Tottenham Hotspur 3 Charlton Athletic 1: Defoe hits decisive double to defy critics

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The Independent Football

Jermain Defoe did his World Cup hopes a power of good as he struck twice in front of the watching Tord Grip yesterday to give Tottenham a much-needed League victory, after a three-game winless streak, in their continuing quest for a surprise Champions' League spot.

Defoe has been a peripheral figure in recent weeks as the manager, Martin Jol, maintained his policy of starting with Robbie Keane alongside a target man. But with Mido still on African Nations' Cup duty and no goals from his team for almost five hours, Jol opted to recall Defoe for only his third start in 14 games -- and he responded in style.

Charlton went into the game full of optimism after a five-game unbeaten run and, in fact, had not lost in the League at White Hart Lane for 16 years. But until they got back into the game late on through the substitute Jerome Thomas, they had no answer to a Spurs side that bristled with pace and invention.

Defoe had already threatened twice when he gave Spurs the lead, turning inside Jonathan Fortune before scoring with a shot that deflected off Luke Young. Charlton responded by wasting a couple of dangerous free-kicks and were still waiting for their first shot on target when they fell further behind.

Keane laid a well-executed pass into the path of Jermaine Jenas and although the ball ran kindly, the midfielder beat Thomas Myhre with a beautifully controlled low drive.

Just before the break, the otherwise average Marcus Bent rattled the Spurs bar from 25 yards. It proved a pivotal moment because 45 seconds after the restart Tottenham added a third as Defoe ran on to substitute Tom Huddlestone's well-weighted ball and beat Myhre with a deft flick.

By now, despite having to replace their prodigious winger Aaron Lennon, who went off with a "dead" leg, Spurs were in cruise control and on their way to a League double over Charlton. With Michael Carrick at his cultured best in midfield, only a last-ditch tackle on Keane by Hermann Hreidarsson prevented the striker from scoring number four and Alan Curbishley could only stand and watch as his team were picked off almost at will.

When, with 20 minutes remaining, Thomas pulled a goal back, Spurs briefly wobbled and only a miraculous Paul Robinson save from Hreidarsson's late header prevented them enduring a nail-biting finish.

For all their tradition, Spurs have not qualified for Europe through their League position for 19 years. That will surely be rectified this season, but will Defoe continue to start when Mido returns? "It's all about the balance," said Jol, "but if he can score goals like that, I will always pick him.

"He's probably the best finisher in the country but sometimes you have to make a choice. People talk about little and large: I don't even know who they are. What I do favour is to have one player who can hold up a ball and one who can stretch defences. But don't forget Carrick in midfield today, he's always leading by example. Today he was almost overwhelming because we had probably our youngest squad ever."

Curbishley admitted his team produced too little too late. "One or two of my players are feeling sorry for themselves but we have to get back on track. In a way I blame myself because I should have changed the shape before their first goal."

l Charlton midfielder Matt Holland has decided to call time on his international career with the Republic of Ireland despite his manager, Steve Staunton, trying to talk him out of it. The 31-year-old won his 49th cap in a 0-0 draw with Switzerland which ensured the Republic failed to qualify for the World Cup play-offs.

Goals: Defoe (13) 1-0; Jenas (40) 2-0; Defoe (46) 3-0; Thomas (69) 3-1.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Stalteri, King, Gardner, Kelly; Tainio (Huddlestone, 25), Carrick, Jenas, Lennon (Jackson, h-t); Keane, Defoe. Substitutes not used: Davenport, Barnard, Cerny (gk).

Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Myhre; Young, Hreidarsson, Fortune, Powell (Spector, 67); Kishishev (Thomas, 52), Ambrose (Bothroyd, 75), Hughes, Smertin; D Bent, M Bent. Substitutes not used: Anderson (gk), Perry.

Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).

Booked: Charlton Athletic Hughes, Hreidarsson, Fortune.

Man of the match: Carrick.

Attendance: 36,034.