Delap's bicycle kick punctures Spurs

Southampton 1 Tottenham 0
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The Independent Football

Rory Delap slammed home a spectacular overhead kick as Southampton bounced back from their derby day defeat against Portsmouth and powered to victory against Tottenham at St Mary's.

Rory Delap slammed home a spectacular overhead kick as Southampton bounced back from their derby day defeat against Portsmouth and powered to victory against Tottenham at St Mary's.

Both sides had missed a string of chances before the Irish midfielder leapt and twisted to power home his sensational 64th-minute goal. It was Delap's first goal for almost exactly two years - since he hit the net against Fulham on March 30 2002 - and revived Saints' hopes of a second successive season of UEFA Cup action. Only the heroics of goalkeepers Antti Niemi and Kasey Keller had kept an action-packed first half goalless.

Spurs striker Jermain Defoe peppered the Southampton goal with shots, but Niemi was equal to them all, including from the clearest opening after Jason Dodd's wild backpass was miscontrolled by Paul Telfer. But a bristling first 45 minutes was by no means one-way traffic, with Keller saving brilliantly when James Beattie - who appeared yards offside - swung a boot at Delap's scuffed volley.

If that was a somewhat untidy attempt by Delap, the midfielder showed what he was capable of with his superb strike just after the hour. Plenty more openings went begging for both teams after Delap's goal as Tottenham suffered a costly defeat which has left them glancing nervously over their shoulders at the drop zone.

Saints boss Paul Sturrock had pitched French teenager Yoann Folly in for his debut, while Spurs manager David Pleat decided Jamie Redknapp was not quite ready for his first start suffering his knee injury in September. Southampton could have scored with less than 60 seconds on the clock, when Claus Lundekvam scuffed Delap's cross into the turf. Defoe then smacked a vicious shot goalwards, which Niemi spilt then seized at the second time of asking.

Freddie Kanoute, operating on the right side of midfield behind Spurs' front pairing of Defoe and Robbie Keane, was next to test Niemi and this time the Finn gathered first time.

The Londoners looked dangerous on the break, but were almost caught out at the back when Fabrice Fernandes' free-kick squirmed through to the feet of Danny Higginbotham.

The defender played a quick one-two with Kevin Phillips, and his cross-shot cannoned behind off Ledley King. Saints almost grabbed a bizarre opener when Delap volleyed goalwards and Beattie, who appeared yards offside, diverted the ball goalwards. Keller, though, reacted brilliantly to save.

But then Sturrock's men almost gift-wrapped the first goal for Spurs.

Dodd, retreating from taking a corner, fired a pass back to Telfer and the Scot miscontrolled, allowing Defoe to race in on goal. Niemi stood his ground and pushed the diminutive striker's shot beyond the far post. At the other end, Phillips latched onto Fernandes' chipped pass and lobbed Keller - only to see his effort bounce a foot wide. On the stroke of half-time, Beattie slammed a spectacular aerial volley over the top from Telfer's cross.

Pleat introduced Redknapp in place of Johnnie Jackson at the interval. Saints could, and should, have taken a controversial lead five minutes after the restart. The assistant referee flagged for a foul to Spurs when Beattie bundled past Anthony Gardner - but referee Chris Foy overruled him and Beattie crossed for Fernandes to miss an absolute sitter, slicing wide from eight yards.

But the home team made their next chance count and took the lead with a sensational Delap goal in the 64th minute. Claus Lundekvam headed into the box and Delap, 12 yards from goal, slammed the winner past Keller and into the roof of the net. Niemi twice denied Tottenham in the 71st minute.

First, he palmed away Redknapp's stinging drive and then flung himself to his right to grab Keane's awkward shot from Redknapp's dinked ball into the box. Sturrock substituted Phillips with quarter-of-an-hour remaining and the striker showed his anger by stomping past the manager and hurling aside his tracksuit top.

Delap's shot was deflected just past the post and David Prutton volleyed wide late on as Saints tried to double their lead.