A Sunderland side with 6 changes took a little while to settle down a against a Spurs team looking to climb the Premiership table after a couple of consecutive defeats. The Black Cats handed starts to Zenden and Riveros, with Richardson being rewarded for his positive display against Stoke in an advanced role close to Gyan for those forward forays.
Craig Gordon was back between the posts at the ground where his arm was originally broken last November in a collision with Jermain Defoe - the start of his recent injury woes. For Spurs, Crouch was absent in the first half, a puzzling move - who was the wingers Bale and Bentley going to target crosses at? Predictably, Tottenham surged forward from the start, leaving Sunderland with just the occasional half-chance.
The Sunderland defence held firm though, with Gordon looking very confident between the posts, despite his long lay-off. Turner was the star at the back with a masterful display of tackling and headed clearances. One shot by Huddlestone was deflected onto the angle of post and bar just after the quarter hour, but aside from that, Gordon allowed nothing near his goal, and dealt really well with a number of shots from distance.
In the second half Danny Welbeck came on for the anonymous Riveros with Richardson moving deeper. The pattern of the game was familiar from the first, with Tottenham driving forward. In the 65th minute Bale finally eluded Onuoha and his cross was met by Crouch who cushioned it to van der Vaart. The Dutchman kept up his incredible home scoring record by turning to slot home, with more than a hint of handball.
Just two minutes later though the Black Cats reply was decisive after excellent work by Welbeck on the left of the box, the ball was slotted through to Gyan, who accelerated between Kaboul and Gallas to drive home to Gomes’ left. It was the Ghanain’s 4th goal in 3 starts for Sunderland. He has proved to be a truly excellent signing, always a threat and clearly enjoying his football at Premiership level. He is and will be a real world-class star for Sunderland.
Best quote from Tony Gale on Sky: Sunderland defended better than Inter Milan! The Red and White Army were loud and proud to greet an excellent point at the Lane. Zenden was all-energy and the defence was outstanding, with Turner my man of the match. Capello was watching, more displays like that and Turner will surely be called up for his country.
So Spurs and Sunderland now have identical records after the first 12 games, locked in 7th place. Further great progress then by the Black Cats to put the Newcastle result further into context in what is a really solid first third of the season. Importantly, though, this was a tactical victory by Steve Bruce, playing cautiously with discipline in the first half, and setting the team up well for the second. Onuoha successfully neutralised Gareth Bale, and the team had the skill and self-belief to nick that equalizer soon after Spurs went ahead. The squad looks very good; roll on Chelsea!
©Lars J.S. Knutsen