Wanyama to make a vital contribution, arriving late to dispossess Jordan Ayew who had muddled his way past Jan Vertonghen and Hugo Lloris in the saturated six-yard box. From the resulting corner, Mike van der Hoorn headed onto the post in Swansea's best chance.
Wanyama's return is a timely boost for Spurs, who face West Ham in 48 hours before Sunday's FA Cup third-round match against AFC Wimbledon at Wembley and were without Mousa Dembele after a recurrence of a longstanding hip problem. He did not look at his best but the defensive shield Wanyama provided helped Spurs to weather the storm before Alli's late second goal broke Swansea's spirited resistance and sealed the points for the visitors.
3. Sanchez lucky to escape a red card
Pochettino used his pre-match press conference to again remind everyone of just how difficult it is for late summer signings to settle in the Premier League but Sanchez has appeared to be an exception to the rule for much of the season. The Colombia international has seamlessly slotted in Spurs' defence after arriving a week before the deadline. Whether in a three- or a four-man defence, he has looked right at home in both the Premier League and Champions League.
The exception was his rash sending-off for an elbow at Watford last month, which earned him a three-match ban and left Spurs desperately short of centre-backs. He immediately returned to the team for the festive wins over Burnley and Southampton, particularly impressing at Turf Moor, but he was again reckless at the Liberty Stadium. His first-half booking for a foul on the edge of the area allowed Renato Sanches to curl a free-kick just over the bar, while he was fortunate to escape a second sending off in four matches for hacking down Martin Olsson.
The condition of Swansea's pitch, which had hosted a rugby game days before, didn't make it easy for any player but Sanchez struggled more than anyone and another careless performance further highlighted the absence of Alderweireld, who is not due to return until next month.
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.