To the delight of their supporters, West Ham have enjoyed the upper hand over Tottenham this season.
Never mind the Olympic Stadium decision, there was the Premier League victory at Upton Park in September and now this, a point that felt so much more precious to them. West Ham did not look like a team that will be relegated in May. Their defenders put body and soul on the line and they frequently thwarted Spurs, for whom Jermain Defoe endured one of those days.
The striker has 99 goals to his name for Tottenham and he wore a T-shirt underneath his match-day jersey emblazoned with the slogan "100 goals". The marking was so bold that it could be made out. The plan was obvious but Defoe did not get the chance to celebrate against his old club, whose fans continue to revile him. By full-time, he had also emerged as the home crowd's fall guy.
Defoe's emotions had been charged by the death of his grandfather on Friday. He had barely slept the night before the game but he told Harry Redknapp that he was able to start. West Ham had lady luck in their corner. Three times the woodwork came to their rescue, most dramatically in the 85th minute, when Robert Green tipped Gareth Bale's free-kick on to the crossbar. Green has made a habit of excelling against Tottenham.
The home team's frustration ran deeply and Redknapp did not need Rafael van der Vaart to march straight off down the tunnel when he substituted him on 72 minutes. The Dutchman, who had looked off-colour, had done the same thing against Milan in the Champions League in Tottenham's previous fixture. "I don't like that," Redknapp said. "I talked to him about that [after Milan] and I will speak to him about it again."
This was Tottenham's opportunity to apply the pressure on Manchester City and Chelsea in the fight to qualify for next season's Champions League. They created the chances to have taken the points and Redknapp professed himself satisfied with his players' efforts. "We just didn't get the break that we deserved," he said.
Redknapp, though, was riled at talk of a missed opportunity in relation to a top-four finish. "Yeah, Tottenham always used to finish above Man United, Chelsea and Liverpool … they get in every year," he said, sarcastically. "If we finish fifth and reach the Champions League quarter-finals … what can you do? I will not lose any sleep over it. Are we really supposed to finish about Man City, after the money they have spent? And Chelsea, Arsenal, Man United? I think I can win the title with Tottenham but I can't put a timeframe on it."
Spurs started brightly and Michael Dawson curled a wonderful effort against the crossbar before Defoe touched just wide from Bale's cross. The outstanding Luka Modric also went close with two first-half shots.
West Ham, though, grew in confidence and created the clearest opportunity of the first half, when Carlton Cole failed to beat Heurelho Gomes when sent clean through by Demba Ba. Tottenham had another near miss before half-time when Aaron Lennon cut inside and hit the far post. Defoe, in front of goal, could not react quickly enough to the rebound.
The chances continued. Defoe was denied at point-blank range by Green's feet while Cole, Mark Noble and Ba went close for West Ham, the latter forcing a full-length save from Gomes. Defoe missed for a fourth time and, when Green somehow kept out Bale's free-kick, Spurs knew it was not to be their day.
THE FANS' PLAYER RATINGS AND VERDICT
MICHAEL LACQUIERE, AllActionNoPlot.com A very frustrating game. We had more than 20 shots on goal so you could argue we were unlucky, but we said this after the Blackpool game a few weeks ago and it is becoming a bit of a worry. We keep creating chances but not putting them away. Jermain Defoe could have had a hat-trick. West Ham got a lot of men behind the ball and we struggled with just one up front, but we still played some intelligent and creative stuff and should have won. On another day it would have been a comfortable win, but Gareth Bale's free-kick at the end that came off the bar summed up our day.
The fan's player ratings Gomes 6; Corluka 6 (Hutton 77 n/a), Gallas 7, Dawson 7, Assou-Ekotto 7; Lennon 7, Sandro 8, Modric 8, Bale 7; Van der Vaart 6 (Pavlyuchenko 71 6); Defoe 5
HAMISH MACKAY, Over Land and Sea That was a very encouraging performance. As you'd expect, Spurs had a lot of the play, but we defended really well – Jacobsen and Bridge did well against Bale and Lennon – and Rob Green made some great saves, including a fantastic tip on to the bar from Bale that earned us the point. We created chances as well, Cole should have done better, and I thought we might nick it at the end. We're putting a decent run together, it's essential that we win our home games and I fancy our chances against Manchester United next Saturday. If we carry on playing like that we'll be fine.
The fan's player ratings Green 9; Jacobsen 7, Da Costa 7, Upson 8, Bridge 7; Parker 8; O'Neil 7, Noble 6, Hitzlsperger 6, Ba 7; Cole 6 (Obinna 78 5)
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