Defoe soothes the pain of underachievement

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Blackburn Rovers 0
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Even in this, a most wretched of seasons for both these clubs, comfort is at hand. And not just because only one game remains. For Blackburn it has been the unearthing of Jonathan Stead, although he missed out here, while Tottenham have acquired Jermain Defoe. His goal, of real quality, settled matters, and his play was stiletto-sharp. Sven Goran Eriksson's assistant, Tord Grip, who was in attendance, will have taken note.

Even in this, a most wretched of seasons for both these clubs, comfort is at hand. And not just because only one game remains. For Blackburn it has been the unearthing of Jonathan Stead, although he missed out here, while Tottenham have acquired Jermain Defoe. His goal, of real quality, settled matters, and his play was stiletto-sharp. Sven Goran Eriksson's assistant, Tord Grip, who was in attendance, will have taken note.

Spurs' acting manager, David Pleat, professed not to hear the chants calling on him to resign, but the impending end of his prolonged stint in charge has brought undoubted relief. "I should have said thank you very much, bye bye, on 11 February," he joked. That was after the victory over Charlton and talk of Europe. Spurs have since won twice, in a dozen games.

The programme notes of his chairman, Daniel Levy, were harsh. He berated "appalling form" and promised "tough decisions". A clear-out is under way. Christian Ziege and Gus Poyet - substitutes here - are going, while Dean Richards - unceremoniously dropped - is another. In truth, question marks hover over most names.

But not Defoe's. On 18 minutes he ran on to Ledley King's long, hopeful punt. Peter Enckelman, making his debut for the suspended Brad Friedel, came and stopped. Wrong-footed, he only reacted to Defoe's thunderous shot as it whistled past his ears. As ever, the backlift was minimal, the power maximum, the execution exact. "We did not defend at all well," Blackburn's manager, Graeme Souness, said.

Within seconds, Stead was presented with a similar opportunity, but Kasey Keller sprinted from his goal to dispossess him and was bright enough to tackle the onrushing Andy Cole as well. The goalkeeper went down injured, the chance disappeared. Blackburn, in truth, never threatened to repeat last season's 4-0 demolition. "Some of our players simply weren't at it today," said Souness, who is also promising great changes.

His team looked a shadow of that which amassed a four-match winning streak to escape relegation danger. But they still had chances to rescue matters, especially at the start of the second half, when three clear chances were spurned. In the first half, Enckelman had saved well from Robbie Keane at the start and end of the period while Stead struck an instinctive shot, from 25 yards, just past a post.

Stead should have done better after the restart when Anthony Gardner, as is his wont, delayed and only nudged the ball to the 21-year-old when confronted by Cole. Stead's shot from inside the area flew wastefully wide.

"I cannot be critical," said Souness of the callow young striker, "because his goals have arguably kept us in the Premiership." No argument.

Twice more Gardner blundered. First he was brushed aside by Stead only for Keller to save, and then he needlessly conceded a corner from which Jonathan Douglas, unmarked, headed over. Somehow Gardner was reprieved once more when he was allowed to pull Cole's shirt as he challenged for another header. "If I can see it 70 yards away then surely the officials can," said Souness.

At the other end, Enckelman made two stunning saves while Michael Gray bundled Ziege's mis-hit shot off the goal-line. With his first stop Enckelman tipped Keane's header on to the crossbar - a save which Pleat described as one of the best he had ever seen - and then he turned away Defoe's shot after the striker's gravity-defying spin purchased space. Defoe deserved another, but in the end his single goal proved enough.

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Blackburn Rovers 0
Defoe 18

Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 35,698

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