Spurs inch closer to premiership title
Tottenham turned up the heat on Manchester rivals City and United with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Everton on Wednesday that confirmed the London club as a serious contender for the Premier League title.
Only goal difference is keeping Tottenham behind second-place United while City’s lead is three points. But while United has won a dozen English titles alone since 1993, City and Tottenham have not been champions of England since the 1960s.
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp, though, is not feeling the weight of expectation with his side in its usually elevated position.
“The pressure is on Manchester City because if you look at their squad and the type of money they have been able to spend on the likes of Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Samir Nasri,” Redknapp said. “They are expected to be there and win.”
City was in League Cup action on Wednesday, going down 1-0 at home to Liverpool in the first leg of their semi-final having seen its FA Cup defence ended by United on Sunday.
Tottenham’s fourth league victory in its last six games—the other two matches were drawn—was secured against Everton by goals either side of the break from Aaron Lennon and Benoit Assou-Ekotto.
“We are just hanging in there at the moment and playing well,” Redknapp said.
“We don’t put the pressure on the players ... we are playing well, playing with smiles on our faces.”
The victory was significant as it finally evened out the standings, with Tottenham having had a game in hand since their season opener with Everton was postponed in August due to riots near White Hart Lane earlier that week.
That postponement may have worked in Spurs’ favour, as they went on to lose their opening matches against United and City in August before finding the form that has transformed their season.
“It’s not impossible to win the title, it’s difficult,” Redknapp said. “At the moment we can enjoy it because we are playing so well and winning.”
Securing one of the four Champions League spots as Spurs did in 2010 is the priority and they are currently the top team in London—eight points above fourth-place Chelsea and a further point ahead of Arsenal.
Tottenham coped on Wednesday with both holding midfielders, Scott Parker and Sandro, side-lined. But captain Michael Dawson played in the league for the first time since August having recovered from an Achilles tendon and Lennon also returned to league action after three weeks out with hamstring problems.
Lennon’s return provided more balance to the team with Gareth Bale on the left flank but it took 24 minutes for the first goal-scoring chance to arrive following a speedy counterattack from the hosts.
Bale slipped the ball through to Emmanuel Adebayor but the Togo striker wasted the opportunity. As the Everton goal mouth came under more pressure from the hosts, Adebayor and Rafael van der Vaart came close before the net was finally breached.
A deep crossfield ball from Assou-Ekotto was missed by Leighton Baines and was punished by Lennon, who rounded the defender and Sylvain Distin while cutting into the penalty area.
The England winger then sent a low shot into the bottom corner of Tim Howard’s goal in the 35th minute to ensure Tottenham scored for the 19th consecutive league fixture.
Bale forced an early save from Howard at the start of the second half after bursting forward on an electric counter attack.
With Phil Jagielka already side-lined, Everton’s defensive woes deepened when center back Distin limped off in the 58th with a hamstring injury and was replaced by the inexperienced Shane Duffy.
And Everton went further behind when Assou-Ekotto blasted a swerving shot into the net from 30 metres via a slight deflection off Tim Cahill in the 63rd.
The left back was only available to score for the first time since August 2009—against Everton’s neighbour Liverpool—due to Cameroon failing to qualify for the African Cup of Nations this month.
While US goalkeeper Howard conceded twice, compatriot Brad Friedel was never troubled in the Tottenham net.
Everton, which had lost only once on five previous visits to Tottenham, remained 11th in the 20-team standings after failing to hit the target once—even with Landon Donovan in the team during his loan spell from the Los Angeles Galaxy.
“The story tonight is Tottenham and Harry,” Everton manager David Moyes said.—Sapa-AP