x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Roman puts Spurs on road to fourth

With eight goals in the last six games, the resurrection of Roman Pavlyuchenko's career appears complete.

Tottenham's Roman Pavlyuchenko, left, celebrates his first goal against Blackburn yesterday.
Tottenham's Roman Pavlyuchenko, left, celebrates his first goal against Blackburn yesterday.

With eight goals in the last six games, the resurrection of Roman Pavlyuchenko's career appears complete. His two yesterday ended the resistance of Blackburn and Harry Redknapp, the Spurs manager, urged him to continue that "incredible form" to secure Champions League football for the club - or a return to Russia should he still want to leave. "People must be looking at him," said Redknapp. "From the way he was playing and training, he wanted to go back to Russia [in January]. That was the message I was getting but we didn't want to sell him. He's now got his chance and is in the team. The amount of goals he's scored is fantastic for us.

"If he can continue this it gives us every chance of getting where we want to be." But Pavlyuchenko is not alone in a renaissance at White Hart Lane. Had Benoit Assou-Ekotto not been called up by Cameroon for the Africa Cup of Nations in January, Gareth Bale may well have exited in the transfer window through a lack of opportunities. But as Spurs moved three points clear of Manchester City in fourth, Bale again showed how fortunate Redknapp was not to lose a player of such ability who is still only 20.

"People forget he's only a boy. When I came here I felt he needed to learn the game, I didn't feel he'd really been taught the game," said the Spurs manager. "He had natural ability, but there was so much of his game that needed working on. I feel he's matured, he's progressed, he's got stronger and he just looks a fantastic player. If you look at him, there would not be a better left-sided player in the country."

With Assou-Ekotto restored at left back, Bale was pushed further forward and must have left Michel Salgado wishing he had taken an option to play elsewhere rather than the Premier League when he left Real Madrid. The right-back was made to look a lot older than 34 as he flagged to keep Bale in check. A decision by the referee, Howard Webb, not to award Bale a penalty, when he was sent tumbling by Salgado's outstretched leg, left Redknapp perplexed. He said: "I don't seem to have any luck with Howard Webb. He's given decisions that have cost us games."

But if that "penalty" was clear cut, so too was the one for Blackburn in the 19th minute when the game was still goalless and that decision might have affected the outcome. David Dunn burst into the box and was clumsily upended by Vedran Corluka. Rovers lost their keeper Paul Robinson to a calf injury in the first half and his replacement Jason Brown endured mixed personal fortunes in the spotlight. He stretched brilliantly for a faint touch to stop Gael Givet from conceding an own-goal and then flung himself to his left again to push out a low drive from Jermain Defoe.

But he could do nothing when the striker ghosted in unmarked at the back post to finish a flick on from Corluka for his 23rd goal of the season in first-half injury time. Ten minutes after the break, Brown was embarrassed when Pavlyuchenko powered in a 20-yard drive that crept underneath his dive. And five minutes from the end, the Russian confirmed Spurs' superiority, tucking home a superb left-wing cross from Bale, after Chris Samba had made it 2-1 with a close-range header.

Nikola Kalinic turned and fired a shot into the top corner that would have made it 3-2, but it was ruled out for a harsh handball. Sam Allardyce, the Blackburn manager, was not impressed by that decision, nor the Dunn incident. But he was honest enough to admit that "suicidal" defending played the biggest part in his side's downfall. "When we look back on the game we only have ourselves to blame," he said. "It's not Tottenham's great ability, it's our poor defending that has cost us."

akhan@thenational.ae