Jermain Defoe maintained Tottenham Hotspur's unbeaten start under the management of Jacques Santini last night, his second goal of the season nullifying Zoltan Gera's early breakthrough for West Bromwich Albion. The newly promoted Black Country club are also undefeated, having drawn 1-1 in each of their first three games.
In an entertaining contest, Tottenham were the more cohesive and stylish side. However, the Albion manager, Gary Megson, looks to have recruited shrewdly, with Gera, whom Lothar Matthäus has made captain of Hungary, soon endearing himself to the faithful.
The last 50,000-plus crowd at the Hawthorns assembled in 1962 to see Albion take on Tottenham, then holders of the Double. The capacity now is barely half, but the decibel level could scarcely have been much higher than when Albion took a third-minute lead. A long header by Riccardo Scimeca reached Gera on the edge of Tottenham's 18-yard area. The £1.5m summer buy from Ferencvaros killed the ball on his chest and holding off Nourredine Naybet before volleying into the far corner for a fine debut goal.
Albion's confidence was tangible, Tottenham's fragile. Yet when the wiles of Nkwankwo Kanu and Gera did not produce a second early goal, the London side began to work their way back into the game.Defoe had already been denied by Russell Hoult, who flicked the ball off his toes after parrying Sean Davies' drive. The striker then selfishly took aim when Freddie Kanouté was better placed, but Kanouté clearly forgave him, playing a part in Tottenham's 34th-minute equaliser.
Defoe drove at the defence from midfield. A one-two with Kanouté took him to within 20 yards of goal, and well struck though the shot was, the diving Hoult let the ball slip through his grasp. Albion thought they had regained the initiative through Kanu's overhead kick on 40 minutes after the Nigerian had struck a post, but an offside flag rescued Tottenham.
Tottenham began to take control after half-time, quickly creating two openings by working the ball from the left to the back-post area. The first saw Defoe thrash a shot against the upright, the second brought redemption for Hoult as he acrobatically tipped over Thimothee Atouba's shot.
Geoff Horsfield, the former hod-carrier from Halifax, was sent through on the hour, only to overrun the ball. Paul Robinson - the Tottenham keeper rather than the Albion defender - made a smothering save as the home supporters appealed nonsensically for a penalty.
West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Hoult; Scimeca, Purse, Gaardsoe, Robinson; Gera (Moore, 81), Johnson (Dyer, 54), Clement, Greening; Kanu, Horsfield (Dobie, 61). Substitutes not used: Kusczak (gk), Albrechtsen.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Pamarot, Naybet, King, Edman; Redknapp (Brown, 38), Davis, Mendes, Atouba (Jackson, 88); Kanouté, Defoe (Keane, 67). Substitutes not used: Keller (gk), Gardner.
Referee: B Knight (Kent).Reuse content