Gyan on the mark to punish sloppy Spurs
So smitten with the Champions League this season, Tottenham Hotspur's pursuit of a place in next year's competition has not been helped by this draw and a performance lacking all the dynamism that accounted for the European champions, Inter Milan, last Tuesday.
Rafael van der Vaart gave Spurs the lead, but Sunderland, showing real belief after the break, equalised through Asamoah Gyan.
The dropped points were particularly frustrating for Harry Redknapp, who had voiced his desire for a top-four finish in passionate terms. "Getting into the Europa League would be a nightmare," said the Spurs manager.
"It's not the Champions League -- that's the competition you've got to want to be in, so we've really got to try to finish again in the top four.''
A few surprises had leapt out of the team-sheet, with Sunderland fielding four centre-backs and Craig Gordon returning in goal, while Van der Vaart had shown the toughness that has so impressed Spurs' staff by shrugging off a hamstring problem.
The Dutchman slotted into the hole behind Roman Pavlyuchenko, echoing Sunderland's 4-4-1-1 system which saw Kieran Richardson off Gyan. The game only warmed up when Peter Crouch and Danny Welbeck arrived at the break, sharpening both attacks.
Before then, Steve Bruce's plans were disrupted after 18 minutes when he had to put a right-back, Phil Bardsley, at left-back after Anton Ferdinand pulled up. Ferdinand had just dealt poorly with a Gareth Bale corner, clearing to Tom Huddlestone. Tottenham's captain, showing wonderful technique, let fly, his drive taking a deflection off Titus Bramble and clipping the bar.
Spurs largely dominated the first half. Bale enjoyed a couple of typically menacing runs, at one point leaving a bemused Lee Cattermole making a close inspection of Spurs' fine turf.
Over on the right, David Bentley was seeking to make the most of his first start of the season, hoisting in some decent crosses and also curling in a free-kick that Gordon stretched to tip away. With two minutes of the half remaining, Bentley cut inside from the right, eluding Bolo Zenden and drilling the ball left-footed towards the top corner.
Gordon, reacting well, threw himself to his left and clawed the ball to safety. The Scottish 'keeper excelled again as the half closed, saving from Van der Vaart.
Van der Vaart responded immediately to Crouch's arrival, the pair reforming a partnership that proved very productive this season.
Crouch's presence clearly worried Sunderland's defence. Van der Vaart went close with two headers before controversy arrived. Bentley dribbled in from the right and was clearly caught by the sliding Zenden.
Howard Webb ran to the scene of the crime, brandishing a yellow card at Bentley, believing the Spurs winger to be guilty of simulation.
Tottenham were enraged, and the Spurs faithful certainly made their anger loudly known to Webb. Redknapp's players were now running on adrenalin and the breakthrough came after 64 minutes. Benoit Assou-Ekotto ran forward, slipping the ball wide to Bale, who crossed to Crouch at the far post. The Spurs' double-act worked their routine, Crouch heading down to Van der Vaart, who rolled Bramble and shot home left-footed from close range.
Spurs' lead lasted only three minutes. Welbeck charged through, making light of the attentions of Huddlestone and Luka Modric before poking the ball forward. William Gallas and Kaboul froze, allowing Gyan to place a firm shot past Heurelho Gomes.
The match briefly turned nasty when Cattermole dived in slightly recklessly on Modric, targeting the ball, but following through and earning a booking.
Spurs suddenly looked unsteady. As Sunderland looked for only their second away win in 24 attempts with Bruce chasing a first top-flight win in London in six years, Spurs desperately sought victory, although Bentley's wretched shot drew howls of frustration from home fans. (© Daily Telegraph, London)