Kranjcar seizes brief chance to prove worth

Tottenham Hotspur 2 Bolton 1
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Niko Kranjcar is one of the most articulate footballers currently playing in the Premier League and he is not stupid either. On as a substitute, he scored the winner for Tottenham Hotspur, from 20 yards, three minutes into stoppage time. It was his first league goal of the season in only his fifth appearance. But he knows it will not change a thing for him.

"I haven't been playing for a whole year so for myself, for the lads, it was a great moment," the Croatian midfielder, 26, said. "I don't think for 10 minutes that one goal is going to change my position. It's what you do throughout the season. I'd be a fool to stand here and say that because I scored the winner against Bolton that I deserve to play now."

Even with Luka Modric, his compatriot, out injured, he is down among the substitutes. Yet outwardly, he is level-headed about his situation. "It's football. Everyone thinks they're the best in the world but the gaffer is the one who takes the decisions and it's a really difficult one because of the talent that we have here."

Harry Redknapp spelt out his dilemma, after the relief of holding off Bolton Wanderers' challenge. He said: "I've got Luka, [Gareth] Bale, [Aaron] Lennon so where am I going to play Niko?" The Spurs manager could have accepted the offer from Werder Bremen last month of "£7m, £8m" but he did not want to push Kranjcar out. Yet it is one area where he could let someone go. Redknapp's squad is thin up front and equally so at the back, but in midfield he is spoilt for choice.

Rafael van der Vaart could have made life a bit easier for his team-mates but so could have Mark Clattenburg, the referee. The Dutchman took the first penalty and two minutes later converted a second only for Clattenburg to insist it be retaken, after encroachment. Van der Vaart tried again, aiming for the same spot for the third time, but shot wide. Daniel Sturridge's well-taken equaliser had a feeling of inevitability about it, although Heurelho Gomes was slow to get down.

This win kept up Spurs' challenge for the fourth Champions League place but Owen Coyle, the Bolton manager, was unhappy about many things, including the booking for Gary Cahill. At 1-1, the defender appeared to be tripped in the Spurs area, only to be booked for diving. Kranjcar's subsequent winner just about summed up Coyle's afternoon.

Scorers: Tottenham Van der Vaart pen 6, Kranjcar 90. Bolton Sturridge 55.

Subs: Tottenham Pienaar (Van der Vaart, h-t), Pavlyuchenko (Crouch, 73), Kranjcar (Palacios, 78) Unused Cudicini (gk), Hutton, Bassong, Sandro. Bolton Lee (Elmander, 68), Petrov (Taylor, 77), Muamba (Holden, 87) Unused Bogdan (gk), Wheater, Klasnic, Moreno. Booked: Tottenham Jenas Bolton Cahill, Ricketts, M Davies.

Man of the match Lennon Match rating 7/10

Possession Tottenham 49% Bolton 51%

Attempts on target Tottenham 7 Bolton 3

Referee M Clattenburg (Durham) Att 36,197