Harry Redknapp has known better days against Sunderland. Such as 18 October 1968, the afternoon he supplied the right-wing ammunition for the West Ham team who subjected Sunderland to a record 8-0 defeat at Upton Park. Forty-two years on, Redknapp had another record in his sights when his Spurs lined up on Wearside yesterday. A sixth successive victory would have extended their winning streak to their longest ever in the Premier League. It was not to be. His Tottenham team were dealt a hefty blow in their quest for fourth spot.
They were Bent double by an old boy and ultimately finished off by a left-foot chop of a shot by Boudewijn Zenden, a former junior judo champion of Limburg. Darren Bent, deemed surplus to Spurs' striking requirements by Redknapp before his pre-season £10m move to Sunderland, scored from open play after 34 seconds and from the penalty spot in the 29th minute. He also missed two penalties, while Peter Crouch, who spurned Sunderland for Spurs last summer, gave Redknapp's men hope with a goalscoring header from his first touch before Zenden's spectacular 86th-minute clincher.
All of which left Redknapp suffering a first taste of defeat since a 1-0 loss away to Wolves on 10 February. "Good luck to Darren Bent," the Tottenham manager said. "He scored a couple of goals. And fair play to Sunderland. They were up for it today."
They were that – against a Spurs back four missing the injured Michael Dawson. The home fans were still taking their seats when Kieran Richardson dispatched a low right-wing corner, Heurelho Gomes flapped at a diving header from Fraizer Campbell and Bent bundled in the loose ball from six yards. With less than a minute gone, Redknapp was stone-faced in the dug-out.
It was a flying start for Sunderland and they proceeded to get a grip on the first-half, Lee Cattermole and David Meyler holding sway in central midfield. They had a claim for a penalty turned down when Jordan Henderson cut in from the right and fell under challenge from Wilson Palacios. It was different in the 29th minute, though, when Gomes parried a drive from Steed Malbranque on to the arms of Kyle Walker. Referee Lee Mason pointed to the spot and Bent buried a right-foot shot in the bottom left corner.
It was his 22nd Premier League goal of the season and the 23rd should have followed in the 41st minute. After Luka Modric felled Campbell on the right side of the area, Bent could not beat Gomes from the penalty spot a second time, the Brazilian keeper diving to his left to push the kick wide. It was the sometime England striker's second penalty miss of the season against his old club – having drawn a blank at White Hart Lane in November – and the third came in the 62nd minute.
Mason pointed to the spot again, adjudging that Palacios had nudged Meyler, and Gomes pushed Bent's effort on to his right-hand post. Not that it was all one-way traffic. Craig Gordon made a string of first-class saves, thwarting Eidur Gudjohnsen, Jermain Defoe (on at half-time for David Bentley) and Modric. Then, after an Anton Ferdinand strike had been disallowed for a push on Gomes, Crouch headed in a 72nd minute left wing cross from Niko Kranjcar.
Spurs were scenting salvation. That was until Meyler worked his way clear on the right with four minutes to go and crossed to the far side of the box, where Zenden hit the target with a cracking left-foot volley.
Referee: P Dowd
Man of the match: Koren
Match rating: 6/10