Monday 19 March 2018

Bent content to close book on Spurs saga

Sunderland 3
Tottenham 1

George Caulkin

TOTTENHAM Hotspur, full stop. As Darren Bent wheeled away from goal, hand cupped behind an ear, as a bottle arced out of the away end and narrowly missed his head, amid the jumble of conflicting passions and adrenalin, a story ended, even as a game of football was beginning.

"Every emotion went through my system," the striker said. "It was like that chapter of my life is behind me now."

The weekend had started in more jarring circumstances. Bent was up early and edgy on Saturday morning, replaying Sunderland's 2-0 defeat at White Hart Lane in November. He mulled over his missed penalty that day, the difficult two years he endured at the club.

"I was thinking about the game, thinking about when we played them, about what their weaknesses and strengths are," he said.

The striker was in a hurry. Only 36 seconds had elapsed when he tucked in the quickest goal in the Premier League this season.

Many Sunderland fans were still taking their seats, singing about Bent being "red and white" and "dynamite," when the man himself exploded into goalscoring action, stabbing in a loose ball from close range after Heurelho Gomes could only parry a diving header from Fraizer Campbell.

That was Bent's 21st Premier League goal for Sunderland and number 22 followed from the penalty spot after a handball offence by Kyle Walker. His haul ought to have been up to 24 by the final whistle but in the 41st and 66th minutes the England World Cup hopeful had further penalties saved by Tottenham's Brazilian goalkeeper.

Despite those misses, Spurs had finally been shaken from his psyche.

"It's definitely one of the most emotional situations I've had in my career," he said. "I didn't feel that Spurs really gave me a chance and I think all the emotion of them saying this and that and never getting behind me poured out as soon as the ball hit the back of the net.

"At the same time, the support I got from the Sunderland fans was incredible -- something that will live with me for a long, long time. Magical."

Tottenham may have lacked key players but they also lacked guile and tenacity. That had much to do with the ferocity of Sunderland's approach and it was not until the arrival of Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch from the substitutes' bench that Tottenham found any cohesion.

While Crouch beat Craig Gordon with a looping header to make the score 2-1, Sunderland could have been home and hosed.

Aside from Bent's contributions, Anton Ferdinand had a goal ruled out and an effort from Boudewijn Zenden was cleared off the line before the Dutchman swept an exquisite left-foot volley beyond Gomes.

Sunderland (4-4-2): Gordon; Ferdinand, Turner, Da Silva, Richardson; Henderson, Meyler, Cattermole, Malbranque (Zenden, 78); Campbell (Bardsley, 88), Bent ( Jones, 78). Substitutes not used: Carson (gk), Liddle, Kilgallon, Benjani.

Tottenham (4-4-2): Gomes; Assou-Ekotto (Kranjcar, h-t), Bassong, Kaboul, K Walker; Bentley (Defoe, h-t), Palacios, Modric, Bale; Gudjohnsen, Pavlyuchenko (Crouch, 71). Substitutes not used: Alnwick (gk), Rose, Livermore, Dervite.

Referee: L Mason (Lancashire).

Booked: Sunderland: Cattermole, Malbranque.

Man of the match: Cattermole.

Attendance: 43,184.

Irish Independent

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