With only one away league win all season, Sunderland were hardly expected to put an impenetrable shield across their goalmouth at White Hart Lane yesterday, but their defensive errors simply gifted victory to a Spurs side who, though playing some flowing football, did not even need to be particularly incisive.
Sunderland had been thinking that, although it never pays to harbour bitter grudges against Lady Luck, she was certainly spiteful in condemning them to arrive at a ground where they had not won a top- division game since 1969 in bottom place after giving away two own goals to Charlton last weekend and having an unfortunate assist in another.
With Robbie Keane and Dean Richards back, Spurs began in even better shape, but Sunderland pestered them in midfield and broke up attacks, generally looking busy and promising. Michael Proctor headed close but, from their first properly organised attack, Spurs took a 14th-minute lead.
Gus Poyet approached the penalty area before slipping a pass to Keane. He moved it on to Darren Anderton, whose neat, short ball let Poyet advance unchallenged and side-foot in. If all looked promising for Spurs, that changed when Keane, in the words of the Spurs manager Glenn Hoddle, "tweaked a knee ligament" and had to be replaced by Gary Doherty after 20 minutes.
Although Poyet did oblige Thomas Sorensen to fingertip a solid header over the bar, Sunderland restored their industry and their situation. The 26th minute saw Spurs fail to make a proper job of clearing a corner. Gavin McCann sent the ball back across the goalmouth and Kevin Phillips first flicked it up and over the goalkeeper Kasey Keller before tucking in the equaliser.
Sunderland might have composed themselves at that point but instead they became accident-prone in their own area. Goran Bunjevcevic had a stab of a shot from six yards blocked by Sorensen before Spurs benefited from poor marking to regain the lead on the verge of half-time. Anderton's corner ought not to have found Doherty unmarked but he made a sly move to the far post and easily headed in.
Spurs had only themselves to admonish for failing to turn the goal into something more substantial in a short space of time. An inviting through-pass from Anderton, who relishes playing as a midfield provider rather than on the wing, found Teddy Sheringham, whose drive Sorensen pushed away. Doherty then allowed Sorensen to come out and meet him after Mauricio Taricco had laid on a fine pass.
In the 67th minute Spurs did take advantage of their midfield activity. Again Anderton was the provider. His beautifully struck, penetrating long pass led to Poyet succeeding with a clever back-heeled pass and Simon Davies drove in with confidence.
Sunderland's defence was in all sorts of trouble, particularly in the air, where Sheringham rarely needs much of an invit-ation. Six minutes from the end Anderton's corner should have been cleared, but Sheringham, looking for his 300th goal of his club career, rose above the defenders to head past Sorensen. Sunderland's manager, Howard Wilkinson, said: "There's not one part of me that doesn't think the situation can't be turned around." However, he admitted the mood in the dressing-room was "very sombre".
Tottenham Hotspur 4
Poyet 14, Doherty 45, Davies 67, Sheringham 84
Half-time: 2-1 Attendance: 36,075
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