The irritation for Andre Villas-Boas was mild, but there will be a time when such profligacy will prove costly. “It is incredible,” he said after this victory. “It has been our problem this season. We have been very unlucky in front of goal. We keep on missing these chances but we always looked in control.”
He was right there. Tottenham's return to form after the emphatic defeat at Manchester City has been impressive, drawing with Manchester United, winning a derby with Fulham and then completely overwhelming Sunderland, even if that superiority was not reflected in the scoreline.
Tottenham have proved all season they have flair, and now they are showing fight. At some point they will need to become ruthless but their emergence as Champions League contenders once more from the ashes of a 6-0 defeat at Manchester City has been impressive.
"It was a difficult scenario following our defeat against City but it has been a great fightback from the team and a credit to the players and our group," Villas-Boas said. "They have been immense in the situation we fought back from. They have been fantastic the way they have approached these games, very seriously, wanting to honour the badge and our fans. The reason is a credit to them and the spirit they have.
"It was a difficult situation. We all felt we had to do better, this completes our fightback into the season. It completes a good week and a good start to December. We had two away fixtures and Manchester United at home but we are fighting our way back."
It was rarely a fight, against a team who are so hapless that manager Gus Poyet's frustration is now impossible to keep in check. His side were fortunate to go in front in the 37th minute, when Hugo Lloris flapped at a cross from Ondrej Celustka and the ball fell to the feet of Adam Johnson.
Johnson, recalled, proved a point with his finish, controlling the ball with his left foot and smashing it into the Spurs goal with his right. The lead, to Poyet's fury, lasted exactly six minutes. Sunderland did not defend a right wing Kyle Walker free-kick and Paulinho drew his side level from six yards.
The game, as Poyet conceded, finished there. Tottenham laid siege to the Sunderland goal in the second half. Once John O'Shea deflected a Moussa Dembélé cross into his own net, Vito Mannone's goal led a charmed life. Jermain Defoe hit the post twice, Paulinho could have scored twice and Lewis Holtby also went close.
There was an unsuccessful appeal for a penalty in the 78th minute when Sandro handled in the Tottenham penalty area, but Poyet said: "I don't know what to say, the way we are playing we would probably miss the penalty.
"I am running out of words. The second half was not good enough. I am realistic. I am a head coach. I believe in what I do. It has been working in some aspects. We have been spot on in some situations but we can't maintain that. We can be concentrating in games like Villa and Man City and then we cannot concentrate for 20 minutes away at Stoke.
"We could not make one good decision in the second half. I keep coaching. The next four games are massive, absolutely massive. You need to be stronger characters to be on the pitch. We need characters, now. I keep going. I am not going to give up. I promise that."
Sunderland (4-4-1-1): Mannone; Celustka (Giaccherini, 77), Brown, O’Shea, Bardsley; Ki, Johnson (Borini, 67), Larsson, Colback (Cattermole, 67); Altidore; Fletcher.
Tottenham (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Walker, Dawson, Naughton, , Capoue; Dembélé (Sandro, 73),Paulinho; Chadli (Sigurdsson, 84), Lennon, Holtby (Townsend, 79), Defoe.
Referee: Lee Mason.
Man of the match: Paulinho (Tottenham)
Match rating: 5/10
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