TOTTENHAM began their Premier League campaign with an entertaining 2-1 victory over Newcastle with Jan Vertonghen and Dele Alli both on target.
But the Geordies weren’t helped by some horrific defending, particularly on Spurs’ second goal on a day when there were familiar calls from the Toon Army for Ashley to “get out of our club”.
That was after a pre-match protest by 200 Newcastle fans outside Ashley’s Sports Direct shop.
The fans aren’t happy that Ashley is investing in a string of shops rather than their club, in terms of major signings.
But Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino was happy with a winning start to the season, through goals from Jan Vertonghen and Dele Alli.
Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez, however, insisted: “We deserved a point. You could see the quality of the Spurs team and we had to work hard to contain them, then create chances.
“But when you look at the chances we had, we deserved a bit more.
“Now that the window is closed, we can’t change anything. So we’ll focus on what happens on the pitch.
I’m not happy, though, with this sort of press conference, when I have to praise the players for the way they have played, when we have still lost.
“But there were positives for the future.”
When it was pointed out that Newcastle were vulnerable at set pieces and from crosses, Benitez insisted: “It is quite simple. Spurs had too many big, strong lads in the air.
“But when you have money, you can buy players who not only have quality, but also physicality.”
And his reaction to Matt Ritchie being unhappy at being substituted was: “You have to try to change things when you are not winning.”
It was the haves v the have nots – but not in the way most people would expect.
Newcastle had the summer signings – seven in all, although only two started yesterday and four were on the bench.
Spurs, in contrast, were a signing-free zone in the transfer window which closed two days before the big kick off.
But despite fears of a weakened Spurs team as a result of so many players being involved in the World Cup, only England’s Kieran Trippier was missing.
And it was one of the men in Russia – Belgium’s Vertonghen – who gave Spurs an early lead.
Christian Eriksen’s low drive was turned for a corner by Toon keeper Martin Dubravka in the eight minute and Tottenham cashed in from the flag kick.
Eriksen’s delivery was nodded on by Davinson Sanchez and Vertonghen’s header hit the underside of the bar and dropped over the line.
To the obvious fury of Pochettino, Newcastle were level within three minutes.
Matt Ritchie crossed from the right and the unmarked Joselu – surprisingly picked ahead of new-arrival Salomon Rondon – glanced home a header.
Benitez said: “I am really pleased for Joselu. Strikers need to score and this will be good for his confidence.”
But the hectic pace continued with Spurs going back in front five minutes later, to make it three goals in the opening 18 minutes.
Serge Aurier, deputising for Trippier, crossesd perfectly to the far post, where Alli produced a trademark finish with his head from that position.
Harry Kane failed to control the ball when Eriksen created a chance for the England captain and Sanchez flashed a header across the face of the goal.
But Spurs lived dangerously at the back – particularly at the beginning of the second half.
Mo Diame crashed the ball against the post, then Kenedy’s touch let him down and Hugo Lloris was able to save at the winger’s feet.
The Spurs keeper also made a smart save from Ayoze Perez.
But Dubravka had to make a better stop at the other end to deny former Newcastle midfielder Moussa Sissoko.
The Geordies, though, were out of luck again five minutes from time when substitute Rondon’s drive was deflected on to the bar by the outstanding Vertonghen.