Prospects for Spurs just get rosier


Tottenham 2 Newcastle Utd 0:TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR are restored to the Premier League’s top four and, even if their latest stay ends up lasting no more than a day, they will rejoice that elevation came at Chelsea’s expense. Twice in four days this team has prevailed despite being reduced to 10 men. There is resilience as well as brilliance to admire in their ranks.

This fractious occasion was marred by coaches going head to head in the technical area and players doing likewise on the pitch as the officials struggled to maintain control. The home side’s assistant manager, Joe Jordan, screaming face to face first at Alan Pardew and then at the visitors’ goalkeeping coach, Andy Woodman, had already set a bad example when Younes Kaboul took exception to Cheik Tiote’s culmination of challenges, the last of which had legitimately dispossessed him in front of the dug-outs.

The Frenchman, already booked, thrust his head at the Ivorian to prompt a dismissal he disputed with the officials and opposing players. If there was controversy in Jermain Defoe’s sending-off at Aston Villa on Saturday, there was none in this red card. “It was stupid of Younes,” Harry Redknapp, Tottenham’s manager, said. “A lack of discipline. You’re 1-0 up, so why go and do something like that? He has to learn but I’m disappointed in him today. That’s two key players we will miss now for important games.” A three-match ban will follow, with Defoe still to miss the next two games, against Fulham and Everton.

There is encouragement for Spurs in the quality they maintain even when reduced to 10 men. They had only just established the lead by the time Kaboul departed, their first-half efforts largely stifled by Newcastle’s effective and awkward midfield. With Tiote and Alan Smith snapping eagerly into challenges and Joey Barton an abrasive presence at their side, Spurs’ rhythm was disturbed.

The visitors may have struggled to create coherent chances until a pair of efforts were scrambled from the Tottenham goalline in second-half stoppage time but they had threatened to deflect their opponents’ quality until prised apart just before the hour.

Kaboul was instrumental in the goal, his slick first-time pass out wide liberating Aaron Lennon, with James Perch, an unconvincing left-back, backing off and then seeing the winger’s effort veer, via his attempted block, beyond Tim Krul. The Dutchman might have deserved better, having conjured a wonderful save to turn Roman Pavlyuchenko’s header at the end of the first half on to a post, the loose ball then spinning along the line to strike the opposite upright. There was no saving Lennon’s skimmer.

Spurs could feel relatively comfortable even when their numbers were depleted, with Newcastle lacking quality in delivery to Andy Carroll. Pardew bemoaned as much and will today address the pre-match tweeting of his full-back Jose Enrique, who declared his unavailability with an injury.

Newcastle huffed and puffed in search of an equaliser here but were eventually sprung on the break, Luka Modric robbing Carroll to find Gareth Bale down the left. The Welshman remains irrepressible in full flight and drove Steven Taylor back towards his own goal before teasing out enough space to fizz the second through Krul.

“The difference between the sides was the electric pace that Spurs have, which can undo your discipline as a back four,” said Pardew, who will take solace in owner Mike Ashley’s insistence that Carroll, courted by Tottenham, will not be sold and that reinforcements can be identified as Newcastle search for the “six or seven wins” that Pardew says will see them safe.

Spurs’ prospects are rosier. “It’ll be tougher this year than last to finish in that top four but it’ll be close,” Redknapp said.

Anything feels possible at the club these days.

TOTTENHAM:Gomes, Hutton, Dawson, Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto, Lennon, Palacios (Jenas 46), Modric, Bale, Pavlyuchenko (Bassong 66), Van der Vaart (Crouch 72). Subs not used: Pletikosa, Keane, Kranjcar, Corluka. Booked: Palacios, Kaboul.

NEWCASTLE UTD:Krul, Coloccini, Steven Taylor, Perch, Tiote (Lovenkrands 79), Barton, Routledge, Simpson, Smith, Gutierrez (Ranger 67), Carroll. Subs not used: Harper, Williamson, Xisco, Best, Kadar. Booked: Tiote, Gutierrez, Smith, Carroll.

Referee:Anthony Taylor (Cheshire).