Pavlyuchenko paves Spurs path with goals

Tottenham Hotspurs 3 Blackburn Rovers 1

Conrad Leach
Sunday 14 March 2010 01:00

The Russian who came in from the cold is certainly enjoying Tottenham's warm embrace now. Eight goals in six games for Roman Pavlyuchenko might not see him finish the season as the club's top scorer – that will be Jermain Defoe, who added to his tally here as well – but much more of this and he might well remain a Tottenham player next season. In any case, Pavlyuchenko's two goals strengthened Spurs's grip on fourth place and the last Champions' League qualifying position, but with more composure he could have matched Defoe's achievement this season of scoring five in a game.

His conversion from an expensive misfit to someone forcing Robbie Keane to go to Celtic and relegating Peter Crouch to the bench has been impressive. For those who saw him for his previous club, Zenit St Petersburg, and at Euro 2008, after which Spurs bought him, he is merely showing the form Harry Redknapp and everyone else always expected.

Redknapp, the Spurs manager, said: "Pavlyuchenko is a terrific finisher. The transfer window came and went and he realised he wasn't going back to Russia. He was wanting that, the way he was playing and training, but we didn't want to sell him.

"He's got his chance and given me a nice problem. The form he's in gives us every chance of fourth. He's working harder."

However, as much as Pavlyuchenko gave Redknapp joy, the referee, Howard Webb, gave him – and Sam Allardyce – nothing but anguish. Webb, who will be England's referee at the World Cup, denied both sides clear claims on penalties and then ruled out a "goal" by Niko Kalinic in the last minute for a very dubious handball.

Redknapp said: "I never seem to have any luck with Howard Webb – I had his first game when I was at Portsmouth and he sent off Svetoslav Todorov, who wouldn't hurt a fly – and then against Manchester United and Chelsea last season. I never get him on a good day. He must have good days."

Allardyce also felt aggrieved. Vedran Corluka got away with barging over David Dunn in the penalty area with the game goalless, which Allardyce thought was a game-changing decision. Webb balanced things out when Michel Salgado tripped Gareth Bale and he turned a blind eye to that, too.

In the first half, Pavlyuchenko missed two chances before Defoe gave Spurs the lead. Corluka headed on Niko Kranjcar's corner, and the striker wandered free of Pascal Chimbonda to poke in his 22nd goal of the season.

The second goal came on the counterattack in a move begun by Luka Modric before Defoe found his Russian team-mate, although his shot should not have sneaked under Jason Brown's body. The goalkeeper had come on as a substitute for Paul Robinson, who tore a calf muscle.

Spurs were not assured an easy finale, as Chris Samba headed in from Morten Gamst Pedersen's corner before Rovers again showed their weakness under pressure. They failed to clear their lines, Chimbonda went AWOL and Pavlyuchenko tapped in.

While that confirmed the result and put Spurs three points clear of Manchester City, their closest rivals for fourth place, it was not the end of Webb's poor afternoon, as he denied Kalinic's effort. Spurs play Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United next month, and if Webb continues to give decisions like that in his favour, Redknapp might actually want the official at more of his games.

Attendance: 35,474

Referee: Howard Webb

Man of the match: Modric

Match rating: 6/10

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