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
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Bruce, left, with Cream bandmates Ginger Rogers, centre, and Eric Clapton in 1967
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
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

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker