Van der Vaart off the mark to leave Wolves howling

Tottenham Hotspur 3, Wolves 1
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The Independent Football

Tottenham Hotspur were rewarded for their self-belief here yesterday as they recorded their first home win and first home goals of the season in the Premier League yesterday.

Wolverhampton Wanderers took the lead late in the first half and looked on course to repeat their victory here last season until the 77th minute, when Rafael van der Vaart marked an impressive home debut with the equaliser from a penalty. Although the home side's two late goals, scored by substitutes Roman Pavlyuchenko and Alan Hutton, both had touches of fortune about them, Spurs deserved credit for their perseverance.

"I was disappointed to be 1-0 down at half-time, but not by the way we'd played," Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham manager, said. "We stuck at it, and the three subs all came on and played their parts."

Mick McCarthy, the Wolves manager, said his team had been architects of their own downfall. "We've contrived to give that away," he said. "Marcus Hahnemann made two world-class saves but we should have had a penalty in the first half."

With Aaron Lennon on the bench, Younes Kaboul, the right-back, was expected to provide the width on the right, but the plan took a long time to bear fruit, after Hutton had replaced the injured Kaboul and earned the penalty from which Van der Vaart levelled the score.

However, the flaw in the system was exposed after only nine minutes when, with Kaboul marooned upfield, Matt Jarvis skinned Benoît Assou-Ekotto and bore down on the near post, falling under a challenge from William Gallas. There was no reaction from the officials, but plenty on the Wolves' bench, who were on their feet to a man.

But once Tottenham had made their first chance after 24 minutes, Gareth Bale sent clear of the defence by Jermaine Jenas' through pass to test Hahnemann, the openings began to emerge. Hahnemann was soon in action again, fingertipping the ball over after Van der Vaart's dipping volley and a powerful header for the top corner from Peter Crouch.

When Robbie Keane glanced a header wide after 39 minutes, it seemed only a matter of time before Tottenham took the lead. So of course, Wolves did. David Jones spotted an overlapping run by Kevin Foley and, with the home defence half-expecting an offside decision, Foley crossed low for the unmarked Steven Fletcher to score from close range.

"One-nil to the dirty boys," the visiting supporters crowed, in reference to their team's 13 bookings and one sending-off in their previous two matches, but Tottenham kept going. Hutton curled a shot inches wide, Van der Vaart did likewise, and finally Hutton was brought down by Stephen Ward. Van der Vaart converted the penalty with ease, sending Hahnemann the wrong way.

The goal was well-deserved after an impressive performance by the Dutchman, who had begun on the right but with licence to roam – which may change when Luka Modric returns from injury next week. "I can see them playing together," Redknapp said. "His best position is behind two strikers, and that's difficult the way we set up. But he's a good player and he'll fit in with the way we want to play."

Redknapp sent on Lennon five minutes from time, and his first contribution led to a goal. Wolves could not clear his cross from the right, and Tom Huddlestone's shot was deflected by Karl Henry into the path of Pavlyuchenko, who could not miss. To rub it in, Tottenham added a third in a freakish manner, Richard Stearman's attempted clearance rebounding off Hutton and into the net.

"The players were fabulous for most of the game, but you can't give Champions' League teams chances like that," McCarthy said.