Premier League – Sunderland frustrate Spurs

Tottenham Hotspur were left to rue the defensive calamity which gifted Sunderland a 1-1 draw in the Premier League at White Hart Lane.

Harry Redknapp’s men were desperate for a win after Sunday’s 4-2 humbling at Bolton Wanderers, but were ultimately frustrated by an organised, combative Sunderland side.

Rafael Van der Vaart broke the deadlock for the Lillywhites in the 64th minute with a close-range effort, before a horrible mix-up in the Tottenham defence allowed Asamoah Gyan to give the visitors a precious point in North London.

Tottenham bossed the play in an opening half high on quality, but short on chances.

Luca Modric forged the first with just four minutes played, forcing a smart save from Craig Gordon, low to the Scot’s right.

The Sunderland keeper suffered a broken arm in this fixture last season, but looked particularly sharp as the Black Cats prepared to defend resolutely against a Spurs side with a point to prove after the weekend’s defeat.

Roman Pavlyuchenko – rewarded with a place in the starting XI after his wonder goal at the Reebok – should have made Gordon work three minutes later, bringing the ball under control in the middle of the pitch, before turning, running 20 yards and lashing a swerving shot past the right post.

With the Sunderland back four looking vulnerable, boss Steve Bruce found himself indebted to the woodwork with 18 minutes played, as the frame of the goal prevented his side falling behind.

A Spurs corner fell to Tom Huddlestone, who hammered a terrific half-volley onto the crossbar from 20 yards.

Van der Vaart – Tottenham’s top scorer in the league this season with four goals – endured a quiet start to the match, but came close to finally breaking the deadlock with a clear-cut chance in the 35th minute.

Huddlestone played a perfect ball through to the Dutchman just inside the area, but his fizzing drive was well saved at the near post by Gordon.

Bruce was counting his blessings at half time, as his side mustered precious little in an entertaining 45 minutes, but somehow remained on level-terms with their attack-minded hosts.

Spurs again came close to nicking the opening goal five minutes into the second half, but Van der Vaart couldn’t find the target with a header from 10 yards out.

The former Real Madrid man was looking increasingly influential in the cauldron of White Hart Lane, and was duly rewarded in the 64th minute, largely thanks to the half-time introduction of Peter Crouch.

The lofty centre-forward rose highest at the far post to head Gareth Bale‘s teasing cross back across the face of goal, and Van der Vaart duly smashed the ball into the back of the net on the turn.

The relief of the Spurs players and supporters was tangible, but ultimately short-lived, as a defensive gaffe gifted Sunderland a response just two minutes later.

Danny Welbeck – another half-time substitute – cut in from the left wing with some dazzling footwork, before prodding the ball forwards to Gyan.

Younes Kaboul and William Gallas were both perfectly placed to send the ball away from danger, but some catastrophic miscommunication between the two saw neither make an attempt to clear it, allowing Sunderland’s record signing to smash the ball into the bottom right hand corner to restore parity at 1-1.

If Sunderland did precious little to merit their goal for the first hour of the match, their defending to preserve its worth was stoic.

Time and again the Spurs forwards flooded the Black Cats’ half, but Sunderland’s defensive giants – Titus Bramble, Michael Turner, and Nedum Onuoha – repeatedly repelled their advances.

Spurs were perhaps a little fortunate to end the game with a full complement of players, after Heurelho Gomes brought down Steed Malbranque on the edge of the area, but then the same could be said of Sunderland, after their captain Lee Cattermole went studs up onto the shin of Luca Modric.

The draw sees Spurs and Sunderland move up to sixth and seventh respectively in the Premier League, on 16 points apiece.

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