Van der Vaart hits Spurs winner

27 January 2012 10:16

Harry Redknapp was made to endure a nervy night on his return to the Tottenham dugout as his team edged into the fifth round of the FA Cup with a 1-0 win thanks to Rafael van der Vaart's first-half strike against Watford.

Redknapp, back on the touchline after spending his week contesting two charges of tax evasion, made the journey across London from Southwark Crown Court and watched his team put on a poor display in the first half, until Van der Vaart put the Barclays Premier League title chasers ahead with a 30-yard drive just before the break.

Npower championship side Watford, 35 places below Spurs in the league ladder, rattled the Tottenham woodwork on two occasions and Carlo Cudicini performed well to keep out lively striker Marvin Sordell in the second half as Spurs were made to work hard for their place in the next round.

The 64-year-old Redknapp smiled as he assumed his place on the bench at the start of the game, clearly glad to be back at work following his week spent in court answering two charges of cheating the public purse.

Redknapp's assistant Kevin Bond insisted on Thursday that the absence of the Tottenham boss, who denies both charges in a trial which is expected to end next week, had not had an impact on the club's preparations for Friday's game.

With five minutes gone, Joe Garner released Sordell after a slip by Younes Kaboul but the striker could only shoot at Cudicini. The Italian then spilled Sean Murray's effort after a rare Luka Modric error but Kyle Walker hooked the ball clear.

Spurs' worries were eased three minutes from the break, however, when Van der Vaart picked up Walker's pass, advanced at the Watford defence, who backed off, and fired home from 30 yards past Scott Loach, who will be disappointed he did not save the shot.

Watford started the second period brightly and were nearly level four minutes in when Sean Murray's curling effort was brilliantly tipped onto the post by Cudicini before Troy Deeney blazed wastefully over on the rebound.

Tottenham rallied and Van der Vaart came close to making it 2-0 with a swirling free-kick before the Dutchman then struck the bar with a peach of a shot.

The Hornets almost pulled level with 10 minutes left when Cudicini saved Nyron Nosworthy's shot with his feet. The ball bounced out to Sordell but Walker flung himself at the ball for a crucial block. Watford threw everything at the visitors but resolute defending ensured their hopes of earning a replay were dashed.

Source: PA