Defoe halts slide to draw comfort for Tottenham

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Manchester City 1
Click to follow
The Independent Football

It is hard to know which of these two teams will be happier with a point. Tottenham, who edged closer to that generally accepted 40-point safety barrier after a disastrous run of four straight League defeats; or City who marginally improved their survival hopes despite throwing away a half-time lead.

In the end, a draw was just about fair after an encounter that never looked likely to emulate City's sensational 4-3 FA Cup comeback in February, but was no less tense or committed.

David Pleat made three changes from the side that was so poor at Everton on Friday, leaving Robbie Keane on the bench and starting with Frédéric Kanouté and Jermain Defoe up front, with the 36-year-old Gus Poyet just behind them. For 20 minutes the plan worked as Spurs pushed City back and David James was forced into a number of smart saves. Yet by half time, Spurs had lost Stephen Carr with an injury - by coincidence he now misses the next three games through suspension - and also found themselves a goal down.

After 25 minutes Steve McManaman, who troubled the suspect Spurs back-line all afternoon with his runs from midfield, burst into the heart of the home defence. The lumbering Gary Doherty fell over as he tried to challenge and Nicolas Anelka converted his 22nd goal of the season at the second attempt after Kasey Keller had kept out the striker's first effort.

Right on half-time, Robbie Fowler somehow failed to double City's lead when it seemed easier to score, his close-range effort thwarted by Keller's anticipation, and the boos rang out - along with cries for Pleat's dismissal.

Tottenham's caretaker manager will, of course, be relinquishing the role anyway in the summer when the club finally appoints Glenn Hoddle's long-term successor. Whether Pleat will revert to his post as director of football is still open to conjecture, but whoever arrives to deal with first-team affairs will clearly have to have plenty of patience and nerves of steel.

At least Tottenham have a potential jewel in Defoe and his equaliser on 51 minutes, just after Poyet had hit the post, was no more than Tottenham deserved. In the end, either team could have won and the biggest cheer was for the emergence of Keane, who came off the bench to have an effort ruled out for offside seven minutes from time.

Stuart Pearce, Manchester City's first-team coach, said the manager, Kevin Keegan, who is recovering from a back problem, would be back on Wednesday to take charge of the club's remaining five games. He added: "We can only concentrate on what we do, but obviously hope other results go our way. The way the season is running you wouldn't bet against it going down to the last game whether it's us involved or other teams."

Pleat, as ever, refused to give any clues as to who had been earmarked for the manager's job in what has become something of a farce. When was the last time a caretaker manager had the job for all but the first few weeks of the season? "Obviously I was nervous as I did not want to face a fifth straight defeat," said Pleat, who also lost Mauricio Taricco before the end and is now running out of fit defenders. "The fans pay their money and are entitled to have a go. I certainly don't believe it was personal."

Goals: Anelka (25) 0-1; Defoe (52) 1-1.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Keller 6; Carr 6 (Kelly 6, 30), Doherty 5, Gardner 6, Taricco 5 (Bunjevcevic 5, 64); Brown 6, Poyet 6 (Keane 6, 72), Redknapp 6, Davies 7; Kanouté 6, Defoe 6. Substitutes not used: Hirschfeld, Ricketts.

Manchester City: (4-4-2): James 7; Tarnat 5, Distin 6, Dunne 6, Sun Jihai 5 (Sinclair 6, 73); McManaman 7, Bosvelt 6, Sibierski 6, Wright-Phillips 6; Fowler 5 (Wanchope 5, 64), Anelka 6. Substitutes not used: Arason (gk), Macken, Barton.

Referee: C Foy (Merseyside) 6.

Bookings: Tottenham: Poyet. Manchester City: Fowler.

Man of the match: McManaman.

Attendance: 35,282.