Premier League – Spurs deepen Newcastle woe
Newcastle slumped closer to relegation with a 1-0 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur that leaves them four points from Premier League safety.
Darren Bent‘s first-half goal was enough to settle a match that the home team dominated and should have won more convincingly.
Alan Shearer’s men have five games to maintain their top-flight status, but their performance over the first hour at White Hart Lane suggests they have little hope.
Tottenham moved to within a point of seventh place, which would give them a place in the Europa League that looked unlikely for most of the season. Spurs have won six of their last eight league games.
The visitors might have found themselves a man down as early as the second minute when Sebastien Bassong clumsily hauled Bent down in front of goal, but referee Mark Halsey deemed the coming-together a simple tangle rather than anything more malicious.
Tottenham’s technical superiority allowed them to enjoy two-thirds possession, while they took the ball off their opponents with embarrassing ease.
Newcastle cannot be faulted for their endeavour, but they simply looked like relegation fodder as they were outclassed in every department of the pitch.
Harry Redknapp will be concerned over the loss of centre-back Michael Dawson to what looked like a twisted ankle, and the 25-year-old was carried off on a stretcher after landing awkwardly following an aerial challenge.
Fifteen seconds later the ball was in Steve Harper‘s net, although Spurs benefited from two large slices of luck. As they counter-attacked Luka Modric‘s through-ball, intended for Robbie Keane, was deflected by Bassong into the path of Bent.
Harper parried Bent’s initial shot but the rebound fell straight to the striker who slotted into the unguarded net from close range.
Tottenham proceeded to toy with their opponents, passing through them in slick, stylish fashion but failing to add a killer second.
Tom Huddlestone went close with three long-range piledrivers, while Modric had a shot that deflected off two defenders, with the second touch off Bassong bouncing fortuitously into the arms of Harper.
As the second period wore on, Tottenham grew increasingly anxious at their inability to add to Bent’s opening goal.
Shearer acted decisively, bringing strikers Martins and Mark Viduka off the bench, and the former had a goal disallowed.
Gomes came rashly out to meet a corner and was left in no-man’s-land as a clearance thwacked into the Nigerian’s hand and he drilled the ball in off the right-hand post.
Referee Mark Halsey awarded handball, but his assessment that Martins handled deliberately was a harsh one.
Martins again looked lively when he won an aerial duel with Corluka in unorthodox fashion and tested Gomes with an instinctive shot.
His energy and invention put Newcastle skipper Michael Owen to shame. The £17 million signing was completely anonymous and few will shed a tear when he leaves St James’ Park on a free transfer this summer.
Martins went on to have a penalty appeal turned down, then shot over from close range. He must surely start the remainder of Newcastle’s games if they are to have any chance of survival.