Spurs start 2013 with third successive victory to leapfrog Chelsea
Premier League: Tottenham 3 Reading 1
Tottenham overcame an early scare to come from behind and beat Reading, securing their third successive victory and moving into third spot in the table.
Spurs fell behind in the fourth minute but levelled five minutes later through Michael Dawson, and second-half goals from Emmanuel Adebayor and substitute Clint Dempsey banked another three points at White Hart Lane.
The Lilywhites’ victory follows their triumphs away at Aston Villa and Sunderland during the festive period, and their seventh victory from nine games in all competitions took them above Chelsea, who have two games in hand and host QPR tomorrow.
Andre Villas-Boas made two changes from the side that had triumphed at Sunderland on Saturday. Jan Vertonghen replaced Steven Caulker, while Gareth Bale’s suspension gave Gylfi Sigurdsson the chance to line up against his former club.
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Spurs made the worst possible start as Kyle Naughton was adjudged to have felled Pavel Pogrebnyak on the edge of the box, and when Ian Harte’s free-kick crashed back off the crossbar, Pobrebnyak was on hand to head in the rebound.
However, Tottenham’s responded quickly and Emmanuel Adebayor headed wide from an Aaron Lennon cross before the 10th-minute equaliser, as Michael Dawson headed home from a corner.
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The game then settled down into the match that everyone had been expecting, with Spurs camping themselves in Reading’s half and patiently trying to find a way through a 10-man defensive operation.
Mousa Dembele was displaying the full range of his qualities, showing his strength to shrug off some overzealous opponents as well as his touch, skill and ability to dictate play.
The Belgian also demonstrated his capability to create a chance out of nothing, beating his man in the midfield and unleashing a 30-yard effort which flew narrowly wide of the left post.
Jermain Defoe also went close with a trademark low effort from the edge of the box in the 36th minute, watching as the ball curled agonisingly wide of the bottom left corner of the net – and Sigurdsson and Sandro also tried their luck from distance without reward as the first half ended even.
Spurs immediately picked up where they had left off after the interval, with Defoe testing Federici with a curling effort.
However, the Lilywhites appeared to be putting greater emphasis on width and getting crosses into the box – and it paid off five minutes into the second half as the superb Lennon raced outside Ian Harte to the by-line and hung up a cross for Adebayor, who headed in his third goal of the season.
It was nearly 3-0 moments later as Sandro’s 20-yard effort skimmed just wide, and Lennon led a break through the middle, ultimately getting the ball back from Adebayor and seeing his shot deflected over the bar.
Reading were offering little and were struggling to find a way past Sandro, let alone Hugo Lloris, who was virtually a spectator.
Spurs looked by far the more likely side to score again and extend their lead as Defoe, Kyle Naughton and Sigurdsson all tried their luck from distance.
However, the Royals nearly equalised against the run of play with 18 minutes left as Pogrebnyak got through and forced a low save from Lloris before heading wastefully wide from the rebound.
Five minutes later the Royals were through again as Jimmy Kebe bore down on goal, but Kyle Walker got to save the day and get a vital touch on the ball – and Tottenham then survived a nervy game of head tennis in front of their net following a Reading corner.
The Lilywhites were suddenly in danger of throwing two points away – but the killer third goal swiftly arrived at the other end as substitute Clint Dempsey’s deflected long-range strike looped over Federici.
That ended the match as a contest, and Spurs spent the final minutes pushing for a fourth goal, with Dempsey stealing the ball off Adebayor’s head and substitute Scott Parker drawing a fine fingertip save from Federici in the final moments.
Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Naughton, Lennon, Sandro, Dembele (Parker 69), Sigurdsson (Dempsey 75), Adebayor (Livermore 87), Defoe
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs