Tottenham Hotspur 2 Manchester City 1: Home comfort keeps Spurs on course for Europe

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The Independent Football

Ask Martin Jol a question about a player, say, and he instantly takes that as a chance to talk about someone else, maybe one in the same position, or maybe someone who is on the bench, waiting for his chance. Direct answers to direct questions are not his thing.

It is the Tottenham head coach's way of encouraging a squad mentality, something he repeated after this win that was easier than the scoreline suggested; his way of encouraging a one-for-all, all-for-one attitude. It is an approach he takes throughout the season and one that he no doubt believes will serve his squad well at this most critical juncture of the campaign.

One question, of course, that won't go away between now and the final Premiership game in early May is whether Spurs can make it to the Champions' League. If they do, it would be their first time in the re-modelled European Cup and their first venture among the continent's finest since they won the old Football League in 1961.

Jol was slightly more prepared to tackle the subject of whether they could hold on to fourth place, which would give the north London club a pre-qualifying match as long as Arsenal do not go on and win the European Cup in Paris next month.

Jol has two Italian friends who were impressed with Arsenal's victory against Juventus last week but the Dutchman was quick to remind everyone that Spurs had actually been ahead of their local rivals for, as he put it, "three-quarters of the season". He added: "Nobody expected us to be fourth. We've been pretty consistent all season. Europe would be a tremendous achievement."

This win, which came through Paul Stalteri's first league goal for the club and Michael Carrick's strike four minutes after the interval, and would have been by a greater margin had it not been for the fine goalkeeping of David James, kept Arsenal at arm's length for another week.

It also kept up Spurs' fine home record of not having lost at White Hart Lane since August against Chelsea but preserving fourth place also now depends on what they can achieve away from home, especially when they visit Highbury for the north London derby on 22 April.

Jol has consistently played down expectations at Spurs since he took over in the autumn of 2004 and so fourth place has arrived almost in spite of his pronouncements about the club's unreadiness to compete near the top of the Premiership. Having not even qualified for the Uefa Cup last season, the club is on the verge of a quantum leap in their standing both at home and abroad.

Whether Edgar Davids will be around to soak up the atmosphere of European nights is now under question, Jol dropping his compatriot for the first time this season after a series of ineffective displays and he has been linked with a possible offer to return to the Netherlands this summer.

The midfielder was certainly not missed as Robbie Keane's shot was well saved before Stalteri stole in for the rebound and Carrick did what Davids never does and scored with precision from eight yards out.

Georgios Samaras tapped in from a long throw-in but Stuart Pearce's men, criticised by their manager for losing last week, never threatened to come away with so much as a point in succumbing to their fifth consecutive defeat.

Goals: Stalteri (44) 1-0; Carrick (49) 2-0; Samaras (52) 2-1.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Stalteri, King, Gardner, Lee; Lennon (Defoe, 82), Carrick, Jenas, Tainio (Davids, 89); Mido, Keane. Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Murphy, Davenport.

Manchester City (4-4-1-1): James; Mills (Riera, 59), Dunne, Distin, Thatcher; Sinclair, Richards, Musampa, Reyna (Sibierski, 79); Vassell; Samaras. Substitutes not used: Weaver (gk), Sommeil, Wright-Phillips.

Referee: D Gallagher (Oxfordshire).

Booked: Manchester City Thatcher, Vassell, Richards.

Man of the match: James.

Attendance: 36,167.