Huddlestone screamer makes Spurs' claims loud and clear
Tottenham Hotspur 1 Bolton Wanderers 0
Sunday 02 May 2010
The match between Tottenham and Manchester City on Wednesday night has, for a few weeks now, been seen as a shoot-out for the last available place in the Champions' League. As that date has approached, the results of both teams have not changed that situation. Thanks to Tom Huddlestone's outstanding strike yesterday, and City's win against Aston Villa, it will be all eyes on Eastlands.
Not that Huddlestone was the only Spurs player deserving of his teammates' thanks for this nervy victory. Heurelho Gomes, who stopped Arsenal from claiming a draw or possibly winning here almost three weeks ago, produced an excellent save from Matt Taylor's volley three minutes from time to guarantee that Spurs will go into Wednesday's encounter with a one-point advantage.
Should Tottenham win that game, then they will participate in Europe's premier competition for the first time in almost half a century, after they won the Football League in 1961. If the game with City were to finish in a draw – which is a distinct possibility – then Spurs will go to Burnley on Sunday knowing a win will put them in Europe's elite.
For the home fans, as Spurs failed to put a decisive stop to Bolton's stubborn challenge, the second half must have felt as if it lasted 50 years, if not an eternity. Not least when Younes Kaboul, with Gomes (below) dragged out of position, cleared Taylor's shot after 68 minutes off the goalline, before Taylor then brought the best out of the Brazilian with his attempt from 18 yards. Gomes's emergence as a top-class goalkeeper has been key to Spurs' challenge.
This game was not in the same vein as Spurs' wins over Arsenal and, two weeks ago, against Chelsea, although how they would have loved to open up a two-goal lead against Owen Coyle's men, with so much at stake over the next week. The hosts could have done with preserving some energy.
Huddlestone's effort had been a long time coming against a side with nothing left to play for, Bolton having guaranteed their safety some time ago. Indeed, Huddlestone had had to wait a very long time – since November, against Sunderland – for his second League goal of the season. "A wonder goal," Coyle called it. Benoit Assou-Ekotto rolled a pass sideways and Huddlestone struck it from 25 yards with some curl that sent it arcing into the top corner.
That was not the cue for an onslaught on Jussi Jaaskelainen's goal, although Huddlestone tried his luck again from 25 yards. Gareth Bale, scorer of the winning goals against Chelsea and Arsenal, had been less visible in the first half yesterday but after the interval he could have made it a personal hat-trick. Jermain Defoe, whose goalscoring form has dipped recently, turned provider as he slipped a neat pass inside Gretar Steinsson, but Bale's shot was too close to Jaaskelainen and the Finn pushed it away.
Bale was now coming more to the fore despite Steinsson's close attention, and Pavlyu-chenko was a fraction away from turning in the Welshman's volleyed cross.
If Harry Redknapp, the Spurs manager, is considering changes for the City game – and here he decided to drop Wilson Palacios from the line-up that lost to Manchester United last week – then Peter Crouch could come in for Defoe. Crouch, a late substitute, went closer to scoring than Defoe did, but his header was cleared off the line by Lee Chung-Yong.
Redknapp is perhaps feeling the pressure more than he wanted to let on. He contradicted himself afterwards, saying: "I'm not getting too excited about the Champions' League," but adding, "No one wants to get there more than me." One thing is sure: he will need a clear head on Wednesday.
Referee: C Foy
Man of the match: Gomes
Match rating: 6/10
Latest in Sport
David De Gea to Real Madrid: Spanish club resume £28m pursuit after fending Manchester United off Sergio Ramos
Karim Benzema to Arsenal: Transfer news live - Angel Di Maria to leave Manchester United, Emmanuel Adebayor to Aston Villa
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015 Third Test Day One report: England skittle Australia for 136, James Anderson takes six wickets, Ian Bell hits half-century
Nicolas Otamendi to Manchester United: Sergio Ramos is only defender of interest to Louis van Gaal
- 1 Australia to impose 24-hour curfew on all cats to protect endangered species
- 2 Model's video shoot on the beach interrupted by sudden landing of a group of illegal migrants
- 3 The difference between a psychopath and a sociopath
- 4 MH370: Boeing 777 wing that could match missing plane found on the French island of Reunion
- 5 'Killer robots' with AI must be banned, urge Stephen Hawking, Noam Chomsky and thousands of others in open letter
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn – or a return to a Labour government
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn says 'we can learn a great deal from Karl Marx'
I am the Jeremy Corbyn supporter that many will tell you doesn't exist
Public anger after French sunbather beaten up by gang for wearing a bikini in Reims park
Labour leadership: New poll shows party is now even 'less electable' than under Ed Miliband
Labour leadership contest: I would never quit the party, says Liz Kendall