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Aaron Lennon shone for Tottenham Hotspur as Andre Villas-Boas’ men moved up to third in the Barclays Premier League with a 3-1 victory over Reading.
Tottenham were caught cold in the fourth minute when Pavel Pogrebnyak scored in his second successive game but the lead lasted just over four minutes. Gylfi Sigurdsson, the Tottenham midfielder, crossed for Michael Dawson to score his first league goal since February 2011.
With Gareth Bale out of the team through suspension, Lennon seized the opportunity to show what he could do from the opposite wing. The England winger provided the cross for Emmanuel Adebayor to put Spurs ahead in the second half, before Clint Dempsey’s deflected effort 11 minutes from time sealed the win.
The likelihood of Spurs moving ahead of their London rivals Chelsea seemed remote after a slow start from Andre Villas-Boas’ team. Just three minutes had passed when Kyle Naughton fouled Pogrebnyak 20 yards out. Ian Harte’s powerful free-kick cannoned back off the bar and the former Fulham man pounced on the loose ball, heading home from eight yards.
The goal sparked Tottenham into life and they immediately went on the attack. Less than five minutes after going behind, Dawson outjumped his marker to meet Sigurdsson’s corner and glance the ball past Adam Federici, the Reading goalkeeper.
Sigurdsson, against his former club, saw a deflected shot whistle past a post before Mousa Dembele went close from 20 yards. Spurs were enjoying plenty of possession, with Jermain Defoe and Sandro shooting from long range, but they could not find a way past Adam Federici.
The Londoners were missing Bale, who was suspended after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season in Spurs’ last game, and most of their threatening play went through Defoe or Lennon down the right. Defoe almost put Spurs ahead just before the break when he turned at pace to skip past his marker but his dipping shot drifted barely an inch wide of the Reading goal.
The hosts emerged with much more purpose after the break, attacking Reading from the off. They got their reward just six minutes into the second half when Lennon raced clear of Harte and crossed to the back post, where Adebayor beat Alex Pearce in the air and headed past Federici.
Having gone in front Tottenham’s morale lifted and they set about killing off the game. Sandro, the Brazilian midfielder, blasted another long-range effort just wide and Lennon had a deflected shot loop over the bar after a break.
Lennon found constant success down the Tottenham right. With just over 20 minutes left the England winger sprinted clear and laid the ball off to Defoe but the striker could only shoot a yard wide. Sigurdsson was the next Spurs man to come close, shooting an inch wide after bursting forward from the halfway line. That was to be the Iceland midfielder’s final contribution to the game as he was replaced by Dempsey to a standing ovation.
As the second half wore on, Tottenham’s defence started to drop deeper to ensure the side didn’t concede another late goal. Pogrebnyak took advantage of a slip from Jan Vertonghen and charged at Hugo Lloris. The Frenchman could only palm Pogrebnyak’s shot straight back into the path of the Russian, who could only head wide. Jimmy Kebe then punctured the Tottenham defence, breaking through to latch on to Adam Le Fondre’s pass, but Kyle Walker tracked back to put in a timely tackle.
Any chance of Tottenham relinquishing their hold on the three points were dashed in the 79th minute, however, when Dempsey’s 20-yard shot looped over the unfortunate Federici. Only an acrobatic save from Federici stopped substitute Scott Parker from registering his first goal of the season in the dying minutes as Tottenham strolled to their seventh win in nine matches.
Tottenham head coach Andre Villas-Boas: "It was important for him [Adebayor] today to score. He had a couple of situations recently against Sunderland and Villa, it was important for him to get back into the goals.
"Strikers live off goals. You see him trying like Jermain Defoe, Clint, and how decisive he is also. They want to get in the box, they breathe off scoring goals and it will give him a boost for sure."
"It's a vulnerable situation [Adebayor going to the African Cup of Nations], anything can happen. I've told you the player can still go, I understand it is still a possibility. It was always his choice, I'm not going to put pressure on him. We've left it to player to decide. If player wants to go, we respect the African Nations Cup."
Reading manager Brian McDermott: "I couldn't fault our players today. The discipline of the team, you have to come here with a certain way of playing and we were going to get something today.
"You'd take a goal any time, it was a great free-kick and Pavel scored on rebound. They had plenty of possession, Andre has put a good side together, it has been building for a while, they have a really good chance - they're going to finish very, very high in this league.
"We had three opportunities at 2-1, if we'd got the second goal it could have gone either way. It is disappointing that one of the chances didn't go in, they were good opportunities - it wasn't really a 3-1 game, that didn't really tell the story of the game."
|12 Jan 2013||v QPR (A)|
|20 Jan 2013||v Man Utd (H)|
|30 Jan 2013||v Norwich (A)|
|03 Feb 2013||v West Brom (A)|
|09 Feb 2013||v Newcastle (H)|
|25 Feb 2013||v West Ham (A)|