Darren Bent came off the bench to put a dent in Portsmouth's push for a UEFA Cup place as the Tottenham Hotspur striker set up his side's 2-0 win at White Hart Lane on Saturday. Bent has found first team opportunities hard to come by since his £16 million move from Charlton Athletic in pre-season, but the England striker made the most of his cameo role here.
Juande Ramos sent on Bent and Jamie O'Hara with 20 minutes to go, and his super-subs responded in style. Bent scored the first in the 80th minute and created the second for O'Hara moments later. Defeat was a significant blow to Portsmouth's hopes of qualifying for Europe via their league position, although Harry Redknapp's side can still make it through the FA Cup.
How they missed Jermain Defoe, who was forced to watch from the stands as a result of the Premier League ruling that left the striker ineligible to play against his former club. Nwankwo Kanu replaced Defoe as Redknapp, also hamstrung by suspensions to Papa Bouba Diop and Sulley Muntari, made six changes.
Spurs made all the running from the start. Robbie Keane set the tempo when he collected Dimitar Berbatov's pass and tested David James with a low shot. James was almost embarrassed by Keane a minute later when the Irish striker returned to the pitch on James's blindside and tried to dispossess the Portsmouth keeper as he prepared to throw the ball out.
Portsmouth survived and almost opened the scoring with their next move. Sean Davis spotted Paul Robinson off his line but the goalkeeper backpedalled to tip over the lob.
It was a rare threat from the visitors. Berbatov had the ball in the net in the 28th minute after Keane had slipped him through but the Bulgarian's effort was ruled out for offside.
Michael Dawson was inches away from opening the scoring moments later. The Spurs defender chested down Tom Huddlestone's corner and smashed a ferocious strike against the crossbar. Ramos's team kept up the pressure until half-time. Berbatov curled over the bar from the edge of the penalty area before Huddlestone drilled over.
Bent makes the difference
Neither side could find any momentum after the break, with the unseasonal snow flurries that briefly swirled around the ground provoking more interest than the action on the pitch. Ramos sacrificed Dawson and sent on Bent in the 70th minute. It proved an inspired move, although Portsmouth were close to scoring moments later.
Kanu beat Robinson to Glen Johnson's long pass and looked
odds-on to head home but his weak effort allowed Didier Zokora to
clear off the line. Bent made Kanu pay for that miss.
Steed Malbranque's deflected shot looped to Berbatov, whose header reached Bent. The forward pounced with a close-range header to finally break the deadlock.
Bent's goal was the 100th scored at White Hart Lane this season and he set up another two minutes later. Surging down the left flank, Bent looked up to see O'Hara in space in the penalty area. His pass was perfect and the young midfielder calmly slotted home his first league goal for the club.