Tottenham Hotspur 3 Reading 1
Scorers: Dawson, Adebayor, Dempsey Pogrebnyak
Team: Lloris; Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Naughton; Lennon, Sandro, Dembele (Parker), Siggurdson (Dempsey), Adebayor (Livermore), Defoe Subs: (unused) Friedel, Caulker, Falque, Huddlestone
Jan Vertonghen replaced Steven Caulker in central defence with Gylfi Sigurdsson selected for the suspended Gareth Bale as the only changes to the team which defeated Sunderland at the weekend.
White Hart Lane was stunned when Reading who have taken only two away points all season took a 4th minute lead. Poor defensive work allowed Pavel Pogrebnyak to get to the edge of the area where Kyle Naughton brought him down. Ian Harte crashed the free-kick against the bar and Pogrebnyak reacted quickest to head the ball into an empty net with Lloris prostrate on the ground.
Tottenham then took control and gradually penned Reading back in their own half. The Reading goalkeeper mis-kicked a clearance which fell to Aaron Lennon who get into the area and crossed to the back post where Adebayor headed past. Lennon who was a constant threat had another cross touched out by Federici in the visitors’ goal. From the corner, Sigurdsson found Dawson at the near post and his glancing header found the back of the net after 9 minutes.
Spurs had responded quickly to the early goal and continued to dominate possession but without troubling the goalkeeper, with shots coming from distance that he was able to collect easily or which defenders blocked to avert the danger. Spurs played patient, passing football and hemmed Reading into the final third of the pitch. When Reading had the ball a misplaced pass invariably returned the ball to Spurs but in spite of having the majority of possession and 13 attempts on goal in the first half, the score remained level at half-time.
Tottenham started with greater purpose after the interval with Sigurdsson and Lennon getting early crosses into the area. After 50 minutes, Lennon took the ball to the line and crossed to the back post where Adebayor headed his second goal of the season, his first at home. Reading still failed to show any forward threat with the match carrying on as it had from their early goal. Spurs were pushing forward looking for a third but shots from Sandro, Lennon, Naughton, Defoe and Sigurdsson were saved, went past the post, were blocked for a corner or deflected into the grateful hands of Federici.
Possession still favoured Spurs (65%) with Lennon working hard and causing untold problems to the Reading defenders. Every time he had the ball he looked dangerous with his runs and crosses into the area. For over an hour Reading failed to threaten the Spurs defence but in the space of six minutes with twenty minutes to play, they could have turned the match on its head.
After 71 minutes, Pogrebnyak got behind the Spurs’ defence. His shot was blocked by Lloris but he followed up head at goal but this time it went past the post. This encouraged the visitors and their fans as they broke through the middle with Dawson calling for off-side unaware that there was a Reading player behind him, coming through from midfield. Kyle Walker put in a saving tackle for their first corner after 75 minutes. From that corner Jan Vertonghen cleared for a second. This time a header at the back post was somehow cleared off the line for a third. Tottenham with 24 attempts on goal were rocking but they weathered the storm and four minutes after coming on for Sigurdsson, Clint Dempsey scored the third, his shot took a deflection and looped over Federici on 79 minutes.
Dempsey’s goal calmed Spurs’ nerves and they should have added to the score in the final ten minutes, the nearest to a goal was an effort from Defoe when through on goal which was cleared and a Scott Parker shot from 25 yards which produced a great save from the keeper.
Tottenham had the three points and moved up to third. Aaron Lennon was the outstanding player and made up for the absent Bale. He is having a very good season and showing great consistency, being a constant danger for defenders. The result was the perfect start to 2013 and gives Spurs great hope for the remainder of the season.
Andre Villas-Boas praised the contribution of Lennon after the game.
“Aaron Lennon is such a magnificent player and sometime he does not get the recognition he deserves but his form has been extraordinary. He has been magnificent for us, scoring goals, like last week, and is such a good player.”