Villas-Boas revelling as Spurs continue their steady progress
Tottenham 3 Reading 1:If 2012 ended brightly for Tottenham Hotspur, 2013 has started pretty well, too. A seventh win in nine matches, after they had ultimately brushed off the limpet-like attentions of Reading yesterday, took them to third place and on course for a battle with the big boys. A happy new year, indeed.
However, it is not so much the big boys but the small fry whom Tottenham need to dispatch with rather more clinical efficiency at home if they are to seriously challenge Manchester City, Manchester United or Chelsea over the run-in. Reading not only took an early lead but could have salvaged a draw near the end but for squandered chances.
Just as Wigan Athletic, Norwich City, West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City have come away with points at White Hart Lane this season, Reading might have returned to Berkshire with more than a slap on the wrist for being so cheeky. It is a flaw that Andre Villas-Boas, the Tottenham manager, needs to address.
Still, for the moment, the Portuguese is revelling in the steady progress that his team has made, especially as they could slide back a notch or two once the chasing pack of Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton have used up their games in hand. And 10 points from 12 over the festive period is a commendable haul.
Reading opened brightly with Kyle Naughton harshly adjudged to have fouled Pavel Pogrebnyak on the edge of the home area. Yet there was no disputing the quality of Ian Harte’s free kick, which thundered against Hugo Lloris’s crossbar, or the swift opportunism of Pogrebnyak as he stooped to nod in the rebound before anyone else could react.
It did, though, awake them from their slumber and they were level within six minutes. Gylfi Sigurdsson, the former Reading midfielder, curled over a corner from the left and Michael Dawson, the Tottenham captain, headed in at the near post. Aaron Lennon had given Harte a torrid time in the first and was at it again in the second half, twisting this way and that before clipping over a cross to the far post. Emmanuel Adebayor rose and nodded firmly past Adam Federici for his first league goal in six weeks.
Tottenham did survive two scares, when Pogrebnyak headed wide after Lloris had saved his initial effort and when Jimmy Kebe was denied by a last-ditch block from Kyle Walker.
It needed Clint Dempsey to soothe the nerves. The American took aim from 20 yards and was helped by a deflection off Mikele Leigertwood that looped wildly over Federici.