Tottenham come from behind to stun Sunderland

Sunderland 1 Tottenham Hotspur 2
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The Independent Football

There's always been something endearingly Albert Square about Harry Redknapp, and the Tottenham Hotspur manager did little to disprove that theory with a post-match summation that could easily have been delivered in the Queen Vic over a quiet pint.

How many of his contemporaries would have used a term as EastEnders as "toe-rag" while discussing the spirit in the camp that is underpinning another memorable campaign at White Hart Lane? Redknapp was referring to the qualities of his captain Michael Dawson, a redoubtable Yorkshireman who is more Woolpack than Walford, whose first goal of the season cancelled out Asamoah Gyan's deft early finish.

"It's not just about having wonderful players," Redknapp insisted after a victory to extend his side's run to a single league defeat in 15 games, taking them above Chelsea into fourth place. He added: "There are a lot of good players who are toe-rags who you wouldn't have near you for all the money in the world.

"We've got plenty of great lads in our ranks like Michael, who gives you everything. He works hard, he trains hard and when he was left out, he didn't come in and say 'I can't travel', 'I've got a bad back' or something like that. He's no toe-rag or prima donna."

Few soap opera script writers could have conjured up the kind of plot twists provided by Redknapp, who after the game appeared to suggest Gareth Bale could be fit for tomorrow's meeting with Milan in the last 16 of the Champions League, only to give an interview yesterday where he effectively ruled the Welshman out.

"He's struggling, to be truthful," explained the manager. "I'd like to be able to scare Milan a bit and say he's going to be available but he's struggling to get over this back injury. The specialists don't see much of a problem that should keep him out too long. We're going to make sure he's right. He's a young lad and got a great future. We couldn't take a chance."

There was better news regarding Dutch midfielder Rafael van der Vaart, who should be fit after recovering from a calf strain. Sandro and Wilson Palcios will play in the centre of midfield as Jermaine Jenas is suspended.

Steve Bruce is at pains to insist his side are not missing Darren Bent, and the fact they have not failed to score in the four games since the England forward's acrimonious move to Aston Villa would back that up. If anything, it is Sunderland's defenders who are pining for their departed team-mate, having forgotten how to defend from set-pieces, not that it is something they spend much time on the training ground trying to rectify.

"It's something we don't really do," Bruce conceded after a first home defeat to the London club for almost a decade. He added: "We practise attacking set-pieces, but not for those against. Maybe I'll look at it."

Maybe he should. Looking is what most of his defenders, captain Titus Bramble in particular, were doing as Dawson rose unchallenged to head Niko Kranjcar's corner through Craig Gordon's grasp for a soft leveller on the stroke of half-time.

Tottenham took full advantage as Kranjcar sealed their latest comeback, making it 20 points the visitors have gathered this season from losing positions with a crisp 18-yard volley 12 minutes after the break.

Sunderland's mid-season slump threatens to arrive somewhat later this year after a fourth defeat in six games at home.

Europe watch

Two goals in four minutes from Robinho and a strike each from Clarence Seedorf and Antonio Cassano helped Milan warm-up for tomorrow's Champions League visit of Spurs with a 4-0 thrashing of Parma on Saturday. Seedorf slid into an empty net to open the scoring on eight minutes before Cassano doubled the lead with a volley. Robinho's second-half goals wrapped things up for the Serie A leaders.

Scorers: Sunderland Gyan 11 Tottenham Dawson 44, Kranjcar 57.

Subs: Sunderland Elmohamady 5 (Malbranque, 76), Zenden 5 (Onuoha, 85) Unused Mignolet (gk), Angeleri, Ferdinand, Riveros, Colback. Tottenham Lennon 6 (Pienaar, 78), Palacios 6 (Defoe, 88) Unused Cudicini (gk), Bassong, Khumalo, Woodgate, Crouch.

Booked: Sunderland Richardson, Muntari Tottenham Gomes, Dawson, Jenas, Pavlyuchenko.

Man of the match Kranjcar Match rating 6/10.

Possession Sunderland 52% Tottenham 48%.

Attempts on target Sunderland 10 Tottenham 5.

Referee M Jones (Chester) Att 40,986.