ENGLAND fans already know only too well how cool Ivan Perisic is under pressure.
Tottenham’s first signing this summer was the key man responsible for helping turn the 2018 World Cup semi-final in Croatia’s favour and break our hearts.
After Kieran Trippier’s early free-kick had given a nation a chance to dream, it was Perisic who levelled midway through the second half – before setting up Mario Mandzukic’s winner in extra-time.
So when Spurs were making hard work of Bruno Lage’s Wolves on Saturday, failing to have a shot until the 45th minute, prompting a few boos at half-time, Perisic was never going to be fazed on his first start.
It was the 33-year-old’s clever flick-on at the near post that gave Harry Kane a tap-in – or nod-in, would be more appropriate – for the matchwinner as Spurs won 1-0.
While his all-round performance showed just why Antonio Conte wanted to bring him to the club in the first place.
At 33 and offering next to no resale value, Perisic is pretty much the opposite of the kind of player Tottenham have targeted in the past.
Yet getting him through the door was understood to be significant to convincing Conte to stay this summer, after he had hinted he could walk if not properly backed.
It showed the club were willing to change their approach to satisfy the ex-Chelsea boss.
Conte knew exactly what he was getting in Perisic, having worked with him at Inter Milan where they won Serie A together the season before last.
And despite his age, 58 games for club and country last term showed he had more than left in the tank to deal with the rigours of the Premier League.
Perisic had come off the bench for the first two games of the season, and fired in a trademark inswinging corner which set up Kane’s leveller last week at Chelsea in the sixth minute of injury time.
But after those cameos, this was a proper chance for fans to see what their name can offer.
First of all, Perisic looks to have the physicality to deal with England’s top flight, no problem.
He also knows Conte’s system so well from working under him that tactically he will not need a bedding-in period to slot into the team.
Though Ryan Sessegnon, who scored against Southampton in the curtain-raiser, will certainly have something to say over who gets the nod every week.
But it is also his quality and composure on the ball that may excite supporters most.
His first action inside four minutes was to float a ball over the top for Kane to run on to, and had the England captain taken a better touch, a half-chance would have come of it.
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Lage had seemingly planned to try to nullify Spurs’ wing-backs, with Pedro Neto essentially man-marking Perisic.
The Champions League winner also looked extremely capable in the air, often picking out a team-mate with a guided header to spark attacks.
With Spurs’ front three struggling to conjure much up – Son Heung-min had an off-day – it was a hopeful Perisic cross that led to Spurs finally having their first effort on goal just before the break.
It was a decent delivery stood up but the chance was all about Kane, who leapt above Nathan Collins and expertly directed a header towards the far corner which Jose Sa scrambled to tip away.
After the break, presumably after a Conte rocket at half-time, Spurs were much, much better.
Kane headed against the bar and Son against the post.
The pair then linked up, via middle-man Perisic, to notch the winner.
Son fired in a corner to the near post which Perisic cleverly flicked on at the near post and there was Kane to net his 185th Premier League goal, almost ten years to the day since his top-flight debut.
Perisic was given a standing ovation as he was replaced by Sessegnon on 75 minutes and looked to be walking gingerly at full-time after his exertions.
Other players may have wilted when the game seemed to be drifting frustratingly away from Spurs, but Perisic’s laser focus certainly went a long way to delivering the three points.
He was not the only player to be making his first start though.
Portugal international Matheus Nunes only joined from Sporting this week in a £38million deal but was thrown straight in.
It was an encouraging first display from the 23-year-old, sporting ‘Matheus N.’ on the back of his shirt.
If not one that lived up to the praise Pep Guardiola gave him last season when the Manchester City boss hailed him as one of the best players in the world.
Playing in front of Brazilian Ronaldo, who like Nunes was born in Rio de Janeiro, the midfielder had good strength, ability and eager to shoot on occasion.
Just before Perisic had teed up Kane’s chance at the end of the first half, Nunes came agonisingly close to a debut goal as he flicked Ruben Neves’ floated delivery just wide.
All round it was a display that suggested Wolves have spent a serious amount of bread well on a player who just three years ago was still working in his parents’ Lisbon bakery.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism