Kranjcar lifts Spurs into fourth

Updated: 13 February 2011 11:37 IST

Tottenham's final performance before their Champions League tie against AC Milan was unconvincing, but they improved their chances of playing in Europe's elite competition next season with a 2-1 win at Sunderland on Saturday.

Kranjcar lifts Spurs into fourth

Sunderland:

Tottenham's final performance before their Champions League tie against AC Milan was unconvincing, but they improved their chances of playing in Europe's elite competition next season with a 2-1 win at Sunderland on Saturday.


Michael Dawson and the impressive Niko Krancjar were both able to take advantage of Sunderland's vulnerability to high-quality deliveries as Spurs came from behind to claim victory.

It moved Harry Redknapp's fourth-placed side to within two points of third-placed Manchester City, with a game in hand.

Since surrendering their unbeaten home record to Blackpool in December, Sunderland have lost four out out of six games at the Stadium of Light.

However, Tottenham will have to play much better than this in the San Siro for the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie.

It will probably be a very different Tottenham, though, with Peter Crouch, Rafael van der Vaart, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Aaron Lennon all expected to return to the starting line-up.

Without them it was left to Sunderland to play the first-half football. They moved the ball at speed and with no little skill.

Benin international Stephane Sessegnon caught the eye in only his second appearance at the Stadium of Light, and nearly had his first Black Cats goal when he backheeled Steed Malbranque's low drive the wrong side of the post after ten minutes.

Sunderland only had to wait another minute. Kieran Richardson fired the ball in and Asamoah Gyan controlled and shot on the turn. It took the Ghanaian to the top of Sunderland's Premier League goalscoring charts, ahead of the departed Darren Bent.

Tottenham had their chances, particularly when Kranjcar drifted in off the left touchline, without making the most of them.

Set pieces have been Sunderland's undoing, and Spurs' equaliser was their first league goal from a corner this season.

Dawson was unmarked and although William Gallas ran in front of Craig Gordon as the centre-back's header came in, if he had kept his legs closed, the ball would not have found the net.

Although it came from open play, Vedran Corluka's 52nd-minute cross from a similar area caused more confusion. Dawson again won it and when Gallas shot, Phil Bardsley cleared off the line.

While Sunderland stepped up the pressure with strikes from Malbranque, Sessegnon and Jordan Henderson, Spurs continued to attack the hosts' Achilles heel. When John Mensah headed Sandro's cross clear, Krancjar volleyed sweetly in.

Richardson reacted petulantly when referee Mike Jones correctly ruled Corluka had not been able to avoid the ball heading for his arm from point-blank range in the area, but the midfielder almost made amends, linking well with Gyan yet again and chipping the ball onto the crossbar under pressure.

Spurs, however, held out, and their challenge on English football's elite remains as strong as ever.



Topics : Football Sunderland Tottenham Hotspur Michael Dawson Niko Kranjcar
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