Keane keeps bench warm while Defoe fires Spurs

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Newcastle United 0
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The Independent Football

After the Lee Bowyer versus Kieron Dyer fracas, the mantle for the Premiership's most bickering team passed from Newcastle United to Tottenham Hotspur last week, so it was perhaps appropriate that they faced each other at White Hart Lane yesterday.

After the Lee Bowyer versus Kieron Dyer fracas, the mantle for the Premiership's most bickering team passed from Newcastle United to Tottenham Hotspur last week, so it was perhaps appropriate that they faced each other at White Hart Lane yesterday.

Robbie Keane was the dissenting Spurs player who was then fined £10,000 and criticised by his manager, Martin Jol, on the eve of this uninspiring encounter. Jol made the point that the Irishman should score more goals and no doubt to Keane's anguish, Jermain Defoe, one of his rivals for a striker's berth, scored the slightly fortuitous winner here.

One-nil, then, not just to Spurs but to Jol, who kept the former Leeds United striker on the bench for all but 12 minutes. It was from there that he had left in a huff last week after being prepared and not used against Birmingham City.

In a month where they will play eight, possibly nine games, this was one match Newcastle could have done without. Sandwiched between both legs of their Uefa Cup quarter-final with Sporting Lisbon, the Geordies also face an FA Cup semi-final with Manchester United on Sunday. Marooned in mid-table, they have bigger fish to fry. They are after prizes, not points, these days. Their manager, Graeme Souness, underplayed what lies ahead, saying: "This is a big week for us."

Spurs profited from their guests being distracted by their Portuguese date on Thursday. Injuries to Titus Bramble and Shay Given and suspensions for Bowyer, Dyer and the defender Steve Taylor had already robbed the Magpies of half a team while Alan Shearer, suffering from a dead leg, was replaced during the interval.

Spurs have European ambitions of their own and this win, thanks to Defoe's goal three minutes before half-time, lifts them up to seventh place, which could earn them a slot in next season's Uefa Cup.

Two bad mistakes by the goalkeepers should arguably have seen the points shared. Stephen Harper erred first on only his second League start of the season. Celestine Babayaro rolled the ball to his team-mate and under no real pressure Harper's low clearance struck Simon Davies. From the rebound, Defoe half-volleyed the ball into the unguarded net. Souness declined to blame his player, saying: "I can't be hard on Harper. He plays so rarely and reserve team football is no preparation for the Premiership."

Newcastle's best chance to equalise came when Paul Robinson, Harper's counterpart, made a mistake of his own. With 58 minutes gone, he tried to pass to Ledley King who thought the ball was going to anyone but him. James Milner shot from 20 yards, only to send his effort sailing wide of the empty net.

Goal: Defoe (42) 1-0

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Kelly, King, Gardner, Edman; Davies (Ziegler, 84), Brown (Davis, 55), Carrick, Reid; Defoe (Keane, 78), Kanouté.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Harper; Carr, O'Brien, Boumsong, Babayaro; Jenas, Butt (Ambrose, 62), Faye, Robert (N'Zogbia, 62); Shearer (Milner, h-t), Ameobi.

Referee: S Bennett (Kent)

Booked: Tottenham: Brown; Newcastle: Faye, Ameobi

Man of the Match: Defoe

Attendance: 35,885

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