| 2.8°C Dublin

Kranjcar rocket keeps Spurs in hunt for Champions League spot

Niko Kranjcar came off the bench to hit a superb stoppage-time winner and keep Tottenham in the race for a Champions League spot.

Daniel Sturridge seemed to have secured a point for Bolton after cancelling out Rafael van der Vaart's early penalty, but the Croat struck from 20 yards to ignite wild celebrations at White Hart Lane.

Deprived of the injured Luka Modric, Gareth Bale and Tom Huddlestone, Tottenham might have feared that this could be another home match in which they would dominate but fail to pick a way through a packed defence.

Bolton, however, arrived intent on attacking rather than containing, despite losing their last five away matches in the Premier League and that made for an open contest and an engrossing spectacle.

Entertainment turned to exultation for the home crowd in the fifth minute, when Kevin Davies was penalised for blocking the ball with his arm during a scramble in the Bolton box. Van der Vaart dispatched a perfect penalty into the net.

Less than 60 seconds later Spurs were given a second spot-kick after Aaron Lennon, deployed on the left for the second successive match, dashed into the box and drew a foul from Sam Ricketts. Van der Vaart duly replicated his first penalty, but the referee ordered it to be retaken owing to encroachment. Van der Vaart aimed for the same corner, but his shot flew wide.

That reprieve seemed to embolden Bolton even more and they pressed their hosts back for the next 10 minutes. Michael Dawson, returning to the heart of Spurs' defence following suspension, had to make several strong tackles to keep the visitors at bay, but he was beaten in the 20th minute by a fine cross from Matt Taylor that Johan Elmander met. The Swede's firm header bounced back off the bar and moments later Sturridge wriggled free in the Spurs box but shot into the side-netting from an acute angle.

For all their admirable endeavour, both sides frequently failed to find a cutting final ball -- but in the 25th minute Van der Vaart produced a delicious cross that Jermain Defoe headed expertly into the net for what he thought was his first league goal of the season. Delight switched to dismay when the referee correctly ruled it out for offside.

In the 39th minute, Vedran Corluka offered Defoe another chance to open his account, but this time he headed over. Two minutes later Van der Vaart tried to atone for his penalty miss by curling in a 25-yard free-kick, but Jussi Jaaskelainen read his intentions and gathered with ease.

Steven Pienaar made his home debut by replacing Van der Vaart at half-time and quickly got into the swing of things, contributing to a move in the 46th minute that led to Defoe firing wide from the edge of the box.

A player making his first start for Bolton, however, made a more decisive contribution nine minutes later. Sturridge, on loan from Chelsea, had come on as a substitute to score the winner for Bolton against Wolves on Wednesday and in the 55th minute here he equalised with a curling shot from outside the box following a through-ball by Mark Davies. Heurelho Gomes should have saved it but, seemingly surprised by how quickly the striker shot, let the ball squirt under his body.

Tottenham strove to regain the lead immediately. Defoe should have scored in the 58th minute, but slotted over from 15 yards. Jermaine Jenas curled a sweet free-kick against the post from the edge of the area in the 64th minute, and one minute later Jaaskelainen rushed off his line to block another effort from Defoe.

Tottenham's threat petered out thereafter and Boton seemed on course for a deserved point until Kranjcar collected the ball midway inside the visitors' half. He skipped past one opponent before unleashing a ferocious shot from 20 yards. Jaaskelainen got his hands to it but could not keep it out.


Sunday Indo Sport