Tuesday 20 February 2018

Spurs onslaught tames spirited Wolves

For 75 minutes, it looked as though Mick McCarthy's tongue-in-cheek prediction was on the mark. "We'll have to go to Tottenham and beat them playing free-flowing football without laying a finger on them," was his sarcastic response to accusations after last week's defeat at Fulham that Wolves are a dirty team.

There was nothing here to suggest McCarthy's men are too physical, and they worked hard but fairly in establishing a one-goal lead through Steven Fletcher's goal shortly before half-time. But three goals in 14 minutes broke their resistance to give Spurs their first home win in the Premier League this season and lift them into fourth place. Rafael Van der Vaart equalised from the penalty spot in the 77th minute, Roman Pavlyuchenko put Spurs ahead 10 minutes later, and Alan Hutton finished off Wolves with a goal in stoppage-time.

And although Spurs were the superior side in terms of possession and attempts on goal, the margin of defeat was harsh on a Wolves side who are having to live with an unwanted reputation.

Predictably, Tottenham took the game to Wolves and would surely have gone in ahead at half-time but for the goalkeeping of Marcus Hahnemann.

The American made a string of tremendous saves, the best of which came in the 30th minute when he tipped over a fierce volley from van der Vaart.

Wolves, by contrast, barely had a shot on goal and scored with their first serious effort, two minutes before the break. Right-back Kevin Foley scampered to the byline after an exchange of passes with Dave Jones, and when he fired on a low cross from the right, Steve Fletcher was first to the ball to clip it past Carlo Cudicini from close range.

The goal rocked Spurs and gave hope to Wolves and their supporters that they might repeat the 1-0 win they managed at White Hart Lane last season. In that game, Wolves scored in the seventh minute and held out for the remaining 83, but it was always likely to be tougher against a Tottenham side with Van der Vaart at its heart. The little Dutchman was everywhere, showing strength as well as skill, and the crowd lifted every time he got the ball.

Early in the second half he turned quickly in front of goal only to curl his shot the wrong side of the post, and then shot wide following a quick break.

But he made no mistake from the penalty spot after Stephen Ward tripped Alan Hutton inside the area as the substitute made one of many rampaging runs down the right. Van der Vaart sent Hahnemann the wrong way and showed his delight with a fist-pumping celebration. Once Spurs were level, they looked the likelier winners, and so it proved.

Pavlyuchenko had been an anonymous replacement for the out-of-sorts Robbie Keane for 20 minutes, but with full-time approaching, was "Johnny on-the-spot" according to Redknapp when Tom Huddlestone's shot took a deflection off Jody Craddock and the ball fell at his feet. The Russian finished with the coolness of an assassin, sliding the ball between Hahnemann and his post, and Spurs were ahead.

And it was Hutton, excellent on his return to the side after a long absence that included a loan spell at Sunderland earlier this year, who wrapped it up in stoppage-time, bursting in from the right. When Richard Stearman attempted to block the Scotsman's run with a tackle, the ball flew up between them and looped over the head of Hahenmann and into the net.

Tottenham were delighted, Wolves deflated, and McCarthy summed up their feelings.

"We have thrown it away," he said. "Marcus [Hahnemann] made some world-class saves and then we scored. Overall, it was a good performance, but we were the architects of our own downfall. We allowed them to open us up and gave away the penalty that changed the game."

Redknapp was pleased that his side had managed to come back to win, having lost their previous home game, to Wigan. "That was the only blip, really, and it has been a good start otherwise. Of course, there was a part of the game when I thought we might not win, I'd be lying if I said otherwise. But we stuck at it, and finally put the chances away."

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