Spurs revival gathers pace
Tottenham pulled clear of the Premier League's relegation zone with a 2-0 win at London rivals West Ham on Monday. A header from captain Ledley King midway through the second half and a last-minute 25-yard strike from substitute Jamie O'Hara settled a disappointing derby and lifted Harry Redknapp's revitalised side three points clear of the bottom three, leapfrogging both Newcastle and West Ham in the process.
Tottenham were strengthened by the return of Luka Modric, who had been sidelined for three weeks with a groin injury. But the Croatia midfielder's rustiness saw a golden opportunity go begging within two minutes, after Aaron Lennon got clear of Lucas Neill to break into the Hammmers box. Lennon's cross found David Bentley, who teed up Modric, but the playmaker's tame shot never threatened to beat West Ham's on-form goalkeeper Robert Green.
West Ham had the better of the early exchanges with Craig Bellamy looking lively, and the home side thought they had taken the lead after 22 minutes when Jermaine Jenas inadvertently knocked the Welsh forward's corner past Tottenham keeper Heurelho Gomes. The goal was disallowed, however, as the referee had spotted a push from Neill on Jenas.
Despite West Ham's dominance, it was Tottenham who came closest to breaking the deadlock with two near misses just before the interval. First, Bentley caught a Neill clearance sweetly on the half-volley to force Green into the kind of save that will do his England prospects no harm whatsover. Then, with Spurs sensing a breakthrough, a low cross from Lennon evaded the Hammers' back four. Roman Pavlyuchenko managed to reach it at the far post but, at full stretch, the Russian striker could only divert the ball against the upright.
Pavlyuchenko made way for Darren Bent ten minutes into the second half, and the substitute should have put Spurs ahead at the end of a slick move involving Modric, Jenas and Lennon but screwed his shot wide after going past James Collins in the box. Didier Zokora then saw his strike blocked as Tottenham began to turn the screw, and the pressure paid off in the 68th minute.
Lennon's cross was perfectly measured, and King outjumped the Hammers back four to send a header beyond Green. That appeared to have settled the contest, but the visitors were able to add to their score as their hosts pressed frantically for an equalizer right at the end.
Having survived a goalmouth scramble at the other end, Spurs broke straight down the pitch and O'Hara unleashed a memorable strike to put the contest beyond doubt.