Middlesbrough 2 Tottenham 1: Wheater exposes Spurs' striking deficiencies

Juande Ramos must have known what to expect after watching a horribly toothless Tottenham Hotspur succumb to their latest opening-day defeat.

The Spaniard was not to be disappointed. He spent most of his post-match press conference fending off questions as to the future of Dimitar Berbatov, the unsettled forward he opted to confine to a cameo role from the bench, as his charges were all too easily brushed aside by an energetic Middlesbrough who, albeit on the evidence of a single afternoon, showed rich promise for the coming campaign.

"For the moment, Berbatov is a Spurs player," insisted Ramos, having made hay for the gossip-mongers by leaving the player out of the fray until the final 25 minutes after which the visitors looked much more of a threat with the Bulgarian pushed up to support Darren Bent, who up until that point had been hopelessly ineffective.

Explaining his very public Berbatov snub, Ramos added: "We opted for Giovani dos Santos because I thought his speed would trouble Middlesbrough as they tired later into the game."

Already without the departed Robbie Keane, the omission of Berbatov meant Tottenham were shorn of two players who between them contributed 46 goals last season. It is a goal-scoring deficit which will take some filling. "We've got to see if we can add in one or two areas and put this result behind us," Ramos added, optimistically.

Talk of a move to Manchester United or Barcelona refuses to go away for the hugely talented but brittle-of-temperament Berbatov, but Ramos added: "I'm happy with him, he's part of the squad and I have nothing to say about him really. There's been no transfer request from him and I love great players."

David Wheater is never in danger of being described as a great player, but what the amiable youngster lacks in natural talent, he more than makes up for in so many other ways, not least his goal-scoring exploits.

Pressed into service as an emergency right back – Middlesbrough paraded Justin Hoyte before the game but the £3m full-back was not signed in time to play – the locally born and bred centre-back had already had one seemingly good effort ruled out for pushing in the first half before he broke the deadlock with 19 minutes remaining, sweeping home the rebound from close range after Afonso Alves had diverted Stewart Downing's low cross against the bar. In the past, Middlesbrough have been guilty of trying to hold on to rather than attempting to exploit slender leads, with a regular consequence of leaving themselves open to late equalisers, but not on this occasion.

Mido, the former Tottenham forward, ensured a miserable return south for his former employers with the killer second four minutes from time, the Egyptian international expertly deflecting in a cross-shot from fellow substitute Didier Digard shortly after his introduction.

Robert Huth, the German defender, glanced in David Bentley's injury-time free-kick to deny Middlesbrough a deserved clean sheet, but for Tottenham it was scant consolation and far too late for thoughts of a stirring comeback. Beaten at Sunderland on the opening day 12 months ago, Spurs' summer of big spending, fresh hope and ambitious words soon gave way to football's version of groundhog day.

"There was a belief around the stadium," Gareth Southgate, the Middlesbrough manager, said. "When there's a feeling like that among the fans you want to reward that faith."

For Tottenham supporters, keeping the faith just became that little bit harder.

News
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food and drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
Voices
A Siberian Tiger
voices
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried