x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Tottenham push their luck

The Spurs got back to winning ways after two successive league defeats, in a game packed with controversy and incidents.

LONDON // Tottenham got back to winning ways after two successive league defeats, in a game packed with controversy and incidents. Darren Bent failed to score on his return to north London, having a penalty saved by Heurelho Gomes, the Brazilian goalkeeper who was somewhat fortunate not to be sent off for fouling the striker to concede the spot kick. Sunderland looked the more lively from the start , and should have gone ahead in the sixth minute when Bent crossed from the right and Jordan Henderson failed to tap in a simple chance in front of goal, diverting the ball past the far post Instead it was Tottenham who made the breakthrough with a goal in the 12th minute that delighted the home fans and incensed the visiting contingent, not least the Sunderland manager Steve Bruce. In a move of rare quality from Spurs, several passes were exchanged before the ball was worked to Benoit Assou-Ekotto on the left. His cross found Peter Crouch, whose header across goal fell inviting a sidefooted volley from Robbie Keane, who had peeled off his marker. Craig Gordon made a terrific reflex stop from close range, but Keane's momentum carried him through and the ball cannoned off his leg and into the goal.

Bruce and Sunderland's supporters claimed Keane was offside, but TV replays suggested Keane was level with defender Michael Turner when Crouch headed the ball. The goal did not deter Sunderland from playing some delightful football, outpassing and outbattling Spurs in midfield and creating plenty of chances. Bent had a penalty appeal turned down when he got to Fraizer Campbell's cross marginally ahead of Gomes, but referee Kevin Friend ruled that the goalkeeper made a good save. Gomes also had to save at the feet of Kieran Richardson after a slack back header from Vedran Corluka, and then dived vainly in an attempt to stop Andy Reid's dipping lob from 30 yards before it hit the post and rebounded out. Spurs, with Jermain Defoe back from suspension, had precious few chances. Gomes' reprieve from the first-half penalty decision looked short-lived when he did concede a spot kick five minutes into the second half, tripping Bent as the striker ran in on Richardson's superb through pass.

Referee Friend immediately pointed to the penalty spot and gave Gomes a yellow rather than red card, and the Brazilian took advantage of his good fortune to save Bent's penalty. The game really burst into life. Gomes made a good save from Steed Malbranque's long shot, Spurs midfielder Tom Huddlestone had a thumping drive tipped away, and Gordon was injured diving bravely at the feet of Defoe. Huddlestone then made it 2-0 in the 67th minute after good work from Defoe, who held the ball up and weighted his pass perfectly into the path of the big midfielder, whose 20-yard shot flew in off the underside of the bar.

Gomes saved again when Malbranque, one of four former Spurs players in the Sunderland team, shot after a well-worked move, and the keeper then collected a diving header from Bent, who looked desperate to score on his well-publicised return to White Hart Lane. With Fabio Capello watching, Huddlestone did no harm to his chances of staking a claim to a place in the England set-up. Man of the match: Huerelho Gomes (Tottenham)

The Burnley substitute Kevin McDonald scored three minutes from time to grab an unlikely point away at Manchester City yesterday after his side had thrown away a two-goal lead. Owen Coyle's Clarets had not registered a point on their travels following their top-flight return before yesterday's game, but Graham Alexander's penalty, after Joleon Lescott's handball, put them ahead on 19 minutes before Steven Fletcher exploited some slack defensive work to tap home number two just after the half hour. But Burnley were left in no doubt victory would have to be earned the hard way when Shaun Wright-Phillips's drive flicked off Stephen Jordan and flew into the bottom corner to halve the deficit two minutes before the break. City came out firing after the break and had soon turned the game on its head. Gareth Barry's floated free-kick found its way to the back post and Lescott turned it across the six-yard line for Kolo Toure to equalise on 55 minutes. And three minutes later, City were in the lead. Stephen Ireland sent Shaun Wright-Phillips away down the wing and his low cross was slotted home by Craig Bellamy. But just before the end, however, a free-kick found its way through the City box for McDonald to tap home. Man of the match: Graham Alexander (Burnley)

Aston Villa made up for their midweek disappointment, when West Ham beat them 2-1 with a 94th-minute goal, by mauling sorry Bolton at Villa Park. Martin O'Neill's side went ahead on five minutes when James Milner's cross picked out John Carew whose powerful downward header was parried out at full stretch by Jussi Jaaskelainen. Ashley Young smashed the rebound home. Villa peppered the Bolton box with crosses from all angles and doubled their lead after 43 minutes. Gary Cahill tried to shepherd the ball out for a goal-kick when under pressure from Carew, but the Norwegian international raced past him and cut the ball back to Gabriel Agbonlahor who shot through the legs of both Paul Robinson and Jaaskelainen. The Bolton substitute Johan Elmander, who replaced the injured Tamir Cohen, reduced the arrears on the stroke of half-time. But almost straight after the break, Milner set up Carew who charged past Zat Knight and Cahill, both former Villa players, before slamming home. James Milner's tame penalty was saved by Jaaskelainen, Steve Sidwell hit a post, then Milner tapped home at the second attempt on 72 minutes to make it 4-1, before defender Carlos Cuellar headed in a fifth from a Milner cross. Man of the match: James Milner (Villa)