x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Spurs prove top-four credentials

Eidur Gudjohnsen and Nico Kranjcar score to cement Tottenham's hold of fourth place in the Premier League.

Tottenham players celebrate after yesterday's 2-1 win away at Stoke City.
Tottenham players celebrate after yesterday's 2-1 win away at Stoke City.

When Eidur Gudjohnsen last scored in the Premier League four years ago, Tottenham saw fourth place cruelly denied to them on the final day of the season. As the Icelandic striker celebrated a title success with Chelsea before joining Barcelona, defeat for Spurs at West Ham, with half the team struck down with food poisoning the night before the match, saw Arsenal claim Champions League football instead.

But, with Roman Pavlyuchenko suffering a hamstring injury like Jermain Defoe, Gudjohnsen could now be a pivotal figure for Harry Redknapp's side to ensure they do not miss out again. He scored one goal and, without even touching the ball, made the winner for Niko Kranjcar yesterday to secure all three points. "He's a really top player," said Redknapp. "Every day he comes in and works so hard in training. He's got fantastic ability and has been just so unlucky Pav's done good and Defoe's been scoring goals.

"He has got a part to play for the rest of the season and he's going to be important for us." The Spurs manager turned to Gudjohnsen after 36 minutes when Pavlyuchenko - scorer of eight goals in six games - had to go off injured. But in Gudjohnsen, Redknapp has a player with experience and a point to prove after his arrival on loan from Monaco. He took his 46th minute goal well, running on to a Peter Crouch pass and lashing a shot into the roof of the net.

For the winner, he cleverly dummied a low left-wing cross from Benoit Assou-Ekotto for Kranjcar to smash past Thomas Sorensen. Redknapp added: "I absolutely love him and would like to keep him here next year." He was also pleased by Spurs' character as they did not wilt under pressure from the home side. Spurs' cause was helped by the 48th minute dismissal of Dean Whitehead for two yellow cards. A late lunge on Luka Modric earned him the first before a strong body check on the Croatian led to a second minutes later. It seemed harsh on the television replays.

Tony Pulis, the Stoke manager, was not happy with the referee Mike Dean's decision. He had actually asked if the official could be removed from taking charge of this fixture. "I asked if we could avoid him until the end of the season," said Pulis. "In the games we have had, there's been very, very contentious decisions that we have fallen on the other side of. It's the third player he has sent off for us.

"Football in this country is a game of challenge. If you've got competitive players who make more challenges than others, there's going to be times, against top players who move the ball so quickly, when you are going to give free-kicks away. But we must not take the challenge out of our game." Stoke equalised from the penalty spot in the 64th minute. Assou-Ekotto climbed over Dave Kitson to concede a penalty which Matthew Etherington did not spurn. Five minutes later Ricardo Fuller ballooned a shot over from six yards and Stoke paid the price as Kranjcar's effort put Spurs four points clear of Liverpool in fourth.

@Email:akhan@thenational.ae