Tottenham Hotspur 1
(Defoe – 63)
West Bromwich Albion 0
A sole Jermain Defoe striker mid-way through the second half was enough to gift Tottenham all three points against a resilient West Brom side.
The England man did well to control Gareth Bale’s low cross before holding off four Baggies defenders and turning to get a low shot away past Ben Foster.
Defoe was re-installed to the starting XI for the first time since the 4-0 Europa League win over Shamrock Rovers last month after suffering a hamstring problem.
He returned at the expense of Scott Parker as manager Harry Redknapp was forced into one change to the side that drew 1-1 with Swansea City, the midfield anchor forced out through injury.
Opportunities were sparse in the first half but Spurs started brightly, Luka Modric’s goal-bound effort well blocked by Gareth McAuley in the opening minute.
The home side then had four corners in the opening five minutes as Spurs looked to make the pressure count but Defoe couldn’t get his shot on target after exchanging one-two’s with both Emmanuel Adebayor and Rafael Van der Vaart.
Van der Vaart then had the best effort of the first-half after good work down the left by Younes Kaboul and Bale but Foster was equal to the Dutchman’s effort.
Sandro suffered an injury blow and Redknapp was forced to alter his pack as the half drew on, the Brazilian being replaced by Jake Livermore.
Van der Vaart again tested Foster after the opening 45 drew a close but Foster again kept the Spurs front-line at bay.
Despite having a lion share of the possession, the North London side couldn’t carve open the West Brom defence but came close to breaking the deadlock in the first minute of the second half, Adebayor’s clever back-heel being volleyed over by Defoe.
The pint-sized hitman again came close to opening the scores but his clever backheel was deflected wide by Craig Dawson.
However, after the hour mark, Spurs finally broke Roy Hodgson’s side after some patient build-up play.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto found Van der Vaart who played in Bale. The Welshman found Defoe in the box and despite looking under control from Dawson, the poacher span and fired low past Foster as a relived looking Spurs finally took the initiative.
The goal should have opened the game up but injuries to first William Gallas and then Jake Livermore forced Sebastien Bassong and Niko Kranjcar into action.
Being temporarily down to nine men spurred the Baggies into life and substitute James Morrison did well to get to the byline but his cross could only find Assou-Ekotto.
Somen Tchoyi then found space in the final third and his driving effort bought out the best in Brad Friedel from 25-yards.
A nervy end to the encounter ensued as five minutes went up from the fourth official but, despite a number of corners and a blocked Paul Scharner effort, Spurs held on for maximum points.
What Redknapp had to say
“It was a hard game. It was a tough game tonight. They came – they had lots of injuries as well – but Roy set them up and they were difficult to break down,” Redknapp said after the game.
“There were lots of bodies in there and there was nowhere to go. We had the ball for a lot of the game but we were struggling for the breakthrough because they defended well and looked to hit us on the break when they could. They made it very hard for us.
“We created less chances than in any other game this season tonight and the lads were tired, they were leggy.
“They’re not used to playing that many games in such a short space of time – people like Luka (Modric) said he’s never felt so tired in there.
“It was hard, if you look at the results over the holiday period you get some funny results, lots of people getting injured, tired legs and it gets more and more difficult to play with the energy and type of pace we normally play with. We were a slower version tonight.
“We were getting wide and crossing balls which suited them because the centre halves were dealing with most things and they got bodies back.
“We picked up a few injuries; I lost Sandro with a torn calf, I lost Gallas with a torn calf, Jake Livermore split his lip open and suddenly we had a very open looking team late on. That’s when they started to push and look for an equaliser.
“In the end it was a great win for us, you’re not always going to smash teams that come here and play flying football and look fantastic. It was a tough game tonight and we picked up three big points.”
Man of the match
Rafael Van der Vaart was excellent in a somewhat flat affair on Wednesday night. The Dutchman, starting out of position, looked comfortable in possession and if there was to be any player that would open up the stubborn West Brom defence, it would be the Dutchman.
Moment of the match
In a game lacking any clear-cut opportunities, Jermain Defoe’s poacher’s effort on the hour mark proved to be the turning point in the game. His excellent control of Gareth Bale’s cross before showing exceptional strength to hold off Craig Dawson and fire past Ben Foster showed what he is capable of doing when given the chance in the starting XI. Elsewhere, Brad Friedel taking a throw-in was a highlight in a dreary first-half.