Lennon and Keane Crucial to Tottenham Hotspur's Surival
Lennon was a threat throughout, Keane was clinical when it mattered, Spurs got a crucial point that they deserved to continue the momentum they have been building in recent weeks.
"I was delighted to see the cross going to Robbie because he is a such a good finisher," enthused Harry Redknapp. And whilst his mood was one of general optimism, his demeanour betrayed caution.
For all of Tottenham's possession and territorial domination after a slow start against Sunderland at The Stadium Of Light on Saturday afternoon, it was a largely frustrating 90 minutes for Redknapp and the travelling supporters.
After going behind to an impressive solo effort from tricky winger Kieran Richardson in the third minuter, Tottenham struggled to get a foothold in the match. Indeed, it was the home side's complacency and sloppy passing that allowed the visitors to gradually find their stride.
But Redknapp was left fuming in the dugout after Darren Bent blazed over when he should have capitalized on Dean Whitehead's stray pass, and as Aaron Lennon continued to disappoint with his final delivery.
Chances came and were squandered by both sides, before an emphatic finish from an in-form Robbie Keane rescued a point for the Londoners, who have now secured a healthy return of seven points from their last three matches—important points given that they must travel to Villa Park and host Chelsea in their next two fixtures.
When Redknapp took charge at White Hart Lane, his sole aim was to keep Tottenham in the top-flight, usually a simple task with a talented squad and healthy capital at his disposal you would think. However, as Redknapp likes to point out, usual circumstances they were not.
With two points from eight games and a "[scary] mish-mash of players" to organize into a coherent squad, he had taken on his greatest challenge yet, with relegation at once unthinkable yet increasingly possible.
After seeing his players nearly surrender a three-goal advantage in the semi-final of the Carling Cup, he lambasted the resilience and mentality of his charges.
He must be pleased with the response that has followed, as deserved victories over rivals Hull and Middlesbrough have sandwiched a spirited performance at Wembley in the Carling Cup final.
The addition of Wilson Palacios, Jermain Defoe, Carlo Cudicini, and Pascal Chimbonda in February has increased competition for starting spots and given the club a lift but it is the return of Keane and the return to form of England hopeful Aaron Lennon that has made the difference in recent weeks.
On Wednesday night against Middlesborough, Keane had a hand in all four goals and Lennon was a defender's nightmare as he zipped down the wings and weaved and jinked past his helpless opponent countless times.
Yes, Luka Modric is becoming increasingly influential in the midfield, Heurelho Gomes has shown that he might yet prove to be a capable No. 1, and Michael Dawson has, at times, been heroic at the heart of the defence, but it is Lennon and Keane’s energy and enthusiasm that has been Spurs’ heartbeat, their quality and creativity that will be a saving grace.
Redknapp has two of the five wins that he targeted before last week’s visit to Hull City, and must hope that his side is on top form in the club’s three most winnable remaining fixtures, home ties against West Ham, Newcastle, and West Brom.
Even now, were Blackburn to win their game in hand, there would be just four points separating Tottenham from the danger zone from which they had worked so hard to escape.
After the 2-1 Carling Cup final victory over Chelsea last season, Tottenham won just twice in eleven games but, with a high-profile cull of players expected in the summer and with the threat of relegation still at the back of the players’ minds, there is plenty at stake.
Tottenham fans can expect to see Premier League football at White Hart Lane next season—but be careful not to assume this for it may yet make an "ass" out of "u" and "me."
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