Tottenham Hotspur 1 Hull City 0 match report: Andre Villas-Boas criticises ‘tense’ atmosphere at White Hart Lane after lucky win

Victory moves Spurs back into the top four

The generous interpretation, as Tottenham Hotspur moved to fourth in the Premier League, is that good teams win when playing poorly, and that they make the luck that they need.

This 1-0 win over Hull City, though, must be the least enjoyable, least impressive victory of Spurs’ season. Not only did it come thanks to a lavishly generous penalty decision from referee Michael Oliver with 10 minutes left – one that Steve Bruce described as an “absolute joke” – but it was played out in an anxious atmosphere, which Andre Villas-Boas said was far from amenable to good football.

There is a problem at White Hart Lane. This was Spurs’ fifth home league game of the season, and they have still only played well here once. Many managers would blame opposition tactics but Villas-Boas, in one of the franker explanations of recent months, said it was down to Spurs’ home support.

“It was a very tense, difficult atmosphere,” Villas-Boas said. “We looked like the away team but we kept our cool. We had to dig deep because we weren’t getting any help from anybody and I think the stadium reflected that. It was very tense with not a lot of support until the first goal, which made it very difficult.”

This seemed to be something that Villas-Boas had been waiting to say for a while. “This is very difficult for me, as fans are the essence of football. But we have broken the record of away wins because we play comfortably away. But at home it’s difficult. It is like it drags the ball into our goal instead of the opponent’s goal. It is something that is felt within the group, a feeling that invades fixtures like this.”

Whether this will mean a better and more supportive atmosphere at future home games, only time  will reveal.

Spurs fans might point out that there was not an awful lot about which to get excited. For too long, Spurs were just as limp, insipid and slow as they had been here three weeks ago against West Ham United, struggling to find space, to break down a massed defence and even looking vulnerable on the break. The only difference was that Hull, a team decimated by injuries but very admirable in their commitment and focus, could not score a goal.

With 10 minutes left, Hull looked close to a very well-deserved point, and Spurs seemed set for their third straight home league game without a win. Then Jan Vertonghen, playing at left-back, found some space and fired in a cross. It hit Ahmed Elmohamady on the foot, bounced up, and hit his hand. Michael Oliver thought about it then blew his whistle. Roberto Soldado sent Steve Harper the wrong way. Bruce was the opposite of impressed. “It is a joke decision,” Bruce said, who clearly did not believe it would have been given to his side. “An absolute joke decision. How do you give a penalty in those sort of situations? Andre agreed. He thought it was a soft one. And in my opinion it’s not right. Not for the stakes we’re playing at. He has robbed the players of a well-earned point.

“He could not wait to give it. Absolutely could not wait to give it. He totally ballsed it up.

“If my player made a decision like that, he wouldn’t be playing next week or if I keep making decisions like that, I get the sack. The referee has cost us the game.”

It was the prospect of the point, of course, that made it so hard to take. And all this without Sone Aluko, Danny Graham, Allan McGregor and the ineligible Jake Livermore. Robbie Brady was on the bench. So there were first league starts of the season for Harper, Alex Bruce, Paul McShane and George Boyd, and Bruce’s 5-4-1 was working perfectly.

“They have all tried manfully to get something and in my opinion should have done,”  Bruce said. “The lads were desperate to play here. Desperate to do well, and you could see that in them.”

In the first half, Andros Townsend and Kyle Walker forced saves from distance but there was very little in it, with Sagbo and Huddlestone going closer for Hull.

Villas-Boas introduced Mousa Dembele, then Christian Erisksen, and then Jermain Defoe without much obvious improvement. Spurs could not force overlaps or find pockets of space and the problems were increasingly clear. But they did take the lead, and held on even after a spell with 10 men, Townsend falling over the advertising boards into photographers, dazing himself and twisting his wrist, eventually coming back on to raucous cheers.

He is unlikely to play when the two teams meet here again on Wednesday night in the Capital One Cup. Bruce should get his wish of a different referee, but Villas-Boas will be left with the same crowd, and a possible awkward reception.

Tottenham (4-2-3-1): Lloris 6; Walker 6, Dawson 5, Chiriches 5, Vertonghen 6; Paulinho 5, Sandro 5 (Dembele, 45, 5); Townsend 5, Holtby 5 (Eriksen, 59, 4), Lennon 5 (Defoe 70, 5); Soldado 6

Hull (5-4-1): Harper 6; Rosenior 5 (McLean, 84), Davies 6, Bruce 6, McShane 6, Figueroa ; Elmohamady 5, Huddlestone 7, Meyler 6, Boyd 6 (Brady, 84); Sagbo 7 (Proschwitz, 86)

Man of match: Huddlestone

Match rating: 3

Suggested Topics
Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvRicky Gervais on the return of 'Derek' – and why he still ignores his critics
Sport
Vito Mannone fails to keep out Samir Nasri's late strike
sportMan City 2 Sunderland 2: Goalkeeping howler allows Man City to scrap a draw – but Premier League title is Liverpool's to lose
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Life & Style
Infant child breast-feeding with eyes closed
scienceTo stop mummy having any more babies, according to scientists
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
news
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
News
David Cameron sings a hymn during the enthronement service of The Most Rev Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury, at Canterbury Cathedral last year
news
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey gets the North Korean leader's look
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
News
peopleRyan Gosling says yes, science says no. Take the A-list facial hair challenge
Arts & Entertainment
tvCreator Vince Gilligan sheds light on alternate endings
Life & Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 63rd anniversary of the Peak District National Park
tech
News
Paul Weller, aka the Modfather, performing at last year’s Isle of Wight Festival in Newport
people
Life & Style
Michael Acton Smith founded Firebox straight out of university before creating Moshi Monsters
techHe started out selling silliness with online retailer Firebox, before launching virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
News
Ethical matters: pupils during a philosophy lesson
educationTaunton School's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success
Arts & Entertainment
Play It Forward: the DC Record Fair in Washington, US
musicIndependent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads on Record Store Day
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

Education: Secret of Taunton's success

Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal