Playing without his protective mask for the first time since suffering facial injuries in November, Son Heung-min still couldn't guide Tottenham Hotspur past Aston Villa at home on New Year's Day.
Son tossed aside his black facial mask midway through the first half of a Premier League match against Aston Villa at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on Sunday (local time). He appeared visibly frustrated after getting stripped of the ball in the preceding play and played the rest of the match without the protective gear.
Spurs lost 2-0 and slipped to fifth place on 30 points from nine wins, three draws and five losses. Manchester United climbed to fourth place with a 1-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Son suffered multiple fractures around his left eye in a collision with an opposing player during a UEFA Champions League match on Nov. 1. Son underwent surgery on Nov. 4, and only weeks later, he played all four matches for South Korea at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar while wearing the mask. As Son led South Korea to the round of 16, the gear became such a signature for him that several supporters sported their own versions of the mask in the stands in support of their beloved captain.
Son played the final few moments of South Korea's last Group H match against Portugal on Dec. 2 holding his mask in his right hand. Son acknowledged afterward that it was still too dangerous for him to play without the protective gear. It wasn't until New Year's Day that Son played extensive minutes sans the mask.
Tottenham are now winless in their first two matches back from the FIFA World Cup break, having earlier had a 2-2 draw with Brentford after coming back from a two-goal deficit.
Spurs have also conceded the first goal in each of their past 10 matches in all competitions, and allowed at least two goals in seven consecutive league matches for the first time since 1988.
Son, who shared the Golden Boot with Liverpool star Mohamed Salah last season at 23 goals each, remains stuck at three goals in 15 matches this season. All three goals came in a hat trick against Leicester City in September.
Spurs will next visit Crystal Palace on Wednesday. (Yonhap)