Tuesday 17 October 2017

Davies brings Spurs down to earth

Bolton 4 Spurs 2

Harry Redknapp has produced many impressive feats since becoming Tottenham manager, but the next required of him may prove the most challenging: working out how to get his team to shift from a European to domestic challenge without turning into lost souls.

Yet again Spurs returned from the high of the Champions League to produce a Premier League low and despite his bullishness afterwards, it must concern Redknapp that such complacency could cost his men a place in Europe's elite competition next season.

Until a late eight-minute flurry by the visitors, which culminated in two stunning goals from Alan Hutton and Roman Pavlyuchenko, it was hard to believe this was the team that had swept aside Internazionale in midweek.

There was little of the thrust or desire that had been displayed in that fixture and instead Spurs reproduced the casual regard that has marked the opening stages of many of their post-Europe league fixtures this season.

This, after all, is a team that lost 1-0 to Wigan after beating Young Boys Bern 4-0 in the qualifying stages of the Champions League, had to recover from 1-0 down to beat Wolves and Aston Villa following group-stage fixtures against Werder Bremen and FC Twente respectively, and then could only draw with Everton after losing 4-3 away to Inter.

"It's not a concern for me," insisted Redknapp, who instead put his team's fourth league defeat of the season down to an injury list that contains, among others, Rafael van der Vaart, Aaron Lennon, Jermain Defoe, Michael Dawson and Ledley King.

"We would have been better had I had those five players, for sure. But credit to Bolton. They deserved to win."

The hosts were certainly worthy of victory and showed none of the frailty that may have inflicted them following last week's defeat to Liverpool. No one typified their unrelenting desire better than Kevin Davies, who in front of Fabio Capello delivered a performance that may persuade the Italian to hand the 33-year-old a second England call-up.

Tottenham's central defenders, Younes Kaboul and William Gallas, could well still be aching from barrage of pushes and pulls Davies handed them while goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, one of four changes Redknapp made to the side that beat Inter, will not have forgotten how the forward twice beat him here.

Davies' first goal came on 31 minutes via a precise drive following what was becoming typical sloppiness on Spurs' part. The Brazilian midfielder Sandro dallied in possession long enough for Fabrice Muamba to steal the ball and eventually feed his waiting captain. Davies appeared to be in an offside position, but the flag stayed down.

His second arrived via the penalty spot on 76 minutes and by that stage the score had risen to 3-0, Gretar Steinsson getting the second in the 56th minute. That the Bolton right-back should feature prominently was no surprise but most observers expected his contribution to be that of cannon fodder to Gareth Bale. The Welshman was primed to torment following his humiliation of Maicon against Inter, but he was well shackled by Steinsson and Bolton's right-winger Lee Chung-Yong.

"We knew this would be a tough game against a side that had just dismantled the European champions and in Gareth (Bale) have an outstanding player, but it was a great performance by us," said Owen Coyle, the Bolton manager.

Hutton's curling drive and a Marco van Basten-esque volley from Pavlyuchenko raised Tottenham hopes of securing a draw, but defeat was sealed in stoppage-time when the substitute Martin Petrov ran clear to score a fourth. Spurs' record of having never won a Premier League game at the Reebok Stadium goes on and the club may also have to deal with a possible retrospective red card for Tom Huddlestone after the midfielder was caught on camera stamping on Johan Elmander late in the game.

Observer

Sunday Independent

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