Spurs moved into the Champions League places with a 2-1 away win at Sunderland and boosted their confidence ahead of Tuesday night’s first leg tie at the San Siro against AC Milan. A superb Nico Kranjcar volley proved the winner for the London club, who leapfrog Chelsea into fourth place; for Sunderland it is their third defeat on the bounce.
Harry Redknapp rested Peter Crouch and Aaron Lennon with Tuesday’s date in Milan in mind, with Kranjcar starting only his second league game of the season and Sandro making a rare start also. Sunderland started with new signing Stephane Sessegnon playing just behind Asamoah Gyan, and the home side started the brighter and took a deserved lead on 11 minutes when Gyan skillfully turned and converted Kieran Richardson’s cross. The Ghanaian will have much of The Black Cats goal scoring load to carry after Darren Bent’s departure to Aston Villa, and the young African striker look accomplished and technically gifted throughout the game. Harry Redknapp will not be happy with the amount of space and time Gyan had to dispatch the opener; William Gallas was off the field changing his boots at the time and will have had to answer questions from his manager at half time.
The rest of the first half was a war of attrition in midfield, with few goal scoring opportunities for either side, however the visitors equalised on the stroke of half time through Michael Dawson. Spurs had put a good passing move together and forced a corner when John Mensah blocked Jermaine Defoe’s shot; and after Phil Bardley headed the resulting corner out for a second corner, Steven Pienaar’s delivery was met by a springing Dawson around the penalty spot, with a powerful header finding the back of the net and levelling the game at half time. Craig Gordon was somewhat unsighted by William Gallas, but Steve Bruce will be unhappy to have conceded from a dead ball situation.
Spurs came out after the interval with an extra spring in their step and looked dangerous early in the second half – with Gallas having a chance to give his side the lead, but shot straight at Sunderland keeper Gordon. It was not long until this pressure resulted in a second goal for the visitors however, through an excellently struck volley from Croat Kranjcar. Brazilian Sandro broke down the right wing and his resulting cross was cleared by Titus Bramble only as far as the advancing Kranjcar, who controlled his volley to blast home past a helpless Gordon. This proved to be the winner, and for the second game running man of the match Kranjcar played an influential role in Spurs securing three points; the talented midfielder will hope these displays push him into regular first team contention from now on. Sunderland pushed forward looking for an equaliser and were barracked on by the home support at The Stadium of Light, but were unable to find the net; a Kieran Richardson effort clipping the top of the bar as close as they came.
Three league wins on the trot for Harry Redknapp’s men in tricky fixtures have given the London club a real chance of securing Champions League football for the second year in a row, and more opportunities to take on Europe’s best, as they will do in Italy on Tuesday. Nico Kranjcar has put himself in contention for a starting berth in Milan, and has showed real class in the last two games after speculation linking him with a move away from White Hart Lane in January. Sunderland on the other hand need to start to pick up points again if they are to challenge for a Europa League placed finish, with their next game away to Everton in two weeks time.