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Premier League

  • 18 December 2011
  • • 20:30
  • • White Hart Lane, London
  • Referee: M. Dean
  • • Attendance: 36021

Tottenham 1-0 Sunderland: Roman Pavlyuchenko Comes Off The Bench To Score Winner As Spurs Leapfrog Chelsea Into Third Spot

Harry Redknapp's men get back to winning ways thanks to a much improved second-half display, while Martin O'Neill's honeymoon period with the Black Cats appears over already

A second-half strike from Roman Pavlyuchenko was enough for Tottenham to see off Sunderland at White Hart Lane and leapfrog Chelsea into third in the Premier League.

The result sees Harry Redknapp's men return to winning ways after a disappointing week which included defeat away at Stoke and exit from the Europa League, and means they have still only suffered league defeat once at White Hart Lane this season.

For Sunderland and new boss Martin O'Neill, however, the honeymoon period appears to be already over, with defeat in north London leaving them poised precariously just two points above the relegation zone.

With his side itching to get back to winning ways in the league, Spurs boss Harry Redknapp recalled captain Ledley King along with fellow first-team stalwarts Emmanuel Adebayor, Rafael Van der Vaart, Luka Modric and Scott Parker. Gareth Bale and Jermain Defoe, however, both missed out through injury.

Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill, meanwhile, kept faith with the same starting XI selected for last week’s dramatic comeback victory over Blackburn, although club captain Lee Cattermole and striker Nicklas Bendtner both returned to the bench despite being arrested in midweek for allegedly damaging cars in Newcastle city centre.

Spurred on by a raucous home support, it was the hosts who took control early on, stroking the ball around with assurance and slickness. Thanks to the visitors’ impressive collective pressing, however, Harry Redknapp’s men were unable to create any clear chances in the opening moments.

It took 12 minutes for the first clear chance of the match to arrive and, when it did, it predictably fell to Spurs.

With Modric drifting inside from a starting position on the left flank in Bale’s absence, the onus was on Benoit Assou-Ekotto to provide an attacking threat out wide. The Cameroonian brought down Lennon’s cross on the edge of the Sunderland area before unleashing a fierce drive which looked goalbound until it struck Van der Vaart and flew well wide.

The Black Cat’s attempts to bring lone striker Connor Wickham into the game with long, hopeful high balls were proving futile, and Spurs pressed on. Sandro screwed wide from the edge of the box before the Brazilian, again in space, failed to bring down a Modric corner.

The home side’s likeliest route to a goal appeared to be the pacey double-act of Lennon and Kyle Walker on the right, until the former pulled up with a hamstring injury with less than half an hour on the clock. Out-of-favour Russian, Roman Pavlyuchenko, replaced Lennon as Spurs switched to a more conventional 4-4-2.

This tactical re-shuffle caused Redknapp’s men to lose a little momentum, and Sunderland began to gain a foothold. Kieran Richardson stung the palms of Friedel with a firm drive, before Sebastian Larsson’s misdirected low cross denied the onrushing former Manchester United winger a simple tap-in.

The two teams competed on much more even terms until the interval. Assou-Ekotto’s dangerous low cross somehow eluded several teammates before Larsson tested Friedel with a trademark free-kick. It was Spurs who had the final say though, with Pavlyuchenko missing by inches from Parker’s cross.

Controlled performance | Adebayor skips Vaughan's challenge

Bendtner replaced Wickham to a typically hostile welcome from the White Hart Lane faithful at the interval as O’Neill looked to give his team more of a presence up front. Sunderland started the second half in confident mood, with David Vaughan marauding forward to force Friedel into another save from range.

Spurs, seeking to re-assert their authority, rallied and pushed the visitors back. Surging through the middle, Van der Vaart fired a right-footed shot from distance which, having caught a deflection off Wes Brown, sent Kieren Westwood scrambling for his post before trickling wide.

Sunderland were becoming stretched in their attempts to counter, and Spurs took full advantage on the hour mark. A clever reverse pass from Van der Vaart sent Pavlyuchenko racing into the area, and the Russian arrowed a low shot right-footed past Westwood into the far corner.

Now very much on the front foot, Spurs went looking to kill the game off. They had the perfect chance when Westwood parried Adebayor’s chipped finish straight into the path of Modric, but the Croatian managed to scoop his shot over an empty net from a matter of yards out.

Undeterred, Spurs continued to pour forward in search of a winner. First, Van der Vaart fired tamely into the grateful arms of Westwood, before Walker sent the Sunderland keeper scrambling across his goal once more with a scuffed long-range strike.

Sunderland were having to defend doggedly just to keep within touching distance of their hosts, as Spurs undermined their own attempts to double their lead with some poor decision-making in the final third.

Adebayor, Pavlyuchenko and Van der Vaart went closest to a second late on, but one goal was ultimately enough to secure the win for the home side.

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