Kranjcar swoops after Gordon gaffe revives Spurs

Sunderland 1 Tottenham Hotspur 2
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The Independent Football

Fourth place in the table; only the sixth club to pass 1,000 Premier League points; a first victory on Wearside for the best side of a decade and 20 points gathered from losing positions so far this season. All notable achievements for a Tottenham side that has tasted League defeat just once in the last 15 games.

Far more satisfying than any of those particular milestones was the message it no doubt sent out to Milan ahead of the clubs' meeting in the Champions' League this week.

For almost half this topsy-turvy contest, the Italians, who swatted Parma aside 4-0 last night, would no doubt have lost little sleep at the imminent visit by Harry Redknapp's side, who arrive at the San Siro on Tuesday for the first instalment of the battle for a place in the last eight.

Only when Michael Dawson's tame header from a Niko Kranjcar corner found its way through the grasp of goalkeeper Craig Gordon for a soft leveller a minute before the interval did the visitors come to life, after which they were an entirely different proposition as they inflicted a third consecutive League defeat on the hosts for the first time under Steve Bruce. Kranjcar sealed the comeback 12 minutes into the second half, pouncing on a week clearing header from John Mensah to volley into the bottom corner from the edge of the area to ensure Spurs travel to Lombardy on the back of three consecutive wins.

They will do so without the injured Gareth Bale, absent again here with a back problem. "He's got that ability to terrorise defences and, that would be in their minds after what he did to Inter Milan in the group stages," Redknapp said. He added: "Everybody in Italy was asking me when I was out there, 'Is Bale going to be fit'. He'd scare them to death. But he's not going to be fit for Tuesday." The midfielder's loss is offset by the return of Rafael van der Vaart from a calf injury.

Tottenham's latest comeback denied Sunderland a chance to regain sixth place. Redknapp added: "We've come from behind so many times this season, and we've shown great character again. I went last week and watched Milan, they're a dangerous side and the front three have all got goals in them. It'll be a big test but I think we've got a good chance."

Injuries are starting to catch up with Sunderland, as is their inability to defend set-pieces. "The frustration is the first goal which we switched off for to give the fella a free header," manager Steve Bruce conceded, his only consolation a fortnight's break before his side are next in action.

He added: "It's a flat dressing room, but we're still on the verge of a very good finish in the League. We could have signed off with a positive result but at least we've got a chance to recharge a few batteries."

A Tottenham victory looked the least likely outcome when with just 11 minutes on the clock, Asamoah Gyan's deft touch and turn to convert Kieran Richardson's driven cross put the hosts in the ascendency.

At that juncture the visitors were a man light under self-imposed circumstances as William Gallas changed his boots for the second time in a little over quarter of an hour.

The Frenchman atoned by making a nuisance of himself to contribute to Gordon's gaffe for Dawson's pivotal equaliser and the Tottenham manager added: "I was upset about William being off the field when they scored, and I told him so at half-time.

"To be fair, he had an injection before the game but they'd bandaged his ankle too tight and he was in a lot of pain so he did a great job for us. Some of the players these days they have 40 or 50 pairs of boots to choose from. When I played you were lucky if you had two."

Attendance: 40,986

Referee: Mike Jones

Man of the match: Kranjcar