Tottenham Hotspur 3 Sunderland 2: Carrick opens account as Spurs' stock keeps rising

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The Independent Online

Mick McCarthy threw his water bottle to the ground, he swore at the fourth official and then threw an arm around him and made up. He did everything he could do to cajole his players into staying in this game but when the football gods have taken against you they find new and peculiar ways to inflict their torture.

Sunderland were not simply beaten for the 13th time this season but they were beaten by a goal from a man who has never scored for Tottenham Hotspur before in his entire 51 games at the club, a footballer who has long threatened to be a great goalscoring midfielder but has never delivered on the promise and chose Saturday to be his day. And if that was not cruel enough for Sunderland, Michael Carrick was also born and raised in Newcastle.

His decisive winning goal was the second time Tottenham had taken the lead, and Robbie Keane had also missed a penalty, in a match that Sunderland managed to keep alive as a contest long after the home team had established their pre-eminence in just about every area of the pitch. In fourth position, Carrick's side find themselves a place above Arsenal in the Premiership, albeit having played one game more.

"It's good to move above Arsenal because they've been above us for so long, but I'm sure they'll be up there again towards the end of the season," he said. "We need to keep going because teams like Arsenal will bounce back.

"Sunderland are struggling, they haven't got many points, but it's a game that we wanted to win and cement our place in the top four or five. As a Geordie it was good, and my girlfriend and a few mates were in the stands so they're all delighted. I didn't think it was going to be our day at one stage - but we're delighted."

The picture of Keane with his boxing gloves on in the match-day programme was particularly apposite given the reports that the Irish striker had exchanged blows with Edgar Davids during a training session fight on Friday. Carrick admitted that the boxing training was a "different" method of training that they used occasionally, although Martin Jol might not wish to hone the fighting skills of his Dutch midfielder too much if it results in the injury of his team-mates.

Against Sunderland, Davids was the outstanding player for Tottenham, a ravenous tackler in midfield and a poised and cautious distributor of the ball. At the start of the season he was deployed by Jol in a wide position, often on the right of midfield, but has quietly lobbied, those within the club have indicated, to be moved into the centre. The victim of that change has been Jermaine Jenas who was little better than anonymous on Saturday.

Dean Whitehead scored Sunderland's first goal, a perfectly flighted free-kick that beat Paul Robinson in the 10th minute and that lead lasted until nine minutes before half-time when Mido slid home Keane's back post cross.

The Irishman got the second on 50 minutes after a cartoonish collision between Sunderland's goalkeeper Ben Alnwick and defender Danny Collins, although the ball did appear to go in off the Tottenham striker's hand.

"You add the two teams up and it's as plain as the nose on my face that Tottenham are better," McCarthy said. But even he must have hoped that Anthony Le Tallec's 59th-minute equaliser would be good enough for a point. Carrick squeezed in the winner with 14 minutes to spare after Keane's penalty was saved by Alnwick. Sunderland's dividend of good fortune had been well exhausted by then.

Goals: Whitehead (10) 0-1; Mido (36) 1-1; Keane (50) 2-1; Le Tallec (59) 2-2; Carrick (76) 3-2.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Stalteri, Dawson, King, Lee; Jenas (Lennon, 62), Carrick, Davids, Tainio; Mido, Keane (Defoe, 72). Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Pamarot, Reid.

Sunderland (3-5-2): Alnwick; Caldwell, Breen, Collins; Nosworthy, Whitehead Bassilia, Woods (Lawrence, 62), Hoyte; Brown (Gray, 32), Stead (Le Tallec, 59). Substitutes not used: Davis (gk), Welsh.

Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire).

Booked: Sunderland Nosworthy.

Man of the match: Davids.

Attendance: 36,244.

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