In what was an important game for both teams, it was Tottenham that huffed and puffed and finally showed their class to overcome a dogged Sunderland side at the Stadium of Light Saturday.
In a week where Tottenham were beaten to the Olympic Stadium by rival bidders West Ham, this win kept them on track for Europe and propelled them into a Champions League place.
With a cast of injuries the visitors came into this game with a whole host of changes. The Brazilian Sandro came in along with the Bolton match winner, Niko Kranjcar, and Roman Pavlyuchenko. Aaron Lennon settled for a place on the bench, presumably for the Champions League tie against AC Milan.
Sunderland’s 17 points lost in winning positions were in contrast to Tottenham’s 17 points won in losing positions. The stat inevitably rang true in the end when a Niko Kranjcar cracker proved the winner in an exciting, tense match.
As per Sunderland’s recent home form and Tottenham’s away form, Sunderland raced ahead thanks to a classy finish by Asamoah Gyan. This was somewhat fortuitous – though deserved – as William Gallas wandered off pitch to change his bootwear; the third time he had changed it. Down to 10 men, his team-mates had a right to feel aggrieved.
Gyan collected the ball from Richardson and with one touch had bought himself time, turned and fired a shot low into Gomes’ left hand corner. Too easy for Sunderland and for William Gallas, changing his boots, embarrassment.
Sunderland were piling on the pressure and were unlucky to concede the equaliser. A corner from Steven Pienaar was met on the head by Tottenham captain, Michael Dawson. The ball squirmed through the legs of the hapless Sunderland keeper, Craig Gordon, to make it 1-1. Yet again, Sunderland’s lost 17 points was justified and this was a lifeline for a lacklustre Tottenham.
Steve Bruce must have been ruing the possession at half-time. The teams trudged off, Tottenham obviously the happier of the two but with Sunderland dominating the half. This performance showed that Bruce’s side could cope competing for European places but, in the second-half were outperformed and out-classed by a revitalised Tottenham side.
Tottenham started applying more pressure and as a result, a few decent moves. The winner came from Niko Kranjcar, only getting his chance because of the injured Luka Modric and Van der Vaart.
On 57 minutes after a failed clearance from Sunderland the ball fell kindly to Kranjcar who, with exquisite technique, rifled a 20 yard yard volley into the bottom left hand corner of the net.
Tottenham looking increasingly dangerous on the counter, hung on to a vital three points despite Gomes getting booked and a late Richardson chance. Their race for fourth now puts them two points behind Manchester City in third while Sunderland still battles it out for a European place.