Spurs 1 Sunderland 1: Webb takes focus off defensive shambles

Tottenham 1 Sunderland 1

TOTTENHAM’S defensive short-comings were exposed again on Tuesday as Harry Redknapp’s side threw two important points away at White Hart Lane.

Referee Howard Webb found himself at the centre of the post-match inquest as he failed to award a second-half penalty to David Bentley and then declined to dismiss Lee Cattermole for a dangerous lunge at Luka Modric.

However, William Gallas and Younes Kaboul must bear the brunt of the blame for Spurs’ failure to close out the game.

Rafael Van der Vaart had only just broken the deadlock after 65 minutes of incessant Tottenham pressure, turning the ball in from close range after Peter Crouch had nodded Gareth Bale’s cross down into the six-yard box.

Sunderland had offered a negligible goal threat up to that point, and Spurs seemed to have done the hard work – only to gift their visitors a rapid equaliser out of nowhere.

Kaboul seemed well placed to intercept Danny Welbeck’s ambitious through ball, but Gallas suddenly lunged across to complicate matters, and the ball somehow ran through to Asamoah Gyan, who was left all alone to slot past Heurelho Gomes.

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Tottenham have now failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 15 games, with their last shut-out coming in the 4-0 home win over Young Boys of Bern in August.

“It’s frustrating, of course,” said Redknapp. “We dominated the game, created chances and once we got in front I really thought we’d go on and win the game. “They didn’t really have any shots before that but that’s the way it goes. There’s a mix-up and it all changes.

“I thought we played ever so well again and I couldn’t fault the effort. All we can do is keep playing well. If we continue to play like that we’ll be alright.”

Tuesday’s result was all the more disappointing because Sunderland named a weakened side. Darren Bent missed out through injury but Bruce also named first-team regulars Simon Mignolet, Steve Malbranque, Welbeck, Phil Bardsley and Ahmed Elmouhamedy on the bench.

Bardsley, Welbeck and Malbranque did appear, but this was nonetheless a glorious opportunity for Spurs to halt their recent slide in the league with a vital three points.

In truth, Tottenham certainly deserved more from this game, and the numbers don’t lie – Redknapp’s side had 18 shots on goal and forced 17 corners.

Tom Huddlestone rattled the angle of post and crossbar with a rising drive in the 17th minute, while visiting goalkeeper Craig Gordon – who was making his first appearance of the season – clawed away a Van der Vaart effort at his near post and then tipped a 30-yard David Bentley screamer out of the top corner before half-time.

It was an all-too familiar story for Spurs - plenty of possession but with no killer ball or finish to match.

The intensity rose as Bentley was brought down by Boudewijn Zenden in the area, but Webb booked the ex-Blackburn man for diving rather than awarding the penalty.

That injustice seemed less important as Webb allowed Van der Vaart to use his arm to control the ball and put Spurs ahead, but within three minutes the sides were level again as Sunderland grabbed an undeserved equaliser.

Seconds later the Lane erupted as Cattermole crunched into Modric, winning the ball but in a dangerously overzealous manner – but again Webb infuriated the home crowd, only producing a yellow.

Spurs’ desperation to find a winner resulted in less and less cultured football, and in the end it was Sunderland who looked more likely to score on the break in the dying moments.