Football: Ginola's hunger lifts Spurs

Tottenham Hotspur 2 Blackburn Rovers 1
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The Independent Online
CHRISTIAN GROSS might be entitled to say that Tottenham picked up last night exactly where they left off under his management - with a win. But although the finale was reminiscent of the kind of defensive panic that characterised much of Gross's 10-month reign at White Hart Lane, there was enough to suggest that the Swiss will not be missed for long.

More than 10 years have passed since David Pleat last gave a half-time team talk in charge of Tottenham, and whatever it was he had stored up in that time it certainly had the desired effect. Spurs won a tightly contested Premiership encounter, showing the kind of resilience and battling qualities that their supporters have long been yearning for, and on top of it all was another match-winning contribution from David Ginola.

"I'm very pleased we won," Pleat said. "Although I'm only an apprentice for a short time. It's just nice to win, it's good for the players and good for the supporters. They were marvellous tonight."

As well as a manager, Spurs were without their injured England internationals, Darren Anderton and Sol Campbell, and the caretaker would have been relieved that Ginola passed a fitness test on his hamstring. Blackburn were missing the influential Tim Sherwood as a result of the transfer speculation between the two clubs, but it was they who found their feet first on a perfect night for football.

Kevin Gallacher looked sharp from the start and had the ball in the net after just eight minutes, although he was penalised for pushing. But, three minutes later, there was no reprieve for Spurs. Chris Sutton, captain for the evening, found space down the left and crossed, Garry Flitcroft chested the ball down for Gallacher and the Scotsman volleyed unerringly pass Espen Baardsen.

The Norwegian No 1 prevented Wilcox from making it two from close range before Tottenham hit back. Some dazzling trickery by Ginola on the left wing led to a free-kick, quickly taken by the Frenchman, Les Ferdinand found himself with a free header and made no mistake.

But Blackburn regained the ascendancy as half-time approached, with Baardsen making a near miraculous save to deny Sutton after Flitcroft, again, had been instrumental in the build-up, and Nicola Berti deflected a goal-bound shot by Gallacher just wide of the post with Baardsen beaten.

Grateful still to be on level terms, Spurs came out in inspired mood after the break and took the lead after five minutes when another beautifully judged cross from Ginola found Allan Nielsen stealing in between the Blackburn defenders to head home.

Having made two goals, Ginola was now hungry for one himself and twice drew fine saves from Tim Flowers with right-footed shots, the second of which Ginola might have done better with. Spurs were almost made to pay as Flitcroft's clever back-heel provided a chance for Christian Dailly, but the pounds 5m man miscued horribly.

A Darren Peacock header was diverted to safety by Baardsen and there were optimistic claims for a penalty for hand-ball by any one of 10 Spurs defenders in the dying seconds, but it was Tottenham's night and all that was missing was a dance of delight by Pleat at the final whistle.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-2-3-1): Baardsen, Carr, Vega, Calderwood, Tramezzani; Berti, Clemence (Saib, 88); Fox, Nielsen, Ginola (Sinton, 88); Ferdinand. Substitutes not used: Edinburgh, Allen, Walker (gk).

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Kenna (Perez, 70), Henchoz, Peacock, Davidson; Dailly, McKinlay, Flitcroft, Wilcox (Duff, 70); Sutton, Gallacher. Substitutes not used: Davies, Andersson, Filan (gk).

Referee: P Alcock (Kent).