Tottenham Hotspur 2 Middlesbrough 0: Bale earns Jol respite as Spurs come good

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The Independent Football

Martin Jol will probably wake up tomorrow to read that his job has been offered to Avram Grant but he was allowed some respite from the rumour mill last night. White Hart Lane enjoyed a scintillating display from Spurs, albeit one in which they took an inordinate time to convert supremacy into goals.

Eventually Gareth Bale and Tom Huddlestone scored after 71 and 74 minutes to put last season's Carling Cup semi-finalists into Saturday's fourth round draw. That the breakthrough came after Jol made an unpopular substitution, bringing off Jermain Defoe, should help the beleaguered manager's cause. His failure to change matches from the bench is understood to be one of the board's criticisms.

The victory left Jol in a bullish mood. Dismissing the jeers that greeted the change he said: "One minute after they are singing my name, And that is what I deserve because I have given them a bit of success. No one could have done better. I don't fear things. In Holland they say, 'Have no fear, Jolly is here'."

It was a pointed response after a week in which Spurs issued another cluster of denials. They have not agreed a £4m pay-off with Jol to continue until a successor is found; they did not try to hire Jose Mourinho; and they are not attempting to lure Jurgen Klinsmann.

Whatever the truth it is hard to envisage Jol surviving until February's final. His selecting a strong team was, one suspects, dictated by the short-term need for a win. Lifting the League Cup in 1999 did not preserve George Graham's job.

Spurs have won nothing since, but under Jol have achieved their highest finishes in years while playing the attacking football always demanded here. It is not enough for the board but the supporters seem happy enough. Less than a minute had elapsed before the first chants of "I love Martin Jol, and Martin Jol loves me".

While Jol handed Defoe his first start of the season Middlesbrough gave a debut to Mohamed Shawky, a defensive midfielder from Egypt, and led the line with Dong Gook Lee. The South Korean was a spectator for much of the first half as Spurs took control. A string of chances were created, and missed, though the best of the period fell to Boro, Chris Riggott volleying over after Stuart Downing's 44th-minute free-kick had fallen to him close in.

Aside from a fourth-minute shot from Fabio Rochemback, which Paul Robinson shovelled away for a corner, that was Middlesbrough's only attack of note in the half. In between those efforts Spurs rolled forward. Defoe released Jermaine Jenas only for the midfielder to shoot horribly wide, and Schwarzer then came sharply from his goal to deny Defoe after Teemu Tainio had put him through. Next Michael Dawson glanced Huddlestone's free-kick just past the far post.

The siege continued. Brad Jones scrambled away Younes Kaboul's header from a Bale set-play.The breakthrough looked to have arrived when Tainio's shot looped up off David Wheater, Defoe beat Jones to the ball and headed over him. Alas for Spurs, the ball bounced off the crossbar. In the directors' box Daniel Levy, the chairman, must have concluded that, along with his other failings, Jol was a luckless manager.

Boro moved to 4-4-2 at the break and looked better balanced but Spurs reasserted their authority without initially improving their fortune. Aaron Lennon was denied by a fine tackle from Wheater and Defoe headed Pascal Chimbonda's cross at Jones.

Jol withdrew Defoe who reacted petulantly. "One day he will realise it is not about him, it is about the team," said Jol. Four minutes later his replacement, Robbie Keane, released Bale. The flag stayed down, though Lennon, nearby, looked offside. Bale rounded Jones to score. Perhaps Jol was lucky after all.

Paul Barron, Boro's goalkeeping coach, was dismissed for the way he disputed the linesman's call. "We felt Lennon was interfering with play," said Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate. Barron thus missed Lennon bamboozling Rochemback before setting up Huddlestone to make the tie safe.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Chimbonda, Kaboul, Dawson, Bale; Lennon, Huddlestone, Jenas (Zakora, 69), Tainio; Defoe (Keane, 69), Berbatov. Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Bent, Rocha.

Middlesbrough (4-1-4-1): Jones; Young (Davies, 79), Riggott, Wheater, Taylor; Shawky (Craddock, h-t); Boateng, Cattermole, Rochemback (Owens, 75), Downing; Lee. Substitutes not used: Schwarzer, Davies, Owens, Hutchinson.

Referee: K Stroud (Hants).