Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho has denied reports of a rift between him and midfielder Tanguy Ndombele.
The France midfielder, who Mourinho met during lockdown to help install his GPS equipment, has not played in either of Spurs’ two games of the Premier League restart.
He did not even warm-up during the 2-0 win over West Ham, which came thanks to a Tomas Soucek own goal and Harry Kane’s 137th goal in 200 league appearances for the club.
Reports emerged in France not long after full-time that Ndombele had told Mourinho he no longer wanted to play for the club, but Mourinho has quashed them.
He said: “No. On the bench was Tanguy, (Ryan) Sessegnon, Toby (Alderweireld), (Jan) Vertonghen, Gedson (Fernandes) and they didn’t play.
“That’s football. For me there’s nothing. I had attacking players on the bench, Lamela and Bergwijn. Two great players to bring on and then Winks to give us more consistency.
“This situation of the five changes, some people maybe think that you have to use all five changes. You don’t have to do it. You have the chances to do it.
“I felt that the team was fine. I never believed that 2-0 was a completely safe result because they were trying everything and one goal could change the state of mind and give them the motivation in the final minutes so I decided to keep the team stable and three changes was enough.
“You know, it’s not just him. I try to do the best for my team. I cannot start the game with 12 or 13 players, I try to do the best for the team.
“Sometimes I apologise to my players that are not my first choice because I feel their work in training deserves something more than I give but I have to do my job the best I can and I felt for these two matches I didn’t need him.”
While Ndombele, the club’s record signing, is struggling for minutes, that is not a problem for Kane, who shirked off scrutiny over his performance against Manchester United on Friday with a trademark goal, coolly slotting past Lukasz Fabianski.
Mourinho was forced to make an impassioned rebuttal of claims that his style of play would not see Kane score goals before the match, listing the scoring records of all of his former strikers.
But there is little chance of Kane not scoring whatever the tactics and Mourinho’s pre-match prediction came true.
“I said before the game I wouldn’t be surprised if Harry Kane scores,” he said.
“Is that fundamental for me? No. It is fundamental for the team. 2-0 killed the game. It’s good for Harry, of course it is because strikers, their happiness comes from team victories but also from numbers and goals they score.
“It was very good for him but even better for us.
“It is very, very good for him and the fact he scored in the last minutes is important. For him to be so strong in the last round to be so cool in front of Fabianksi shows he is in the right way.
“For us it was no panic. For us the main thing was a good reaction to the surgery. When the reaction from the surgery is good everything will come and he will score goals from us.”
Spurs had a goal ruled out for offside by VAR’s perpendicular lines but they were perhaps lucky not to see Soucek’s 64th-minute own goal not chalked off after it appeared to hit Davinson Sanchez’s arm in the build-up.
It sent West Ham on the way to a second defeat from two of the restart, which Kane’s late goal sealed, and they could be in the bottom two if Bournemouth pick up points on Wednesday.
But boss David Moyes accused the VAR official of a dereliction of duty for failing to rule out Spurs’ first goal.
“Would there be uproar if it was ruled out?” Moyes said. “I thought that every ball that hit an arm and led to a goal was to be chalked off.
“If that’s the rule, I was worried that I only had two quick looks at it and it’s definitely hit his arm so it shouldn’t have counted.
“I am asking who is it making that decision? We scored a really good goal in the 90th minute at Sheffield United and the boy claimed it was handball and we couldn’t believe it.
“Do I think it is a good rule? No I don’t. Whoever it was on VAR tonight, didn’t do his job right because he didn’t abide by the rules we were told we are supposed to play to.”