Harry Redknapp declared Tottenham Hotspur had secured Premier League safety with a familiar hangdog smile after this keenly-fought, but ultimately deserved triumph at White Hart Lane yesterday (Saturday). The result, secured by a well-taken second-half goal by the Russian striker Roman Pavlyuchenko, was greeted with home glee as it completed a double, but raised suspicions that Redknapp, once an Upton Park favourite, had no place in the hearts of the visiting supporters.
"Yes, I think we will be safe," he said, acknowledging the consistency of his team who have lost just once now in eight outings. "Maybe we are already -- and it would be great if we can go on and qualify for a place in Europe. I would love it if we can do that. Roman did well for us and scored a great goal that proved what a fine technical player he is. But I think there is so much more to come from him next season."
Few could argue with Redknapp's assessment. Tottenham dominated possession, but struggled to turn that into clear openings with the blunt Darren Bent struggling and they needed the half-time introduction of Didier Zokora's bite and guile in midfield, followed by Pavlyuchenko's energy and skill, to emerge triumphant. Gianfranco Zola's Hammers, passing fluently, and well-organised with Lucas Neill outstanding in a defensive midfield role, certainly played a full part in an absorbing contest.
"I knew at half-time that if we could keep our composure and continue to stand up to Tottenham that we could take a point," said Zola. "But Pavlyuchenko scored a very good goal and I think that was all there was between the teams. We could have got a point, but not quite..." It was the Hammers first defeat in six games.
From the start, it was clear it was to be an afternoon of pure football as eight minutes passed before the first free-kick was awarded. The ball was passed swiftly and accurately and there was plenty of creative movement so it was some surprise that the first meaty shots on target did not arrive until 30 minutes had passed. These were supplied by Tom Huddlestone, from 30 yards, and Robbie Keane, whose bouncing shot re-bounded off Robert Green's chest. The goalkeeper dived splendidly to save the first.
A spell of bad tackling, including a rabbit-punch by Neill on the silky Luka Modric, followed after the interval. This produced yellow cards for the Australian, Luis Boa Morte and Zokora before Di Michele shot straight at Gomes' feet after being set free, when Jonathan Woodgate missed a clearance by Green. "This is the moment, I thought," admitted Zola. "But he is unlucky in front of goal."
It was a costly miss and a generous comment. Within minutes, Vedran Corluka advanced on the right, found Modric and the little schemer supplied Pavlyuchenko who turned smoothly past Collins to roll a low shot beyond Green. Collins partly atoned by clearing off the line from Keane in a pulsating finale as Spurs hung on to their valuable victory.Reuse content