Tottenham produced a second-half turnaround to beat Sunderland 2-1 on Saturday and climb provisionally into third place in the Premier League.
England winger Aaron Lennon scored a fine solo strike for Spurs’ winner in the 52nd minute, soon after they had grabbed an equaliser when Carlos Cuellar headed a corner into his own net at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland, buoyant after beating Manchester City 1-0 on Wednesday, took the lead against the run of play in the 40th through John O’Shea’s close-range strike but the hosts were outplayed throughout.
Spurs’ sixth win in their last eight league matches lifted them a point above Chelsea into third place, although their London rivals have two games in hand – the first coming against Everton on Sunday.
Tottenham should never have been behind in the first place, after dominating a one-sided first half but failing to find a cutting edge.
“It doesn’t bother me, people keep saying I’m diving but it doesn’t bother me whatsoever”
Spurs winger Gareth Bale
After Gareth Bale and Jermain Defoe wasted good early chances, Emmanuel Adebayor somehow managed to hit the bar from just two yards out on the half-hour mark after Defoe’s shot was deflected into his path.
That explained Andre Villas-Boas’ disgust when O’Shea, without a league goal in more than three years – when he played for Manchester United – sidefooted into an empty net from close range after Steven Fletcher’s shot was parried by goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
It was a rare opening for Sunderland, which was on the back foot throughout as the team looked to build on their win over City that pulled them clear of the relegation zone.
However, the hosts couldn’t hold on and Spurs equalised when Kyle Walker’s left-wing corner was headed into his own net by Cuellar in the 48th as he leapt for the ball with one of his teammates.
And four minutes later, Tottenham was celebrating again following a superb piece of individual skill by Lennon.
His attempted one-two with Sandro failed to come off but he pounced on a loose ball, rounded O’Shea and curled his shot in at the near post.
Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet made a fine save from Defoe, who should have scored from inside the six-yard box, and then from Adebayor when the Togolese striker went through one-on-one.
The only negative for Spurs came when Bale was booked for diving in the area with 10 minutes left – it was his fifth booking of the season and he will miss Tuesday’s home match against Reading.
“I’ve been clipped and booked for no reason again,” Bale said.
“There’s nothing I can do, the referees need to look a bit closer. People think I’m diving when there’s contact.
“I have to put my hands down to protect myself. If people kick me, I’m going to go down. It doesn’t bother me, people keep saying I’m diving but it doesn’t bother me whatsoever.”