Football: Popescu blesses Spurs

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Wimbledon. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Talboys 29

Tottenham Hotspur. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Sheringham 27, Popescu 63

Attendance: 16,802

THE travelling firework display that is Tottenham Hotspur had one of those thrilling days yesterday when more went off than failed to catch. After three successive defeats, they needed it. That Ossie Ardiles was feeling the pressure was clear from the way he was reduced in the second half to a frantically gesturing figure on the touchline.

You had to sympathise with Ardiles. By then Spurs should have had the game comfortably won, not defending a 2-1 lead against a team whose belated challenge was beginning to gather force. In the end Spurs got the result they deserved from an unlikely source - Gheorghe Popescu, their Romanian defender. It was his first goal for the club.

Tottenham's glittering attack provided their usual entertainment, but a decisive factor in their victory was the contribution of Jason Dozzell, in a pivotal position in midfield. Making his first appearance of the season, the man who has never really found a role for himself since joining Spurs from Ipswich last season looks as if he might have done so now.

Wimbledon's capacity to stamp on Spurs' creative side - the sort of task they normally relish - was oddly limited. They needed it to be the slugging match that it threatened to become in the opening stages, but for the most part Spurs raised themselves above the fray. There were eight bookings and the Wimbledon defender, Alan Reeves, was forced off with a head injury, but it was never a dirty match.

Teddy Sheringham put Spurs ahead in the 27th minute with a goal of the utmost simplicity. All it consisted of was a near-post corner from Darren Anderton, and a first-time volley from Sheringham from the edge of the six-yard box. Wimbledon took less than a minute to demonstrate their resilience, however, Steve Talboys equalising after Dean Holdsworth's shot had been deflected against the bar.

After a brief period of parity, Spurs started to reassert themselves. As usual, Jurgen Klinsmann was a defender's nightmare. The feeling among some when he signed for Spurs was that he would turn it on when the occasion was big enough, but if it was a wet afternoon at Wimbledon we might see another side of him.

Nothing could be further from the truth. There was a relish with which he went about his work, a willingness to do the necessary as well as the pretty. He might not have been getting the breaks himself, but in the 62nd minute it was his vision that helped clinch victory.

Collecting the ball on the left, Klinsmann tracked inside, trying to prise an opening. He looked up, rolled a pass along the edge of the area, and Popescu rammed a fierce shot into the bottom corner.

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