The Premier League's trap door is opening wide for West Bromwich Albion. An emphatic victory over Sunderland last weekend brought brief promise of an unlikely escape for Tony Mowbray's team, but with only three matches remaining relegation is looking inevitable.
This match summed up Albion's season. Once again they played some fine football, but without a killer touch in the penalty area they were unable to punish opponents who in the early months of the campaign had looked in danger of fighting their own battle for survival.
Harry Redknapp, however, has steadied the Tottenham ship to such an extent that they have lost at home only once in his six months in charge. This was their fourth successive 1-0 home win and it is more than three months since they conceded a Premier League goal at White Hart Lane. Their improvement is such that they are even challenging for the final European place.
For long periods, nevertheless, Tottenham were second best. Heartened no doubt by news of Middlesbrough's lunchtime defeat, Albion attacked with purpose and repeatedly threatened to open up the home defence. Marc- Antoine Fortuné was a handful in attack, while Chris Brunt and Robert Koren offered lively support from the flanks.
Albion had plenty of chances, but in Heurelho Gomes they faced a goalkeeper in top form. In the first half Gomes made a flying save to keep out Jonas Olsson's header from a Brunt corner, while Fortuné volleyed over the bar after Gianni Zuiverloon's cross to the far post. Fortuné also had decent claims for a penalty turned down after Benoît Assou-Ekotto's clumsy challenge.
Tottenham started slowly, but as the first half wore on Aaron Lennon became an increasing threat down the right. The winger shot narrowly wide and then forced a fine save from Scott Carson with a strike from the edge of the penalty area.
Jermaine Jenas was a marginal figure for most of the afternoon, but after 43 minutes the midfielder scored the decisive goal with a fine strike. Vedran Corluka cut infield from the right and fed Jenas, who skipped past Youssouf Mulumbu on the edge of the penalty area and curled his shot into the corner of the net.
Albion, however, continued to make chances. Fortuné's shot took a wicked deflection off Corluka and struck a post, while Gomes kept out a Shelton Martis header from a corner and made a superb one-handed save to deny Koren. Lennon struck a post for Tottenham as injury time beckoned, though a second goal would have been cruel on Albion.
Redknapp was pleased to beat opponents for whom he retains great respect. "From box to box they pass the ball as well as any team," he said. "It was a tricky game for us, but it wasn't any less than I expected from them."
Mowbray promised that his team would fight to the finish but acknowledged that the match was a familiar story for his men. "We created enough chances not to lose," he said ruefully.
Referee: R Styles
Man of the match: Lennon
Match rating: 6/10Reuse content