It took, of all things, Arsenal's collapse in the North-east to get Tottenham to win. When news filtered through of Newcastle's equaliser, it elicited the biggest cheer of the afternoon from a Spurs crowd that had become increasingly deflated by events unfolding in front of them, from a missed penalty to Bolton equalising. Furthermore, the flurry of goals around the Premier League had not materialised here in North London. And then came Niko Kranjcar.
Left out by Harry Redknapp for most of this season, he was given a fifth appearance of the campaign with 12 minutes remaining. With 60 seconds left, the Croat was given a short pass by Roman Pavlyuchenko, another substitute, and he let fly with his left foot from 20 yards, his shot curling in the top corner. It was his first League goal of the season. He "celebrated" at the end by kicking the ball away and walking down the tunnel not waiting for any pats on his back.
Redknapp praised the match-winner afterwards, not only for his goal but for his positive attitude, and presumably he gave silent thanks that he rejected the "£7 million, £8 million" that Werder Bremen offered last month. He said: "He trains hard, he has a great attitude, he doesn't spit his dummy out when he is not in the side."
Yet it should never have been decided as late as the second minute of stoppage time. Spurs earned two penalties in as many minutes – the first, after five minutes, was for handball by Kevin Davies and Rafael van der Vaart calmly scored, high to Jussi Jaaskelainen's right. The second came after Aaron Lennon was brought down by Sam Ricketts and although Van der Vaart converted it, Mark Clattenburg, the referee, decided that there had been encroachment by Wilson Palacios and so Van der Vaart was handed the ball for the third time. The mind games between the Dutchman and Jaaskelainen now went into overdrive. Would Van der Vaart go for the same spot for the third time? He did, but was guilty of trying to be too accurate and shot wide.
So the door was tantalisingly ajar for Bolton to equalise if they could get close to Heurelho Gomes. And so it came to pass. After 55 minutes, Mark Davies found Daniel Sturridge, whowas lively and impressive on his full debut, and took his chance well.
Bolton's comeback might not have stopped there as Gary Cahill then worked his way into the penalty box and crashed to the floor. Clattenburg's whistle was, however, for a dive by the defender, and not for another penalty, despite replays showing a foul by Steven Pienaar, a half-time substitute for Van der Vaart.
Owen Coyle was extremely indignant at that decision. The Bolton manager said: "It was a stonewall penalty. To compound it the referee has, in effect, called Cahill a cheat."
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Man of the match: LennonReuse content