Spurs 1 - 1 Portsmouth: Defoe hits home to deny old club victory
JERMAIN Defoe scored his first goal since returning to Tottenham from Portsmouth to deny his former club victory at White Hart Lane and lift Harry Redknapp's men off the bottom of the Barclays Premier League.
David Nugent had given the visitors the lead just before the hour mark but, in a clash where the pre-match focus had been on who would be facing their old team-mates, it was almost inevitable that Defoe would strike.
Redknapp left Pompey 84 days before this game and Spurs headed into the match exactly where he found them – rock bottom. Spurs also knew that victory would take them up to 12th, such is the tightness of the league this season – but in the end the point earned by Defoe lifted them out of the relegation zone.
Defoe and Redknapp were booed by away fans, while Pompey skipper Sol Campbell was jeered with his every touch from the Spurs fans who have never forgiven him for joining rivals Arsenal in 2001. There was no repeat, however, of the chant that led to accusations of racism and homophobia as Spurs fans hummed the tune but omitted the offending words. Away from the sideshow in the stands, there was a gripping clash with plenty of chances at both ends and problems mounting for Redknapp after seeing Ledley King and Roman Pavlyuchenko replaced due to injury in the first half.
It was Defoe who had the first chance of the match, in the ninth minute, when Sean Davis passed straight to his former team-mate with a ball across his own defence. Defoe sent David James the wrong way with his finish but it went just wide of the post.
Spurs goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes was still struggling with an apparent groin strain picked up last week – and it nearly led to Peter Crouch opening the scoring.
Gomes was down slowly to stop Glen Johnson's weak drive, then had to claw the ball away from Crouch when the effort was spilled. The Brazilian then hopped around his area in an attempt to shake off the knock but could not take goal kicks.
James was called into action in the 20th minute when Aaron Lennon drove forward and drilled a shot from the edge of the area that needed turning around the post. Pavlyuchenko had a close-range effort blocked by team-mate Defoe from the corner. James was needed again midway through the first half after Lennon controlled a ball over the top and hustled his way past Nadir Belhadj.
He stood up the cross and Defoe headed towards the roof of the net, only for England stopper James to tip over the crossbar.
At the other end, Vedran Corluka made a goal-saving challenge to deny Armand Traore after Nugent pulled the ball back for the youngster.
With skipper King hobbling, Nugent was able to break the offside trap just before the break – but Gomes was down to block the effort. Michael Dawson was then brought on for King.
As the intensity increased, the crucial incidents of the match came just before the hour mark.
Lennon had forced James to scamper towards his near post and make a fine sprawling save – then Pompey were ahead seconds later with their next attack.
Traore carried the ball from left to right and the ball broke to Nugent on the edge of the area. The striker shot first time, with the strike deflecting off Gareth Bale and finding the bottom corner. It was his first goal in over a year and his first in the Premier League.
"Redknapp, what's the score?" asked the travelling support.
Defoe's moment came with 20 minutes left. Didier Zokora had exchanged passes with Luka Modric and the ball was shifted to Defoe, whose angled drive went through Campbell's legs and past James.
Bent should have added a second ten minutes from time when David Bentley, on as a substitute, found him unmarked – but his header went horribly wide of the post from four yards.
"He should have scored, it was an open goal," said Redknapp. "Jamo (goalkeeper James] had given it up."
The Tottenham manager added: "We missed chance after chance late on, you are never going to get a better chance to win a football match like we had.
"I thought we showed great character to come back from 1-0 down. They could have easily hid and felt sorry for themselves.
"If we continue to play like this, we won't have a (relegation] problem."
Fans hum Campbell tune
SOL Campbell was jeered with every touch at White Hart Lane but Tottenham fans omitted the words to the song aimed at the Portsmouth skipper which has led to police action.
Spurs supporters have never forgiven Campbell for leaving them for rivals Arsenal in 2001, and when he faced them earlier in the season he was subjected to abuse which led to 11 people being charged with indecent chanting under the Football Offences Act.
Ahead of Pompey's Barclays Premier League clash at Spurs, extra security measures were put in place to monitor the crowd and the potential for racist or homophobic chanting towards Campbell.
Spurs fans hummed the tune that led to those accusations but left out the words.
Towards the end of the first half, at least one supporter from the away section was escorted out of the stadium by police.
Spurs manager Harry Redknapp, who left Pompey less than three months ago, used his programme notes to urge fans not to repeat the chanting towards Campbell.
"I know it was only a small minority that were involved in the obscene chanting at Fratton Park, but we have seen how the police reacted to this and why there is no place for it in football," he wrote.
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