West Bromwich 2 Tottenham Hotspur 0: Kanu and Albion expose limits of Spurs' European ambitions

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The Independent Football

Tottenham's ambitions suffered a setback at the Hawthorns, where Martin Jol's return to his former stamping ground fell considerably short of what he was hoping for.

Energetic but mostly unthreatening, Tottenham were largely outplayed by the home side, who gratefully claimed a three-point boost in their battle against relegation, as the visitors twice succumbed to the muscular qualities of the former Arsenal striker, Kanu.

The victory was all the sweeter for Bryan Robson's team, who moved ahead of Aston Villa just in time for next Monday's home derby. The five-point gap between themselves and the bottom three is an unaccustomed luxury.

Defeat was a disappointment for Jol, who learnt before the match that his transfer target Ron Vlaar, a defender with AZ Alkmaar, had decided to join Feyenoord. Tottenham's mission had been to consolidate a run of form that has seen them emerge as contenders for a Champions' League place but their football did not match up here. "When we went two down it was going to be difficult to get back into the game but I don't think we deserved a lot from that anyway," the manager admitted.

None the less, a record of two defeats in their last 15 games in the Premiership counts for a lot in a season in which, Chelsea and Liverpool apart, the underlying theme has been inconsistency.

On pauper's resources by Premiership standards, Albion can only dream of the Champions' League. Yet they deservedly took a 23rd-minute lead and made the outcome look assured when a second goal came six minutes into the second half.

Kanu's strength proved the London side's undoing twice, in the first instance after Michael Carrick inadvertently deflected the ball into his path.

With two strikers and an attack-minded midfield, Tottenham should have been able to respond. Carrick dropped deep in the hope of finding space to make his passing tell but was largely stifled.

Jermain Defoe and Grzegorz Rasiak therefore found service lacking. But even when the ball did come their way, goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszcak was well protected by his defence, in which 20-year-old centre-back Curtis Davies continued to make a good impression.

Albion did so little wrong that when Kanu scored his and their second goal, it was already impossible to envisage anything other than a home win. It was a goal taken and celebrated with exuberance by the Nigerian, who deprived Anthony Gardner of the ball, went past Michael Dawson, then beat Paul Robinson with an unstoppable finish before lifting up and hugging a plainly startled ball boy.

"Almost all our game was good and there were some outstanding individuals in Kanu and Ronnie Wallwork," Robson said. "But we need to make sure the gap we have opened gets bigger."

West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Kuszczak; Watson, Davies, Clement, Albrechtsen; Kamara (Moore, 90), Wallwork, Carter, Greening; Kanu (Campbell, 82), Ellington (Horsfield, 89). Substitutes not used: Chaplow, Kirkland (gk).

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Stalteri, Dawson, Gardner, Lee; Jenas (Brown, 82), Carrick, Davids, Routledge (Keane, 55); Rasiak (Mido, 69), Defoe. Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Pamarot.

Referee: M Riley (West Yorkshire).

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