Sunderland hold Spurs
They may be taking the UEFA Champions League by storm, but Tottenham face a real battle to qualify for next year's competition after extending their winless run in the Premier League to four games tonight.
Rafael van der Vaart looked to have come to Spurs' rescue when he kept up his remarkable record of scoring in every home appearance since joining the club. However, a horrible mix-up between William Gallas and Younes Kaboul gifted the visitors an immediate equaliser, Asamoah Gyan taking full advantage with his third goal in two games.
Boos rang out amongst frustrated Spurs supporters as the match finished deadlocked - a factor that left the Spurs manager unhappy. "What have they got to moan about? We couldn't have done any more tonight; we couldn't have tried any harder."
Tottenham have now taken just two points from a possible 12 and are four adrift of the top four, all of whom have a game in hand. Spurs, who were only separated from Sunderland on the league table by goals scored prior to this match, started in determined fashion. A low strike from Luka Modric in the third minute forced a fingertip save from Craig Gordon, who was making his first appearance of the season after recovering from a broken arm.
Other long-range efforts from both sides were less successful before the recalled Kieran Richardson almost saw his shot deflect in off Kaboul. There was a lack of a cutting edge at each end until Tom Huddlestone hit the crossbar with a nonchalant 30-yard effort. That came in the 18th minute and was immediately followed by Anton Ferdinand, one of six changes for the visitors, limping off to be replaced by Phil Bardsley. The crossing continued to disappoint, with even Gareth Bale failing to deliver anywhere near the kind of quality that saw him shoot to worldwide fame against Inter Milan.
Van der Vaart, who had recovered from a hamstring strain to start, did his best to provide it, playing a one-two with Huddlestone and firing a near-post shot which was easily saved by Gordon. The goalkeeper then tipped over an ambitious David Bentley free-kick from wide on the left, while Gyan did well to direct a header on target from Boudewijn Zenden's cross.
A disappointing half looked destined to end goalless as Bentley, starting a league game for the first time in more than six months, unleashed a brilliant left-foot strike which Gordon did well to turn behind. Half-time saw both sides make changes, Spurs withdrawing Roman Pavlyuchenko for Peter Crouch and Sunderland bringing off Cristian Riveros for Danny Welbeck.
Van der Vaart should have broken the deadlock in the 52nd minute but the unmarked midfielder headed Alan Hutton's cross wide. Bale blew a great chance to play Van der Vaart clean through just past the hour mark but made amends in the 64th minute by helping set up what has become a trademark goal from the Dutchman. The winger's cross found Crouch at the back post and the substitute's header landed at the feet of Van der Vaart to turn and fire home.
Spurs had not kept a clean sheet in the league since the opening day and they gifted the visitors an equaliser three minutes later, Gallas and Kaboul getting in each other's way and allowing Gyan all the time he needed to slide the ball beyond Heurelho Gomes. The visitors ran down the clock by replacing Richardson with Steed Malbranque and the new man made an instant impact, with Gomes booked for tripping the midfielder just outside the box. The visitors finished the stronger and only more desperate defending prevented them snatching a surprise win.