To think Juande Ramos gave up life in Seville for this. An afternoon of desperation football offered by struggling teams and played out in front of two sets of understandably infuriated fans, the glory game it was not. At its end Tottenham had still won only once in the Premier League this season, although Ramos could say that his first league match in charge of Spurs brought an immediate improvement in that the Londoners moved out of the relegation zone.
But that would not be a manager "taking the positives", it would be one wringing them from a mangle. Tottenham led for 17 minutes either side of half-time but in no way did they merit three points. Luke Young, a former Spur, scored Middlesbrough's equaliser with one of the strikes of the season.
But it was Ramos who ensured he would continue to be the talking point with the submission of a teamsheet that showed captain Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov on the bench. In Keane's absence the troubled Paul Robinson was handed the armband. It would have been the most interesting aspect of the afternoon hearing Ramos explain his decisions. But he failed to address the press afterwards because, as his assistant Gus Poyet said, Spurs did not bring a translator. How to lose friends and not influence people.
So we got Poyet's version, which began: "Decisions". It was not quite the detail hoped for but eventually we discovered that Bent and Defoe were preferred to Keane and Berbatov due to "speed, and the way they run behind". It was as good as we were going to get and for those 17 minutes that Tottenham were in front, the decisions were justified. But before Bent's second goal of the season, which came courtesy of Tottenham's first shot, in the 35th minute, the front pairing were unconvincing.
Only in the seconds prior to half-time, when Defoe surged into the Middlesbrough area and crossed low for Bent did the two really gel as a partnership. From six yards out, Bent missed.
An indication of what Ramos thought was that the pair lasted only six minutes after Young's equaliser. Then came Keane and Berbatov, to no real effect.
In Keane, Berbatov and Defoe Tottenham have three top-class forwards. Finding the blend will be one of Ramos' priorities.
Another will be replacing his centre-halves. Michael Dawson and Younes Kaboul did not have a disastrous 90 minutes but they were up against Boro's balsa-wood strength forward line of Jeremie Aliadière and Tuncay Sanli. Aliadière got better as the game progressed but Boro need Mido back, and Julio Arca in midfield, and, as Gareth Southgate would be entitled to point out, three of his back four. Jonathan Woodgate failed a fitness test yesterday morning. That meant Chris Riggott partnered the 20-year-old David Wheater and it was Riggott who backtracked when Bent ran onto a Steed Malbranque pass and headed for the penalty area.
Riggott allowed Bent too much room and then as Bent shaped to shoot, Riggott turned his back. Bent's shot was sweet and Mark Schwarzer was beaten comfortably. A Spurs side with confidence would have run away with the match. But Bent fluffed that moment created by Defoe and Aaron Lennon was close with a harder opportunity shortly after the re-start.
Boro then rallied. They had had the first decent effort when Gary O'Neil crossed to Stewart Downing in the fourth minute but there was nothing until Robinson tipped away an Aliadière header 46 minutes later. Then came Young.
The full-back never scored for Spurs in his four seasons there but he saw Roy of the Rovers imagery when, after a home attack was partially cleared, Young hit a first-time shot from 30 yards that sped diagonally, unstoppably into the far top corner. In the context of this game, it was extraordinary.Reuse content