Martin Jol's unflinching assertion that the Premiership overshadows the rest of Europe for strength in depth was thrillingly borne out in this classic confrontation. The pragmatic Tottenham manager should surely have added unpredictability, excitement, goals and heart-stopping drama too, in an epic Premiership encounter which had everything and more.
Jol and his side will never understand how they lost this see-saw affair while Newcastle will be equally head-scratching over how they won after twice falling behind. The visitors, beset by injury problems and missing 13 squad members, would have been buried under an avalanche of goals but for the heroics of the goalkeeper Shay Given.
Those attributes are an accepted given, but, when Nicky Butt rattled in the 73rd-minute winner, it was stretchingcredibilitya bit too far. It was the former Manchester United and England man's first goal since his return from a season's loan at Birmingham.
Apparently he had spent most of this week ill in bed he lost 9lb in weight following a bout of flu. It was suitable retribution for Butt, who was seen on television to have his face slapped at half-time by the Tottenham right-back Pascal Chimbonda. Butt's subsequent shove earned him a booking and the referee, Steve Bennett, then cautioned Chimbonda in the Spurs dressing-room.
The Newcastle manager, Glenn Roeder, said his players had been galvanised for their spirited second-half showing after the half-time bust-up with tempers raised in the tunnel.
Roeder said: "They knew what happened and they made their mind up it was going to pull them together even tighter and make sure we came out with a result.
"In terms of sending them back out motivated, that was done for us by whatever happened at half-time. The temperature was raised but our players don't want to make anything of it, I certainly don't."
Jol said of the incident: "I didn't see it as I was already in the dressing-room. The referee dealt with it. Tomorrow we will talk about it and deal with it internally."
Tottenham commenced in a fury, Jermain Defoe particularly electric in front of the watching England coach, Steve McClaren. After just four minutes he was denied on the first of many occasions by Given's reflexes and positioning, the Tottenham marksman volleying just wide soon after. Turbo-charged Tottenham turned the screw, but Given was resolute again, blocking Dimitar Berbatov's shot.
Given kept out another Defoe header, but, with the deluge constant, Newcastle's defensive dam was breached on 13 minutes. Tom Huddlestone swept the ball out left to Steed Malbranque, who broke at pace. The Frenchman's low centre was plundered by Defoe, with more than a hint of offside, from seven yards for his 13th goal of the season. Then, typically Tottenham, they surrendered the lead, two minutes later.
James Milner's free-kick was met at the far post by Paul Huntington, whose header bounced off his team-mate Antoine Sibierski. It fell kindly for the left-back, who shot in off Paul Robinson's left boot for his first Newcastle goal.
Defoe closed the half with a slalom-type sprint on the left which ended with a drive, with the ball whistling past the far post. It was non-stop action, but the excitement was not over. Given, upset twice by Berbatov and Chimbonda blocking him at clearances, ran upfield to complain to Bennett and the flare-up ensued.
Seconds out, second half. Newcastle's Matthew Pattison headed a presentable chance wide and Tottenham immediately replied with interest on 54 minutes. Chimbonda's cross was met by Teemu Tainio, but Nobby Solano blocked a certain goal, only for the rebound to fall to Berbatov who finished instinctively. But Newcastle snatched victory with two lightning strikes in two minutes.
First Obafemi Martins lashed in an unstoppable rising left-footer for his 10th goal this season on 72 minutes, and linked up with Butt for the midfielder to drill in a low third soon after. The substitute Robbie Keane thought Spurs should have had an 80th-minute penalty when his shot struck the arm of Solano on the line.
Jol said: "I can't remember conceding three goals at home before, that's very disappointing, but all credit to them, away from home. We played some marvellous football and deserved to win. We had 24 attempts on goal so it was about Shay Given."
Goals: Defoe (14) 1-0; Huntington (16) 1-1; Berbatov (54) 2-1; Obafemi Martins (72) 2-2; Nicky Butt (73) 2-3.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, Davenport (Ghaly, 87), Lee; Lennon, Tainio (Zokora, 78), Huddlestone, Malbranque (Keane 74); Defoe, Berbatov. Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Gardner.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Solano, Taylor, Ramage, Huntington; Milner, Dyer, Butt, Pattison ; Martins, Sibierski. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Edgar, O'Brien, Carroll, Troisi.
Referee: S Bennett (Kent).
Booked: Tottenham Chimbonda; Newcastle Ramage, Solano,Butt, Huntington.
Man of the match: Given.
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