Tottenham Hotspur took another step towards getting their season back on track on Saturday with a crucial 2-1 win over relegation-threatened Sunderland.
Having beaten Fulham by the same scoreline on Wednesday night, the Lillywhites produced a strong defensive second-half performance to keep a persistent Sunderland side at bay, ensuring back to back wins that keep them within three points of second place in the Premier League table.
Spurs fell behind following an uncharacteristic error from keeper Hugo Lloris, enabling Adam Johnson to score. However, they equalised before the break thanks to a Paulinho finish after Nacer Chadli headed across goal from a free kick.
Following the break, the North London side found themselves ahead in rather fortuitous circumstances after Moussa Dembele’s cross was deflected passed Vito Mannone by John O’Shea.
After going ahead, Spurs threatened to extend their lead further, playing some of their best football of the season so far, with Jermain Defoe, Paulinho and Lewis Holtby all having chances to score a third goal.
Some atrocious finishing from the wasteful Defoe ensured that his side’s lead remained at just one goal, and Sunderland eventually turned the tide of the match and had several of their own chances to level the game.
The Spurs back four remained solid, however, and Andre Villas-Boas’ side held on to claim all three points.
In a comprehensive team display, defender Kyle Walker was outstanding at right-back throughout the match, putting in a dogged and thoroughly disciplined performance to prevent Sunderland striker Jozy Altidore from exerting any real influence on the game.
Walker has looked defensively suspect in previous seasons. However, his transformation this season has been quite remarkable, consistently performing with a new-found maturity that has helped Spurs become one of the strongest defensive sides in the league (aside from the 6-0 mauling by Manchester City).
What was particularly impressive about Walker’s display was his ability to read potentially dangerous situations and act accordingly, preventing Sunderland from getting into any threatening offensive positions. His pace is also a huge asset for the side, enabling them to counter-attack at a phenomenal speed, something that has been lacking in performances of late.
Almost equally as impressive as Walker were the Spurs midfield trio of Paulinho, Dembele and Holtby. Unfortunately Dembele looked to be limping as he was replaced by Sandro in the latter stages of the game, potentially adding to the squads lengthening injury list.
Holtby is now producing arguably his best form so far since joining the club almost a year ago. His incredible work rate and passion for the game has made him an instant favourite with the club’s supporters.
Following the final whistle, the players were warmly congratulated by Villas-Boas, who appears to have formed a powerful bond with his squad and will hope that performances continue to improve in the weeks to come.