Sunderland vs. Tottenham Hotspur  1 - 2

Article

Villas-Boas defends ´persecuted´ Bale

29 December 2012 16:30

Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas says Gareth Bale is being persecuted after he was booked for diving during a 2-1 win over Sunderland.

Bale was cautioned for simulation despite appearing to have been impeded by Craig Gardner and is now suspended from his team's next match against Reading on Tuesday.

"It's a big mistake from the ref," Villas-Boas told Sky Sports.

"I understand that reputations are created from the outside - from the media - and it's a bit unfair. If you see the images, Gardner focuses not on the ball but the player. It's extremely unfair that he misses the Reading game for such a big mistake.

"If I'm not wrong, we had the same situation with Defoe in the first half and ... it looks like persecution (against Bale).

"Players have a responsibility and we have to take that into consideration. We want to take it out of the game. I think our game is respectful and there is fair play. But with the speed they go and then there is contact it is a difficult one for the referee. To see Gareth punished again is a little bit unfair.

"We have to let it go. We lose him for the Reading game, we just recover the boys and continue a magnificent run of form and results."

Bale also criticised the decision to caution him for the offence, and also feels he has been unfairly targeted in recent weeks.

"It's the same thing every time," he said.

"It's the third time now this season I've been clipped and I've got booked for no reason again.

"It's just one of those things. There's nothing I can do about it, the referees just need to look a bit closer I think. It's not something I'm doing, it's people thinking I'm diving where there's actually contact, so at the end of the day if I'm getting contact it's a penalty or a free kick so I can't do anything about that.

"If people are kicking me I'm not going to stop going over because it's a foul.

"It doesn't bother me. People can keep saying what they want, it doesn't bother me whatsoever. At the end of the day, it's a foul and I know that myself."

Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill was left to rue his team's costly lapse in concentration approaching the break.

"It was a tough game and we knew it would be," he said.

"We fought so hard to get in front and then gave it away in a two-minute spell just after half-time."

Article

Premier League: Sunderland 1 Tottenham 2

29 December 2012 15:53

Carlos Cuellar's own-goal and a wonderful Aaron Lennon strike saw Tottenham Hotspur come from behind to beat Sunderland 2-1 on Saturday.

It was a thoroughly deserved win for Andre Villas-Boas' team and further enhanced their claims for a Champions League qualification spot as they defeated a largely mediocre Sunderland side at the Stadium of Light.

The hosts made one enforced change from their Boxing Day win over Manchester City, with John O'Shea replacing left-back Danny Rose, who was ineligible against his parent club, while Spurs made a change to their central defence, with Steven Caulker and Michael Dawson coming in for Jan Vertonghen and William Gallas.

The opening 20 minutes was a tight and cagey affair, with neither side able to stamp a footprint on the game, however, as the half wore on it was the visitors who began to dominate proceedings.

And after half an hour they came within inches of getting the opening goal as Jermain Defoe found space on the left side of the penalty area and curled a shot toward the far post.

His effort was not properly cleared by defender Carlos Cuellar and Emmanuel Adebayor pounced, only to see his shot cannon back off the crossbar from little more than four yards out.

The visitors kept up a sustained period of pressure, creating several half-chances, so when the first goal came, it did so very much against the run of play.

Sebastian Larsson whipped in a devilish free-kick from the left which found Steven Fletcher at the near post, who got the better of several Spurs defenders and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to flick the ball into the path of the unmarked O'Shea.

The former Manchester United man rolled the ball into the empty net to give his side a somewhat undeserved lead.

That was the last chance of the half, but just three minutes into the second Tottenham grabbed a well-deserved equaliser.

Kyle Walker took an in-swinging corner from the left which would have been met by the head of Gareth Bale, but before it reached the Welshman it deflected into the net off Cuellar after he collided with team-mate Craig Gardner.

And just two minutes later the comeback was complete, as Lennon scored an outstanding goal to put the visitors in front.

The England winger picked up the ball just outside the penalty area and nudged it into space before speeding around a static O'Shea to expertly finish past a helpless Simon Mignolet.

It was the outstanding moment of quality in the game, and gave Spurs the lead their play up until that point merited.

And 10 minutes later Tottenham had a great chance to put the game beyond doubt as Gareth Bale picked up the ball inside his own half and drove forward down the left before squaring for an unmarked Defoe.

The pacey forward was denied by a stunning save by Mignolet and Defoe will know he should have done better.

Sunderland were struggling to get themselves back into the game, and Mignolet was forced once again to keep his side in with a sniff when he denied Adebayor with 10 minutes left.

The final minutes failed to produce any outstanding chances, and Spurs held on to record their second consecutive away win.

Article

Villas-Boas calls for consistent Spurs

28 December 2012 18:22

Andre Villas-Boas knows Tottenham Hotspur have to keep winning in 2013 if they are to secure Champions League qualification.

Spurs are fourth on the English Premier League table, level on points with fifth-placed Everton and surprise contenders West Bromwich Albion, who are sixth.

Tottenham appeared to have third place wrapped up at this stage of last season, and were even touted as title contenders for a time under Harry Redknapp before falling away to finish fourth.

The race for the Champions League places appears even tighter in 2012/13, meaning Villas-Boas wants his players picking up points whenever possible, starting with Saturday's match away to Sunderland.

"At the moment everyone is packed together, which is very dangerous," he said.

"What we want to do is have a stronger second half to the season than last year.

"We have to continue our progress to hopefully open a gap between us and the rest of the teams that sit near the top.

"Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United will compete for the title between them.

"For the top four Everton are there, Liverpool will come back strongly definitely and there is always a surprise team.

"Last year it was Newcastle, this year it is West Brom. What you want is to finally settle into the top four, opening up some kind of gap if possible."

This week's hosts go into the game on a high after surprising champions Manchester City 1-0 at home on Wednesday.

And Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill feels winger Adam Johnson, who netted the only goal against former club City at the Stadium of Light, can be the key to launching his team further up the table.

"If we can get the ball out to Adam sometimes a wee bit more quickly than we do, then he can cause problems," he said.

"He had a wee bit of difficulty early on, but he is overcoming that and he's now starting to show in longer patches, anyway, the sort of form I think he is capable of."

Premier League table

# Team MP D P
1 38 +43 89
2 38 +32 78
3 38 +36 75
4 38 +35 73
5 38 +20 72
6 38 +15 63
7 38 +28 61
8 38 -4 49
9 38 -4 46
10 38 -8 46
11 38 -17 44
12 38 -10 43
13 38 -11 42
14 38 -11 41
15 38 -22 41
16 38 -23 41
17 38 -13 39
18 38 -26 36
19 38 -30 28
20 38 -30 25