Newcastle United 3 Tottenham 1: Parker's persistence damages Spurs' European pretensions
Sunday 24 December 2006
There's clearly something about travelling to Tyneside at this time of year that does not agree with Tottenham, who now boast the dubious distinction of having played at St James' Park five times in the last 11 years during December and have been beaten on every single occasion.
The latest visit to the North-East might not have been as harrowing as the 7-1 thrashing in 1996, the 6-1 drubbing a year later or the 4-0 rout of three years ago, but it still proved to be a chastening experience - a reality check for a club with Champions' League pretensions.
Indeed, the goals from Kieron Dyer, Obafemi Martins and Scott Parker that secured a fifth Premiership win in six outings for Newcastle suggested that Glenn Roeder's upwardly mobile side, bristling with pace, will soon be overtaking Spurs, who could conceivably have gone fourth in the table yesterday.
"I was pleased with parts of the performance," Roeder said. "Spurs are an attractive side who keep possession well so it was important to play fast, get in their faces and not allow them to establish a tempo. I can't give the whole squad enough credit. We were looking over our shoulder a few weeks ago but now we're looking above us."
However, having lost Jermain Defoe when he tweaked his knee during the warm-up, the day rapidly went from bad to worse for the Spurs manager Martin Jol as his side fell behind in the third minute thanks to Dyer, who struck with sublime fashion seconds after Steed Malbranque's goal-bound header was blocked by Steven Taylor.
Michael Dawson failed to deal with Nolberto Solano's clearance, allowing Martins to find Dyer, who took maximum advantage of the chance to impress the England manager Steve McClaren. He out-manoeuvred Ledley King before beating a static Paul Robinson from the edge of the penalty area.
The lead was doubled in suspect circumstances four minutes later when James Milner fed Parker, whose offside position went undetected, and Martins nodded in his captain's cross.
In a flurry of early activity, a chance came and went for Dimitar Berbatov, before Danny Murphy fortuitously reduced the deficit. Justice of sorts was done as his shot following Pascal Chimbonda's cross was deflected off Taylor and beyond a wrong-footed Shay Given.
Parker stifled Spurs' recovery with a series of crunching challenges and he was rewarded with a 34th-minute goal following Robinson's blunder. The Yorkshireman failed to hold Milner's rasping free-kick although he almost redeemed himself by stopping Martins' subsequent shot only for Parker to nod in.
Berbatov should have narrowed the gap after half-time but shot wastefully wide after bursting clear of an inexperienced but spirited defence in which a robust Taylor excelled.
The shine was taken off a rousing performance when Given was withdrawn due to a groin injury but Pavel Srnicek enjoyed a cameo as a feel-good factor enveloped Newcastle, where Tottenham have not even drawn during December since 1924.
"Although the score was horrendous we could have had a better result because we had four or five moments to score a consolation but we weren't clinical enough," said Jol. "Paul Robinson will hold his hand up for the third because he could not catch the ball."
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