Cox cracker puts shadow over Defoe's milestone
Tottenham Hotspur 2 West Bromwich Albion 2
Sunday 24 April 2011
Tottenham scored their 1,000th Premier League goal and Jermain Defoe took his tally to 100 in the top division, but it is another statistic that is worrying Spurs: one win in seven League games. And it was a goal from another source, West Bromwich Albion substitute Simon Cox, which provided the talking point afterwards.
Below their best, Harry Redknapp's side thought they had winged it but were undone by Peter Odemwingie, who was the game's outstanding player. The summer signing from Lokomotiv Moscow opened the scoring after five minutes and almost won the game late in the day with a shot that flashed just wide of Heurelho Gomes's post. In between, Spurs had seized the initiative to lead through Roman Pavlyuchenko and Defoe, only for Cox to level five minutes after coming on with his first Premier League goal. He is likely to improve on the quantity, if not the quality.
"At 2-1 I thought we were fine but I never saw that coming," said Redknapp. "It was a world-class effort into the top corner. We won't see many better than that. It ruined our day and made theirs." Spurs' cause was not helped by conceding another early goal. Theo Walcott opened the scoring for Arsenal after five minutes in midweek and Odemwingie repeated the trick yesterday, brushing off Benoit Assou-Ekotto's weak challenge to receive Carlos Vela's pass and fire emphatically across Gomes and inside his far post.
Assou-Ekotto limped off clutching his left hamstring which forced Redknapp into an early change. On came Sandro into midfield and Gareth Bale, passed fit despite fears of a knee injury, switched to left-back. Positioned deeper, he nevertheless kept to his – and Spurs' – attacking principles and when released by Rafael van der Vaart, the Welshman's awkward cross glanced off Pavlyuchenko's head but rolled away harmlessly. Those doubting the wisdom of the Russian's selection ahead of Peter Crouch were quietened after 27 minutes when the striker sidestepped Chris Brunt before beating Scott Carson with a shot that went in off the post.
Albion suffered their first defeat under Roy Hodgson last weekend, at home to Chelsea, and they were pinned back for the remainder of the first half as Luka Modric and Van der Vaart tried to weave their magic. The Dutch playmaker had confirmed his return to form with two against Arsenal and it took a reflex stop from Carson to keep him out, Pavlyuchenko missing horribly from the rebound.
An excellent save from Gomes, turning away Odemwingie's close-range header, kept Spurs level six minutes after the break, at which point the Albion striker was causing all sorts of problems.
Redknapp was clearly rattled on the sidelines and brought on Aaron Lennon for Tom Huddlestone. It worked, for Spurs edged ahead after 67 minutes when Abdoulaye Meite backed off from Defoe 25 yards out, giving him room to score only his third League goal of a disrupted season. It was another fine strike.
The best was saved for last, however. Albion worked hard for their 40th point of the season. Michael Dawson threw himself in front of a James Morrison effort and Brunt saw a shot go narrowly wide. Up stepped Cox, who had replaced Paul Scharner, to unleash a shot from 25 yards that curled away from Gomes into the top corner. "He shows that technique in training," said Hodgson, who refused to take credit for any tactical masterstroke. "More a case of using the players at our disposal," he said. "I looked at the players they had on the bench, bringing on Lennon and Crouch, and that was a worry but it was a splendid effort to come back."
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Man of the match: Odemwingie
Match rating: 7/10
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