Green springs to Hammers' defence in bid for survival

Tottenham Hotspur 0 West Ham United 0: Brilliant late save by England goalkeeper ensures Tottenham frustration and earns valuable point
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The Independent Online

The timing of the announcement could have been better – immediately after a goalless draw at home to a team that had not kept a clean sheet on the road all season – but Harry Redknapp saw enough in his Tottenham Hotspur team's performance yesterday to believe that he can lead them to the Premier League title. Maybe not this season, but soon.

Inspired in midfield by Luka Modric, Spurs hit the woodwork three times and had 21 other efforts on goal, only a wonder save from Robert Green preventing Gareth Bale from scoring a late winner with a free-kick. And although the stalemate left them with only two points from their past three League matches, Redknapp brushed aside suggestions that he or the team's supporters would be frustrated by a failure to beat local rivals.

"OK, we want to win, but I like what I saw today," Redknapp said. "I like the way we played; we moved the ball around, made chances and just couldn't get the break we deserved. You couldn't get closer than hitting the woodwork three times. I'll go home and feel satisfied with that. Other people, who don't understand football, maybe they're not.

"We're pushing for a top four place. What more are you supposed to do? Are we supposed to finish above Man City after they spent £250 million in the summer? Are we really supposed to finish above Chelsea, Arsenal or Man United? But I think it could be done, and we'll try again next year. I think I can win the Premier League with Tottenham.

"We're building a team here. Finishing fourth last season was fantastic, we're still in there this year, and if we make it, then great. If not, we've got to keep building, keep improving, and if we do that there's a championship in Tottenham. I can't have a timescale, but the club is capable if we can keep improving. That's my ambition."

And that ambition will not have been harmed by Bale's decision to sign a new four-and-a-half year contract.

With Tottenham rampant, West Ham had to be at their best to maintain their recent improvement. The Hammers have seldom enjoyed their trips to White Hart Lane, and had lost on their previous four visits. But they battled hard for the point, the back four in uncompromising mood. Wayne Bridge was voted man of the match, but Lars Jacobsen was so effective at right back that Bale was forced to switch wings.

"This was a great result for us against a very good team," Avram Grant, their manager, said. "Maybe the best defensive performance from us that I have seen, because we need clean sheets."

Their cause was helped by the fact that Spurs' England forward Jermain Defoe had been up until 4.30am on the eve of the match because of the death of his maternal grandfather. With 99 Premier League goals to his name, he was wearing an undershirt bearing the number 100 that he hoped to reveal, but it remained hidden as his lack of sharpness told.

Spurs made enough openings to have won comfortably. Michael Dawson hit the crossbar from 20 yards, and Defoe's flick from Bale's low cross missed by inches.

Modric, twice, and Rafael van der Vaart shot just past the upright, and when Aaron Lennon's low, angled shot rebounded from the foot of a post, Defoe was wrong-footed and prodded the ball wide.

West Ham, though, also had chances. The impressive Demba Ba set up Carlton Cole only for HeurelhoGomes to anticipate his shot, and Gomes later foiled Ba.

All their efforts, of course, would have counted for nothing but for Green, who blocked a close-range shot on the turn by Defoe, turned aside a shot from Roman Pavlyuchenko and then made the save of the match, fingertipping Bale's 25-yard free-kick on to the crossbar. But Grant said: "I thought the big chances were ours. The Gomes save from Ba was unbelievable."

Attendance: 36,010

Referee: Mike Dean

Man of the match: Modric

Match rating: 7/10

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