In a somewhat stilted Spurs performance, there was enough in their
finishing to take the three points with a 2-0 win over Sunderland,
despite the Wearsiders having a good number of openings, only to find
goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes in fine form to deny them anything from the
While there was little in
this showing to suggest that there was much of an improvement in the
form that saw Tottenham lose to Stoke City and Arsenal, there was a
grittiness about the team and the two goals were well created and
finished. However, without the missing Luka Modric and Aaron
Lennon, the creative side of the team looks a little less than
With a large contingent of ex-Spurs in
the Sunderland squad, it was predictable that the pre-match coverage
would focus on one in particular, being Darren Bent, the Twitterer who
thought the whole of the Tottenham supporting world was against him, as
he missed chance after chance and still finished top scorer. Well,
the truth is that most Spurs fans were content with him, but many felt
that he did not fit the way Spurs played and that his predilection for
the long ball over his shoulder was not the set-up play the team used.
Strangely, now Tottenham play the long ball up to Peter Crouch and he
was lining up alongside Jermain Defoe in attack, with Robbie Keane
playing in the hole behind the front two. Three in midfield would
find a tough ask in closing down the five red and white striped shirts
they would often find up against them.
Indeed, the start of the game saw the
midfield out-gunned as Palacios looked uncomfortable on the left and
Jenas and Huddlestone were being by-passed by the Sunderland passing.
With five minutes gone, Bent got free on the right and pulled a low
cross to the penalty spot, where Jordan Henderson completely miscued his
shot much to the relief of the Spurs defence. A couple of fiery
challenges from Bardsley and Henderson went unpunished except for a
talking to from the referee - Kevin Friend.
But in the 11th minute, Spurs scored with
their first attack. Benoit Assou-Ekotto made progress down the
left and knocked in a deep cross to the far post on Tottenham's right
from 20 yards out. Peter Crouch rose and headed the ball back
across the six yard box, where Robbie Keane, looking suspiciously
off-side, shot, only for Craig Gordon to dive and stop his effort, but
the Spurs skipper followed up the rebound and netted at the second
attempt. The linesman's flag had stayed down and Spurs were ahead,
which should have given them the confidence to go on to play better, but
it didn't pan out that way.
Steed Malbranque showed the Spurs crowd
what they knew already, that he could be an effective midfielder, when
he squirmed past Vedran Corluka, who had a bit of a nightmare game,
before crossing low to Kieran Richardson, but the midfielder pulled his
effort wide of the goal. Halfway into the first half, Phil
Bardsley came in from right back to find himself without any pressure,
so hit a low shot across the face of goal, but it flew past all the legs
in the box and went off for a goal kick.
Tottenham were not so lucky the next time
Sunderland attacked. Former loan striker Fraizer Campbell kept a
ball to the Sunderland right in play and then played Darren Bent in on
goal, but Heurelho Gomes was quickly out to block his effort, but went
down in a heap holding his upper right arm in the process. The
Brazilian keeper had four minutes of treatment before being able to
carry on with former Sunderland keeper Ben Alnwick on the Spurs bench
warming up in case he was needed. It wasn't surprising that
Sunderland would try and test Gomes while he was freshly injured, but
apart from a dipping volley from 25 yards out by Andy Reid that thumped
back off the post with Gomes beaten (injured or not), there was only one
other nervy moment for the Spurs defence. A ball in from the
Sunderland right was ducked under by Woodgate, weakly headed back
towards Gomes by Corluka and Gomes was alert enough to come out to block
Richardson's low shot with his legs to keep Spurs ahead at the break.
They should also have been ahead on
numbers, as after getting booked for a crude challenge on Palacios,
Henderson took Corluka down late two minutes before the interval with a
tackle just as bad as his booking, but he had a Friend in the referee,
who was lenient on the player that the Mackems hope will spark some sort
of revival for their side in the absence of Lee Cattermole.
Anyway, the half-time break saw Alnwick
warming up again and the prospect of Gomes not making the second 45
minutes looked ominous, but when the sides came out he went to the Park
Lane goal to carry out his warm-up routine of touching the crossbar with
his elbows. Spurs started looking bright, but could not get
through the massed ranks of red and white striped shirts lined up in
front of their goal. When Defoe did turn his marker, Turner, who
had managed to foul him previously without allowing him that luxury, the
centre-half brought him down as he raced away and got a yellow card.
A later grapple on Crouch with one hand on the England striker's throat
and an arm round his waist could easily have been his second yellow, but
Mr. Friend seemed reluctant to produce a red card.
And I suppose he could have done so when
Bent raced round the back of Woodgate to prod the ball from Reid's pass
past Gomes, who brought him down inside the Tottenham penalty area.
However, as we Spurs fans are aware, Bent's touch isn't always that
great and it took the ball a long way away from goal and the referee's
judgement was that the trajectory of the ball meant that it was not a
clear goal-scoring opportunity. Having seen Bent miss from a
similar position against Liverpool a couple of weeks back, I suggest he
was probably right.
However, it still left the former Spurs
forward with a spot-kick against an injured keeper. Knowing how
the script usually goes on these incidents, it looked odds on that the
returning scorned striker would get his revenge. But what happened
was that Gomes dived to his left to keep the ball out and the ball was
kicked away. The goalie pointed heaven-wards to thank God for his
Sunderland pressed forward, as Spurs lost
their way and conceded possession too often. Malbranque lined up a
shot from a clearance when 25 yards out, with it taking a deflection off
Corluka that caused Gomes to make a change of direction to grab the ball
as it flew to his right. Just before the hour, Tom Huddlestone
played a cute ball through that Jermaine Defoe chased and although
Gordon beat him to it, he got an injury in the process and as he lay on
the floor, Hud tried a shot from 30 yards out, but Bardsley threw
himself to knock the ball wide, as the empty goal beckoned behind him.
Gordon got as much treatment as Gomes had
in the first half, but continued to play on, although Ledley King could
not do so and was replaced by Michael Dawson. It did not change
the general force of attacking and Gomes had to throw himself down to
his right once more, as Malbranque fired in low after a one-two with
Richardson. Things did change when Kranjcar was introduced for the
disappointing Keane and his energy sparked a mini-Spurs revival,
although the 67th minute removal of keeper Gordon to be replaced by
another ex-Spurs player - Marton Fulop. Unfortunately for him, it
was not a happy return to the club, as his first task was to pick the
ball out of the net without even getting a sniff of the shot that took
The ball was picked up on the left by
Jermain Defoe, who held off Turner and Da Silva, before rolling the ball
in front of Huddlestone, who struck a shot from a couple of yards
outside the box that hit the underside of the bar and bounced behind
Fulop and the line for 2-0. It was a fine strike by Tommy and
showed what he can do, but additionally, it showed that apart from
scoring, Defoe is a vital player in other parts of his game.
Kranjcar made Turner stretch to deflect
wide his shot from a poor clearance and then looked keen to get on the
score-sheet, as he tried a long range effort that dipped too late over
the bar. Gomes still had work to do, but headers from Bent into
his arms and Turner, which the keeper pushed away at the foot of his
right hand post were not good enough to beat him, as he cemented his man
of the match performance.
Spurs tried to push on towards the end,
as Anton Ferdinand came on at right back and the team tried to get
something from the game, but Dawson's resolute defending helped
Tottenham keep a clean sheet and earn a good three points going into the
international break that sees a couple of weeks before the next fixture
at home to Wigan.
For all the good play Tottenham had in
the first half against Stoke, they struggled to get going today and
perhaps only looked settled when Keane went off and they returned to a
4-4-2, with Palacios and Jenas to take up their normal places in the
middle of the midfield four.
Despite his goals against Everton in the
League Cup and one today, Robbie Keane is not playing well and the three
men up front formation does not seem to suit the personnel and perhaps
Harry should ditch it unless it is against a team we are well ahead of
in a game.
For once, the return of the ex did not
rule and Gomes kept the home sheets clean to put Spurs on 22 points and
back in fourth place for the time being.