Match report: Aaron Lennon shines as Gareth Bale-less Tottenham beat Reading to go third

Tottenham Hotspur 3 Reading 1

White Hart Lane

Hearing accusations of Gareth Bale dependency, Tottenham Hotspur responded with a display of unity and fluency to move up to third in the Premier League.

Andre Villas-Boas said that he was “extremely pleased” with his Christmas haul and so he should be. This was Spurs’ third league win in seven days and their seventh from their last nine games

This particular win was achieved against a disciplined and competitive Reading side, and was even more impressive coming without Spurs’ best player. Bale was suspended, for the crime of persistently being quick and getting fouled, denying Spurs their unique game-changer.

As if to make up for Bale’s absence, all of his team-mates improved. Michael Dawson, Emmanuel Adebayor and Clint Dempsey scored the goals but Aaron Lennon, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Mousa Dembele were all excellent. Spurs dominated the ball, made the chances and, but for a brief second-half panic, always looked as if they would win the game. The home fans, at the end, told Reading what they thought losing to Bale-less Spurs said about them.

“We are enjoying our football and we’re playing well,” said a delighted Villas-Boas afterwards.

“We had an extremely good December and when you get so many points in a month you feel extremely confident. The players have been amazing. To play 4-4-2 home and away and to be so organised, so tight, not conceding lots of opportunities is good for us. They deserve great credit.”

White Hart Lane is a much more relaxed place now than it was earlier in the season. Spurs drew their first two league games here and some of the home crowd needed to be won over to Villas-Boas.

But that seems to have happened. There was barely a whimper of anxiety during the match, even when Reading took the lead in the fourth minute or the teams went off at half-time level at 1-1. There was very little tension at all, on or off the pitch, and little surprise at the outcome.

The only thing that did not go to Villas-Boas’ plan was at the very start. Kyle Naughton was penalised for a tackle on Pavel Pogrebynak on the edge of the box. Ian Harte curled the free-kick on the bar and Pogrebynak followed up and headed the ball beyond Hugo Lloris.

From that point on the game was largely attack versus defence played in Reading’s half.

Reading have improved since bringing Pogrebynak and Danny Guthrie back into the side in recent weeks and changing to 4-5-1. They are harder to beat than they were before and just came up against a better team. “I couldn‘t fault our players today,” Brian McDermott said afterwards. “You have to come here and have a certain way of playing.” The fear, though, is that McDermott has only found his best approach half way through a season which may already be lost.

Reading’s lead only last five minutes. Adebayor had already missed a good headed chance before Dawson equalised, charging onto Sigurdsson’s in-swinging corner and heading past Adam Federici. The rest of the first half involved Spurs trying to pick their way through Reading and shooting from distance.

But there was still a sense at the start of the second half that Spurs would go 2-1 up sooner rather than later, and so they did, five minutes after the re-start. Lennon, in the form of his life, darted down the right wing and floated a perfect cross to the far post. Adebayor hung in the air, met it, and scored his first league goal since mid-November.

“A striker lives off goals and I think it was important for him to score,” Villas-Boas said. “They breathe off scoring goals and it will give him a boost of confidence.”

The worry, though, for Spurs is that just as Adebayor starts scoring he may go off to the African Cup of Nations. “It’s a vulnerable situation and anything can happen,” Villas-Boas said. “We have left it to the player to decide.”

Spurs' serene progression to victory was nearly interrupted, though, when Pogrebnyak and Jimmy Kebe found themselves in good positions but missed good chances to make it 2-2.

That possibility disappeared, though, when Dempsey ended the game four minutes after coming off the bench. His shot from distance deflected off Mikele Leigertwood, over Federici and into the net. The goal owed to fortune but the result did not.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2) Lloris; Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Naughton; Lennon, Sandro, Dembele (Parker, 70), Sigurdsson (Dempsey, 75); Adebayor (Livermore, 87), Defoe

Reading (4-1-4-1) Federici; Gunter, Pearce, Mariappa, Harte; Leigertwood; Kebe, Karacan (Robson-Kanu, 56), Guthrie, McAnuff (Le Fondre, 73); Pogrebnyak (Hunt, 83)

Man of the Match: Lennon

Match rating: 6

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Arts and Entertainment
Ella Henderson's first studio album has gone straight to the top of the charts
music
News
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>
TV

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

Life and Style
fashion
News
Paul Nuttall, left, is seen as one of Ukip's key weapons in selling the party to the North of England
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Brand labelled 'left-wing commie scum' by Fox News
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC's Antiques Roadshow uncovers a TIE fighter pilot helmet from the 1977 Star Wars film, valuing it at £50,000
TV

TV presenter Fiona Bruce seemed a bit startled by the find during the filming of Antiques Roadshow

News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

Sport
Steven Caulker of QPR scores an own goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Queens Park Rangers and Liverpool
football
Arts and Entertainment
artKaren Wright tours the fair and wishes she had £11m to spare
News
i100
Life and Style
Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh been invited to take part in Women Fashion Power, a new exhibition that celebrates the way women's fashion has changed in relation to their growing power and equality over the past 150 years
fashionKirsty and Camila swap secrets about how to dress for success
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
booksNew book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past