Spurs boss suffers late heartbreak as West Brom grab a point at the Lane
Premier League: Tottenham 1 West Brom 1
Andre Villas-Boas was agonisingly denied his first victory as Tottenham boss as West Brom’s James Morrison struck in injury-time to cancel out Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s opener.
Having lost their opening game at Newcastle, the Lilywhites were anxious to secure all three points in front of their own fans at White Hart Lane.
They seemed set to do so after Assou-Ekotto’s 72nd-minute opener – his fourth goal for the club - but Spurs were unable to repel the Baggies’ desperate assaults at the end of the game and Morrison levelled to earn Steve Clarke’s visitors a share of the spoils.
Emmanuel Adebayor was named on the bench on his return to the Lane, with Jermain Defoe keeping his place up front following his goal against the Magpies the previous weekend.
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However, summer signing Jan Vertonghen made his Spurs debut in front of the home fans, coming into the side to replace the injured Younes Kaboul, while Rafael van der Vaart was preferred to Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Tottenham quickly took control of the game, looking particularly dangerous on the flanks with Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon delivering dangerous crosses and also getting their own shots off as West Brom clung on in the opening 20 minutes.
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The impressive Vertonghen nearly made the perfect start to his Tottenham career, starting a move in his own half and following it upfield, arriving at the perfect time to meet a deflected Bale cross – but volleying wastefully over the bar.
Two minutes later Bale delivered yet another low cross and Lennon was on hand at the back post to shoot goalwards, but Liam Ridgewell slid in to make a vital block.
For all of their dominance, Spurs were yet to force a save from Ben Foster, and the chances began to dry up as half-time approached.
The fans switched their attention to showing their appreciation for two of their heroes who were not on the field and, as the 26th minute arrived, White Hart Lane observed a standing ovation for Ledley King, who had worn the No26 shirt until his retirement during the summer.
That was followed by chants of ‘there’s only one Michael Dawson’, who had appeared to be on his way to QPR earlier in the week, but was sitting behind the Spurs substitutes today.
Tottenham were on top but they had precious little to show for their dominance, and Ben Foster had not been forced into a single save – until the 45th minute, when Defoe swivelled and sent a low effort down his throat.
King appeared at the half-time interval to say an emotional farewell, but the nostalgia was quickly forgotten as the game kicked off again – and Tottenham quickly regained the upper hand.
Bale was soon involved again, collecting Van der Vaart’s crossfield ball and slicing a right-foot volley wide, and Assou-Ekotto then hit the target with a 20-yard free-kick, forcing Foster into an agile save over the bar.
Nine minutes after the break Jake Livermore won the ball in the midfield and freed Defoe, who cut inside and saw a trademark low effort narrowly miss the left-hand post.
Adebayor was introduced in the 62nd minute in place of Van der Vaart, but it was the lively Defoe who looked the most likely scorer.
Indeed, the England international had the ball in the net three minutes later, only to see it ruled out for offside – and West Brom immediately created their best chance of the match as Baggies substitute Romelu Lukaku forced Friedel into a low save.
The visitors then went close again as the game opened up, with Marc-Antoine Fortune going through on goal and testing Friedel from close range.
The match was on a knife-edge – but it was Tottenham who got the breakthrough with 17 minutes left as Assou-Ekotto unleashed a hopeful effort from 25 yards and saw it cannon into the net off West Brom centre-back Gareth McAuley.
Villas-Boas introduced Jermaine Jenas in place of Defoe in an attempt to protect the lead, but Friedel was busy again seconds later, palming Lukaku’s low cross away but straight back into the middle of the box – and fortunately getting away with it.
The big Belgian Lukaku had another sight of goal 10 minutes from time, but Vertonghen reacted brilliantly to make a sliding block.
The West Brom attacks kept coming though, and Assou-Ekotto headed a McAuley effort against the bar, denying the very man who had deflected his shot into the net at the other end.
Tottenham were battling with their backs to the wall, but their resistance was broken in injury-time as Morrison pounced to force the ball into the net.
Villas-Boas was a furious figure on the touch-line and, although his gloom was briefly lifted as Vertonghen fired home in the dying seconds, the goal was disallowed, leaving the new head coach with one point from his opening two games.
Tottenham: Friedel, Walker, Vertonghen, Gallas, Assou-Ekotto, Sandro (Sigurdsson 73), Livermore, Lennon, Van der Vaart (Adebayor 62), Bale, Defoe (Jenas 74)
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs