The first thirty-five minutes of Wednesday night’s game were ominously familiar – Tottenham, exerting pressure but unable to find a goal, still looked a little dogged by the uncertainty that had plagued the team during Redknapp’s continual links to the England job. However, with Modric’s sublime opening goal, which will probably only be denied being goal of the month by a certain Newcastle striker, the performance morphed into one we’ve rarely expected to see since the turn of the year. This was, once again, a Spurs side that punished poor defending with goals, that had the resilience to concede an equaliser yet still go on to record a comfortable win – and one that is suddenly back in pole position for fourth spot, and maybe even with an outside chance of third.
The First Away Win of 2012
It was a time coming, but after eight previous (failed) attempts, Spurs finally recorded their first away win of 2012 – and at Bolton, no less, where they have never previously come away with all three points. The win, coupled with the weekend’s win at Blackburn, also means that the team have recorded their first back to back wins in the league since Fabio Capello’s resignation. Coincidence, with the speculation around the England job finally being laid to rest earlier this week? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
Our away form is what’s been holding us back in the second half of the season – if not for our impotency away from home, we’d probably have had a Champions League spot tied up by now, so it was good to see us finally banish the form that was becoming something of a bugbear for the team.
It was also good to see Luka Modric putting in a masterclass of a performance in central midfield. In recent weeks, he’s looked a bit off colour at times, but his goal capped an excellent game for the Croatian – we only have to hope that it wasn’t a performance designed for the watching eyes of Champions League-bound suitors. His pass for the third and decisive Spurs goal was magnificently judged, splitting the Bolton defence in twain, and that he touched the ball more than any other player on the pitch (98 times), shows that the effect he had on the game cannot be underestimated. Over the 90 minutes, he played 84 passes – the most of any player, and 31 more than the 53 managed by Van der Vaart.
Adebayor – Back in the Goals
Another deserving of plaudits after some lukewarm showings in previous games was Emmanuel Adebayor. In all fairness, even in the first half of this game, he looked well and truly off the boil, but two important goals in the second half - his first goals since his two in the win at Swansea five games previous – should hopefully inspire him to push on for the last two games of the season.
Elsewhere, Sandro put in another monster performance after his impressive showing against Blackburn, whilst Danny Rose once again filled in well for the absent Assou-Ekotto. The two assists for Bale also hinted at the beginnings of a return to form for the Welshman. The only player disheartened by the night’s events will probably be Jermain Defoe – left to slumber on the bench at the expense of Louis Saha when the substitutions rolled around, and after only playing the last ten minutes against Blackburn, it looks like it might take another explosive substitute performance for him to work his way back into Harry plans.
The State of Play
The win leaves us level on points with Newcastle, but with a vastly superior goal difference that is unlikely to be overhauled, and four points ahead of Chelsea. Meanwhile, we only lag one point behind Arsenal in third; it’s a long shot, considering they have two relatively easy final fixtures in the shape of Norwich and West Brom, but there still remains the possibility that we could overhaul them at the last. Knowing Tottenham, however, I’m going to call it, and say that Arsenal will drop points in one of their final two games, but Spurs will fail to capitalise – the way this season has panned out, it wouldn’t surprise me. There’s also the possibility of Chelsea winning the Champions League to contend with – if they do, despite them looking out of the running for a top four finish after defeat at Newcastle, they will claim a spot in next season’s competition at the expense of the team finishing in fourth.
Still, being more cautiously optimistic, one more win in our final two games could see us secure a place in the top four if Manchester City beat Newcastle in the early Sunday kick off. With Arsenal playing Norwich on Saturday, we’ll also know by then if the opportunity to leapfrog them into third is available – if it is, the season could still wind up being viewed as an unqualified success.
On Twitter: @AEFSpurs.