Football: Spurs find the winning formula

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The Independent Online
Tottenham Hotspur 3 Southampton 0

AFTER TWO narrow and unfortunate defeats at Chelsea and Manchester United, Southampton's cause was a less deserving one at White Hart Lane last night. Although trying to play positively, they found Tottenham's now formidable defence much more resolute than their own, which might in the end have suffered a drubbing on the scale of the 7-1 rout at Anfield in January.

Defeat in what was a game in hand on all the other relegation stragglers leaves them four points the wrong side of the thick black line at the bottom of the table, badly needing to continue a run of recent home wins against West Ham this weekend.

Spurs, in contrast, will go to Barnsley for their FA Cup quarter-final in excellent heart after a welcome and well merited first Premiership victory of 1999 following six successive draws.

Five months into the job, George Graham has them mean at the back - only six goals have been conceded in 14 unbeaten matches this year - but generous with the entertainment elsewhere. David Ginola was outstanding again, departing to his regular standing ovation in the last minute, only for Jose Dominguez to come on and score almost immediately. That gave Graham the opportunity to keep his Frenchman's feet firmly on the ground: "David could score more goals getting into the box where Dominguez scored from. But in the last 20 minutes there was some fantastic entertainment."

Normally content to spend the first half of a game in the stand, Graham was on the touchline after 15 minutes and saw Tottenham go ahead only a minute later with a fine goal bearing the mark of endless rehearsal on the training ground.

From a free-kick just outside the penalty area, Tim Sherwood peeled away to the left while Ginola fed the ball forward to Chris Armstrong, sprinting past the other side of the wall to score. "That goal was the killer," said Southampton's manager, Dave Jones. "To be caught by that sort of free-kick was scandalous."

The introduction of Matt Le Tissier and then Hassan Kachloul offering a greater attacking threat for a short period after half-time, but when Spurs broke they doubled their lead. Ginola worked a short corner on the left and Steffen Iversen headed in.

For the remaining 20 minutes, Ginola mesmerised Southampton's defence and enchanted the crowd while Iversen failed to convert any of the stream of crosses flowing in. In stoppage time Dominguez came off the bench to score, tapping in Armstrong's low cross.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Carr, Young (Vega, 89), Campbell, Taricco; Sherwood, Nielsen, Freund, Ginola (Dominguez, 89); Armstrong, Iversen. Substitutes not used: Sinton, Fox, Baardsen (gk).

Southampton (4-4-2): Jones; Hiley, Benali, Lundekvam, Colleter; D Hughes (Le Tissier, h-t), Oakley, Marsden, Bridge (Kachloul, 55); M Hughes, Beattie (Ostenstad, 79). Substitutes not used: Marshall, Moss (gk).

Referee: A Wilkie (Co Durham) replaced by G Evetts (Herts).