Poor old Pepe Mel must wonder just what he has to do to win a home game as West Bromwich Albion manager. A fortnight ago at the Hawthorns his team led 2-0 and 3-2 before a 95th-minute Cardiff City equaliser. Yesterday Albion led 3-0 after 31 minutes yet had to settle for a solitary point once more after a Spurs fightback was completed by Christian Eriksen’s equalising strike in the 94th minute.
It means that Mel has drawn six of his seven home matches – and relegation continues to threaten his team, who are now just three points above third-bottom Fulham, albeit with a game in hand.
This was a Tottenham story too, of course. The point leaves them six points behind fourth-placed Everton, but just when it seemed their tumultuous season could not end soon enough, they summoned the spirit and quality to snatch something. Tim Sherwood may be a dead man walking as manager but there remains life in this Tottenham team.
A Jonas Olsson own -goal after 34 minutes was a lifeline, but Spurs deserved their point. With 20 minutes to play Aaron Lennon crossed from the right and Harry Kane’s downward header evaded Ben Foster and Steven Reid on the goalline. Then, in the fourth of six minutes of injury time, Lennon again crossed from the right and Gareth McAuley, attempting to head clear, could only flick the ball on to Eriksen, who stepped inside Reid before lashing a shot into the roof of the net.
“I always believed we would get back into the game,” said Sherwood. “The Baggies sat back a bit, and we are going to take advantage of that.”
For Eriksen, it was the fourth goal in as many games, a run that marks him out as arguably the most successful of Tottenham’s £109 million batch of seven signings last summer. Sherwood was critical of his flawed inheritance ahead of this match and had more reason to be unhappy after the opening half-hour, when the Spurs fans began a chant of “We want Levy out”.
Matchwinner at Norwich last weekend, the impressive Morgan Amalfitano set up the opening goal after just 27 seconds, jinking past Danny Rose before firing in a cross that Hugo Lloris punched clear only as far as Matej Vydra, who drove the ball home from 10 yards.
Eriksen was guilty of giving the ball away to Amalfitano in the lead-up to Albion’s second after four minutes as Stéphane Sessègnon flicked on Reid’s ensuing cross to Chris Brunt, who arrowed a volley back across Lloris.
Albion scored their third goal after a mistake by Younes Kaboul, who, misjudging an Olsson long ball, flicked it on to Sessègnon, who beat Vlad Chiriches before clipping the ball past Lloris. “He has got to be stronger,” said Sherwood of Chiriches, replaced by Ezekiel Fryers at half-time.
Tottenham have a habit of slow starts under Sherwood, and the manager was unhappy with their defending. “It has happened time and time again. I like to give credit to [Albion] for coming out of the blocks very fast, but [apart from] the goals they never opened us up. They were sloppy goals, the second and third were long balls upfield we failed to deal with.”
Fortunately for Spurs, they were up against a team who cannot hold a lead. Three times before yesterday Albion had let slip a two-goal lead, and Spurs were soon back in it. At 2-0, Emmanuel Adebayor had rolled a weak penalty at Foster after Amalfitano upended Rose, but in the 34th minute Spurs were given a chance when Kyle Naughton's cross deflected off Olsson and looped over Foster. For Mel it was the cue for a familiar sinking feeling. “Nobody was under orders to sit back,” said Mel. “Spurs played well in this period and without meaning to, we kept falling back.” And paid the price for it in the end.
West Bromwich (4-2-3-1): Foster; Reid, McAuley, Olsson (Dawson, 77), Ridgewell; Mulumbu, Dorrans; Amalfitano, Sessègnon (Yacob, 58), Brunt; Vydra (Berahino, 72).
Tottenham (4-4-2): Lloris; Naughton, Chiriches (Fryers, 46), Kaboul, Rose (Townsend, 85); Lennon, Paulinho, Chadli (Sigurdsson, 77), Eriksen; Adebayor, Kane.
Referee: Neil Swarbrick.
Man of the match: Lennon (Spurs)
Match rating: 8/10