x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Davies gives Capello a nudge

Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham manager, watched his side fail to end their miserable run at the Reebok Stadium and miss out on second place in the Premier League table.

Tottenham Hotspur's Croatian midfielder Niko Kranjcar fires home his team's first goal past Bolton goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen yesterday.
Tottenham Hotspur's Croatian midfielder Niko Kranjcar fires home his team's first goal past Bolton goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen yesterday.

Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham manager, watched his side fail to end their miserable run at the Reebok Stadium and miss out on second place in the Premier League table. But their character in twice coming back from behind showed why he is happy to be part of the London club. On Friday, he had to fend off speculation about his future, denying rumours that he would be returning to take charge of Portsmouth again.

Yesterday, he saw his high-flying side fail to sparkle, but battle for a much-needed point. The Croatian pair of Niko Kranjcar and Vedran Corluka, with their first goals for Spurs, gave them a point at a ground where they have never won, going into the match without a victory there in nine attempts. It could have been worse for Redknapp, with Bolton, and particularly their captain Kevin Davies, deserving greater reward.

Fabio Capello, the England manager, who was in the directors' box possibly checking on the credentials of Bolton's much coveted centre back Gary Cayhill among others, looked on intrigued. He might not have Davies in his plans for the World Cup next year, but maybe he should. There is no doubting the frontman's ability to trouble the best defences. His work-rate is commendable and his bravery unquestionable.

The way he launched himself to head home Tamir Cohen's left-wing cross from a tight angle in the 69th minute - despite a chance of colliding with a post - was testament to that. At the other end there was Peter Crouch, who is desperately trying to keep himself in contention for club and country. He had an immediate chance to make his own impression after the Davies goal, but Jussi Jaaskelainen blocked his six-yard effort on to the bar after the Bolton keeper had spilled a shot from Jermain Defoe.

Crouch despaired, but Corluka spared him with the second equaliser in the 73rd minute, heading in a Krancjar corner. It ended an engaging encounter with both defences enduring a battering. There is little surprise that Bolton's recent good form - unbeaten now in five games - has coincided with the return of Ricardo Gardner. A hamstring injury left him on the sidelines at the start of the campaign and his dashing and daring play was badly missed.

But it is no longer on the left wing that the Jamaican's creativity is providing a source of danger. An attacking midfielder, he revels in space afforded to him, as Spurs found to their cost in only the fourth minute. A long throw by Fabrice Muamba caused problems and it was Gardner who headed on for Chung-Yong Lee in space. His instinctive shot was pushed out by the Tottenham goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini into the path of Gardner who calmly slotted in the rebound for his first goal since April.

It was poor defence from Tottenham, clearly not aware of the fact that all eight of Bolton's previous goals had come from set-piece plays. Gardner then turned provider, cutting in from the right and threading in a pass for the energetic Cohen. He swept by a static Sebastien Bassong, but failed to get a proper connection and Cudicini spread himself well to block. Feeling lucky, Gardner then had two efforts from distance, one drifting wide and Tom Huddlestone's knee timely stopping one that was heading goalbound.

Bolton were dominant, but there is a bit more fight in this Spurs side under Redknapp and they are not short of their own attacking threat, restoring parity in the 34th minute. It was simple, direct and so effective. Wilson Palacios sent over a long ball looking for the head of Crouch. He did not disappoint, nodding down into the path of Kranjcar to finish on the half-volley. The visitors did not allow Bolton to dictate as much in the second half.

An aerial battle ensued with Davies and Crouch playing key roles at both ends. The Bolton striker edged it with the goal and will be hoping Capello took note. @Email:akhan@thenational.ae