While all the attention was on Eastlands yesterday afternoon, Tottenham Hotspur quietly waded their way through the DW Stadium mud to secure a comfortable victory over Wigan Athletic that was enough to lift them over both Liverpool and Manchester City into that coveted fourth place in the Premier League.
A disputed opening goal from Jermain Defoe, his 22nd of the season, in the 27th minute put Tottenham ahead and they never looked back. Chris Kirkland produced a string a fine saves in the second half to help Roberto Martinez's side maintain some respectability, until substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko showed his undoubted class with two goals in the final six minutes to cap the win and remind his manager Harry Redknapp that he might just have a long-term future at the club after all.
Defoe's breakthrough goal, which helped him equal his best-ever tally in a season, should have been disallowed for off-side yet Redknapp wasn't complaining. At that point the England international had scored his side's last six goals in all competitions; he must love playing against Wigan. That was his sixth strike against them this season alone and a delighted Redknapp said: "It was hard, but I'm pleased with our attitude and work-rate. It was a good performance.
"I won't sleep tonight, having seen that first goal! Sometimes you get those decisions, sometimes you don't.
"It was good to see Roman come on and get two goals. It's been frustrating for him but he did well and I'm delighted for him. We had to roll our sleeves up. We don't want to be a soft touch and this was another great performance."
The only bad news for Tottenham on an otherwise perfect afternoon was the sight of England defender Ledley King limping off in the second half with a leg injury. The centre-back is understood to have torn a muscle and could be out of action for several weeks. He will certainly miss Tottenham's midweek FA Cup replay with Bolton Wanderers and the crunch home encounter with Everton this coming weekend. Redknapp added: "Ledley looks like he's torn a muscle and it looks like being a big problem for him. It's bad news because he's such a commanding presence for us, so we'll have to wait and see with him."
Defoe converted Gareth Bale's cross to put the visitors ahead. The boggy pitch ensured that quality was few and far between, although Luka Modric rattled Chris Kirkland's upright before Pavlyuchenko's wonderful cameo.
Wigan have won one of their last 12 league games and hover just two points above the relegation zone. Martinez said: "Bad decisions always leave a bad taste. We knew the condition of the pitch was bad so the first goal was paramount.
"But the first goal is a hard one to explain. There will be misjudgements, of course, but to not see a player who is one-and-a-half yards offside is very difficult to explain. It changed the game. It allowed Spurs to get organised and expose us on the counter-attack. I tried to talk to the referee at half-time but nothing happened. I also thought both Tom Huddlestone and Defoe did enough to be sent off."
Wigan Athletic (4-2-3-1): Kirkland; Melchiot, Caldwell, Scharner, Figueroa; Diame, McCarthy; N'Zogbia, Thomas (Moses, 57), Rodallega; Moreno (Sinclair, 76). Substitutes not used: Stojkovic (gk), Watson, Scotland, Gomez, Boyce.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Gomes; Corluka, Dawson, King (Bassong, 52), Bale; Bentley, Huddlestone, Palacios, Kranjcar (Modric, 70); Defoe (Pavlyuchenko, 72), Crouch. Substitutes not used: Alnwick (gk), Gudjohnsen, Rose, Kaboul.
Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).
Booked: Wigan Diame, McCarthy, Figueroa; Tottenham Bentley, Defoe, Dawson, Huddlestone.
Man of the Match: Palacios.
Attendance: 16,165.Reuse content