x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Coy Redknapp keeps his feet on the ground despite win

Crisis for Chelsea? In North London they¿re gleefully converting the c-word to catastrophe. Monday night and Arsenal roll the champions over for the first time in six attempts.

Wilson Palacios, right, and Joey Barton battle for possession during the match between Tottenham and Newcastle yesterday.
Wilson Palacios, right, and Joey Barton battle for possession during the match between Tottenham and Newcastle yesterday.

Crisis for Chelsea? In North London they're gleefully converting the c-word to catastrophe. Monday night and Arsenal roll the champions over for the first time in six attempts.

Yesterday afternoon and Tottenham cartwheel past them into the Champions League places as they took fourth spot with their second success in three days.

It is not just Chelsea's title Roman Abramovich has put on the line with his ill-considered interference, it's their seat at European football's top table.

This hard-worked defeat of Newcastle United earned Tottenham a two-point advantage in the Premier League standings.

Yes, they have played a game more, but Chelsea have not won one in six attempts and their spare fixture is against Manchester United - a fixture that hardly screams three points in the bag, especially given the ominous form of Sir Alex Ferguson's men.

It is Harry Redknapp who marshals the deeper squad (the absence of four first-choice internationals barely noticed here).

If both teams concede more goals than they should, only Tottenham carry the confidence and cutting edge to regularly recover the deficits as they have already shown this season.

Redknapp, of course, is too canny to kick an opponent verbally when they are down.

He'll save that for the end-of-season standings.

"I think Chelsea will come back strong," he argued. "I wouldn't write Chelsea off from anything, I wouldn't write them off from winning the League. Honestly.

"They've had a bad run, they've lost key players with injury. When Frank [Lampard] and [Michael] Essien come back fit I think you'll see a different Chelsea.

"The top four is going to be close. I wouldn't like to pick a winner and I wouldn't like to pick a top four at the moment. If we can make it again this year it would be great and who knows where we'll finish if you can get in there."

Minus a suspended captain in Kevin Nolan and a hamstrung left back in Jose Enrique, Newcastle lined up with two enforced changes. James Perch, a summer signing from Nottingham Forest deputised in defence, while Alan Smith entered the fray as a holding midfielder.

With Joey Barton pushed up behind Andy Carroll in a 4-2-3-1, the tactic was straightforward. Crowd the midfield, tackle aggressively and seek opportunities to exploit Andy Carroll's aerial power. The struggles of Wilson Palacios, the Tottenham midfielder, helped get them to halftime on level terms.

The Honduran's passing was poor, regularly ceding possession in his own half.

At one point Cheik Tiote caught him with the ball at his feet, allowing the Ivorian to stride on to Heurelho Gomes and force an agile save. Palacios' defenders grew scared of passing to him, electing instead to lump long balls towards Roman Pavyluchenko.

Bypassing their creative midfielders produced predictable results for Tottenham.

Only in final minute of the first half did they look like taking the lead.

First, Gareth Bale and Benoit Assou-Ekotto worked their way down the left to combine to set up Rafael van der Vaart, who completely missed a free header with the goal gaping.

Then Alan Hutton redelivered and Pavyluchenko got on the end of it. With sparse time to react, Tim Krul threw himself to his left and palmed the ball away via both posts.

If Redknapp made the obvious interval substitution in asking Jermaine Jenas to end Palacios' misery, his reward came in a slightly bizarre fashion. Kaboul blindly battered a clearance to the centre circle, charged up the pitch when his teammates recovered it, then struck a fine crossfield pass to Aaron Lennon.

Twenty five yards from goal, the winger angled his run into the area, helped by Perch's reluctance to tackle. As the defender continued to back off, Lennon exploited the invite, firing low across Krul to the far corner.

Kaboul's next intervention cost Tottenham a man. The subject of a sliding tackle from Tiote - who'd risked a red card of his own for much of the game - the Frenchman squared up to his tackler before leaning his forehead at him. Tiote stayed vertical but the incident was too close to the fourth official to go unnoticed.

"Stupid," said Redknapp. "The first foul was a silly tackle. Because Joey Barton had kicked somebody a minute before Younes decided to kick him. The second one, he went and pushed his head in his face. You wonder why you have got to go and get involved in something silly like that. It's absolutely nonsense and he needs to learn."

The manager immediately brought Sebastien Bassong on as a replacement centre back and soon exchanged Van der Vaart for Peter Crouch.

Tottenham filtered back to protect their goal as Pardew pushed on extra forwards in Nile Ranger and Peter Lovenkrands. Smith attempted an amusingly ambitious long-distance overhead and Wayne Routledge bumbled a volley wide before Tottenham secured the points.

Excellent throughout, Modric dispossessed Carroll on the fringe of his own area and countered. A precise pass to Gareth Bale allowed the left winger to run at the other one, eventually facing up Danny Simpson. A familiar combination of pace and balance saw Bale past his opponent before he cross-shot traced beyond Krul.

"We just lacked that bit of quality, said Pardew, who remains on three points from three matches as Newcastle manager. "I think it's evident that we've got a team that on its day can compete with some of the top teams but we need quality and competition in all areas. We're looking at the market and hopefully can bring something in."