Adebayor and Defoe too hot to handle for Albion
West Bromwich Albion 1 Tottenham Hotspur 3: Tottenham underline their title credentials after ninth win in 10 matches
Try as he might do now to play down Tottenham as title contenders – having made the suggestion himself – Harry Redknapp cannot stop his team making their own case, and making it with some conviction, even though they left it late to take the points this time, with two goals in the last nine minutes.
In the cause of stretching their impressive run to nine wins in the last 10 matches, they were helped here by opponents keen to play an open, attacking game but there was much to be impressed with, none the less, as Jermain Defoe marked his first start in almost two months with a goal and Emmanuel Adebayor took his tally to seven in 10 games since moving to London, four of them in the last two.
Defoe's goal was his seventh of the season, his fifth in the Premier League, but his statistics are more impressive when set against the fact that he has started only five top-flight matches. In terms of playing time, his scoring rate stands comparison with Robin van Persie.
He has suffered through Redknapp's preference for Rafael van der Vaart and he played here only because Van Persie's fellow Dutchman was ruled out by a hamstring injury. "Jermain has been unlucky," Redknapp said. "I can only play him or Rafa and Rafa has done well. It has been difficult for Jermain and I've felt sorry for him but there is nothing I can do."
Tottenham won after being a goal behind, which made it all for the more gratifying for Redknapp, back in the dugout for the second time after his heart surgery, although he was not slow to criticise his players for having needed a jolt to get them moving. "It was encouraging," he agreed, "but we have to realise we have to play like we did in the second half. The first half was not good enough and I told them that."
Roy Hodgson's team this season have proved most dangerous in the opening minutes and when Steven Reid whipped in a cross from the right neither Younes Kaboul nor Ledley King covered Youssouf Mulumbu's run and the Albion midfielder rose unchallenged to nod past Brad Friedel. It was the home side's 11th goal of the season, seven of which had been scored in the first 16 minutes. If only the rest of the game had gone as well for them.
As it was, they suffered the blow of losing the unfortunate Zoltan Gera to another injury when the Croatian twisted his left knee and had to withdraw. Then, for the third time in as many home matches, a penalty went against them, as Nicky Shorey, predictably outpaced by the fleet-footed Neil Lennon, tried several times to attach a restraining arm to the England winger before the invitation to fall over was accepted.
Even then, Albion wasted an opportunity to stay in front. With both van der Vaart and Luka Modric (sick) missing, Adebayor stepped up to take the kick and Ben Foster dived to his right to beat it away. Unfortunately, his defenders were so slow to react that Adebayor was able to reach the loose ball first.
Referee Lee Probert then denied Albion a penalty when Jerome Thomas went down with Kyle Walker in close attendance and dashed their belief that Friedel had carried a Reid cross over the line by awarding a free-kick against substitute Simon Cox for an unfair challenge.
Tottenham did, as Redknapp said, look a different side in the second half, in which Scott Parker's coverage of ground and range of passing was outstanding and Lennon and Gareth Bale, switching wings, posed a constant menace.
Albion had their chances but Tottenham's pace on the counterattack was irresistible. They went ahead nine minutes from time when Defoe, running on to a superb heel-flick by Adebayor, shook off Jonas Olsson before beating Foster with an equally impressive finish.
Defoe, Adebayor and Bale then spurned chances to increase the lead before Adebayor, set up by Bale, finally took one in stoppage time.
West Bromwich (4-4-1-1): Foster; Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Shorey; Brunt, Morrison, Mulumbu, Thomas (Tchoyi, 86); Gera (Cox, 21); Long (Odemwingie, 72).
Tottenham (4-4-2): Friedel; Walker, Kaboul, King, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Sandro (Livermore, 80), Parker, Bale; Defoe, Adebayor.
Referee Lee Probert.
Man of the match Parker (Tottenham).
Match rating 8/10.
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