It says a lot about Tottenham's season that had they lost at home to Sunderland yesterday they would have been just one point ahead of the Wearside outfit. Instead Spurs can breath a sigh of relief after Robbie Keane came off the substitutes' bench to score his 100th goal for the club deep into injury time, which doubled Tottenham's lead. But they so nearly paid the price after failing to put the game beyond doubt in a first half of dominance.
"It was a rather strange match," the Tottenham manager, Juande Ramos, explained. "The first half was ours and we could have established a two- or three-goal lead. There were chances in the second half but they were mostly for Sunderland. We ended up getting the victory we wanted but in a roundabout way."
The roundabout victory came courtesy of an Aaron Lennon goal after just 111 seconds, after which Spurs looked as if they would win easily. They never added the second, however, and had to withstand a second-half onslaught before Keane squeezed an injury-time shot under Craig Gordon to claim his 100th goal.
"It's a great achievement for him, for Tottenham and for the whole Spurs family," Ramos said. Keane now joins names such as Jimmy Greaves, Clive Allen, Glenn Hoddle and Teddy Sheringham in an illustrious group of Tottenham players to reach this milestone. Had it not been for a series of saves from Radek Cerny – again starting ahead of Paul Robinson – Keane might not have had the opportunity and Spurs would have come away with just a point at best. Cerny saved from Daryl Murphy, Michael Chopra and Kenwyne Jones, and had his defenders to thank for scrambling the ball clear on several occasions.
It was going to take more than desire from his men to impress the Sunderland manager, Roy Keane, who was infuriated with his side's start to the game. "When you give two goals away like we did you don't deserve to win any football match," he said. "We can dress it up all we want, but when you give away a goal after 111 seconds it's not ideal."
Chief among the suspects to feel the wrath of Keane will be Nyron Nosworthy. With the game in its infancy, Nosworthy was guilty of over-elaborate defending when under pressure from Jamie O'Hara.
The Sunderland centre-back tried to beat his opponent on the edge of his own box, when the sensible thing would have been to put the ball high in the stand. Paul McShane attempted to help out his defensive partner but his clearance rebounded to O'Hara. The 21-year-old put in a left-footed cross which found its way to the unmarked Aaron Lennon, who stabbed the ball past Craig Gordon in the Sunderland goal.
"The tough part of being atop footballer is what goes on between your ears," Keane said afterwards.
After the opening goal Spurs looked as if they were going to run riot. Sunderland had no answer to the speed and movement of Lennon, Dimitar Berbatov and Jermain Defoe, who was captaining the Spurs side.
Berbatov was twice denied by Gordon and clipped the bar when he probably should have scored. Gordon also saved from Defoe, while Jermaine Jenas should certainly have added a second when he lifted the ball over Gordon but wide.
Despite Sunderland's second-half performance, they were on the receiving end of yet anotheraway defeat – their eighth in succession. "You look at ourlast three away games and on another day we feel we could have got something," Keane said. "But I keep saying that's the reality of the Premier League; that's why it's so brutal and that's why we love the game."Reuse content