Tottenham 2 Birmingham 1: Spurs leaves it late as dream start continues
29 August 2009 05:31
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Those 'White Hot Lane' headlines could not be more appropriate.
If you want thrills in the Barclays Premier League at the moment then Tottenham is the place to be as Aaron Lennon's winner in the last throes of injury time kept Spurs' 100% record intact.
It was only right and just.
Tottenham were the better team. They played the fancy football. They showed all the ambition.
And it would have been cruel in the extreme if Lee Bowyer's second half tap-in had mugged them just when they had appeared to have done all the hard work.
The truth is Tottenham should have won this wonderfully entertaining match by a landslide.
They rained shots in on Joe Hart's goal all afternoon.
Ironic, in the end, however, that they were thankful to the Route
One option provided by substitute Peter Crouch - who came on and gave them the lead with a trademark towering header.
Grateful, too, that Birmingham striker Garry O'Connor found the side-netting instead of the back of the net in the last few minutes.
Give credit to the visitors. They provide a strong physical presence and are no pushovers as they proved on the opening weekend of the season when they were narrowly beaten at Old Trafford.
They are not pretty. Not pleasing on the eye like Tottenham. They will bore out results this season, like punching your way through the walls of White Hart Lane with a Black and Decker.
But in James McFadden and Bowyer and Lee Carsley they have the granite-like characters who just might keep them in the Premier League at the end of the season.
But they did not deserve anything on an afternoon when Redknapp's side clocked up 12 points from their first four matches, a stark contrast from the two collected from the first eight games last season until Redknapp took over.
Tottenham, Harry-style, is night and day compared to the rabble under Juande Ramos.
There is a pleasing balance to their work. Lennon gives them width, Sebastien Bassong a solid base in the continued injury absence of Jonathan Woodgate and Michael Dawson. Jermain Defoe and Keane are a darting twin menace up front.
But it is in midfield where the Redknapp revolution has transformed Tottenham - with the exquisite passing of Modric and Tom Huddlestone.
It was, however, a frustrating first half for Tottenham.
They pressed forward at every opportunity but a combination of poor luck and bad finishing kept the game goalless.
Lennon might have had two goals, seeing one shot palmed away by Birmingham goalkeeper Hart and another blocked when it seemed he must score.
It was Jermain Defoe, however, who was most at fault.
Defoe could not be more confident right now, having scored four goals already in his previous three games this season, and there are Tottenham fans who might well have put their mortgage on him adding another after 20 minutes.
He had done all the hard work, wriggled free, sprinted away from his pursuers. All that was required was a crisp clip to the goalkeeper's right. He overcooked it, dragging it yards wide.
It was that sort of afternoon. Lots of sweat. Loads of ambition.
But not much end product.
Redknapp was forced to make a change at the start of the second half with Alan Hutton replacing the influential Ledley King, who had picked up a groin strain.
And two minutes later the fourth official was raising his board again after Modric limped off with a leg injury. Crouch entered the fray and Tottenham's work became a shade more direct.
No bad thing that. Redknapp's men can overcomplicate things. Crouch gives them a Plan B and it paid off.
Indeed, in the space of six minutes Crouch could have had a hat-trick, one header crashing back off the bar and another being cleared off the line by Carsley, until he finally found the net.
As it turned out the drama had only just begun. Fortunately for Harry, Lennon was on hand with a crisp right-footer to make sure it all ended happily.