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By Ben Pearce, Tottenham correspondent, at White Hart Lane
Sunday, September 23, 2012
Premier League: Tottenham 2 QPR 1
Tottenham came from behind to strike twice in 95 seconds against QPR as Andre Villas-Boas earned his first home win of the season.
Having been held to three successive draws at White Hart Lane by West Brom, Norwich and Lazio, Spurs looked to be in trouble again today as they trailed 1-0 at half-time against an impressive QPR outfit, following Bobby Zamora’s opener against his former club.
However, an Alejandro Faurlin own goal levelled the scores on the hour-mark - and Jermain Defoe struck less than two minutes later to secure the Lilywhites’ second successive victory in the Premier League.
Meanwhile, winless QPR were left to reflect on their third defeat from their opening five top-flight fixtures – and they remain without a victory on the road in the league since a 3-2 triumph at Stoke last November.
With both Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Kyle Naughton out injured, Villas-Boas opted to play Gareth Bale at left-back and hand Clint Dempsey his first Premier League start for Spurs on the left of midfield.
Brad Friedel replaced Hugo Lloris between the sticks following the Frenchman’s debut against Lazio on Thursday night, and William Gallas and Gylfi Sigurdsson were also recalled to the side.
For the visitors, Anton Ferdinand’s absence from the QPR squad meant that Ryan Nelsen kept his place and lined up against his former side, while another ex-Spurs man Adel Taarabt missed out with a hamstring injury.
Spurs started brightly, with Aaron Lennon haring past Jose Bosingwa and crossing for Defoe, whose volley was blocked. Gyfli Sigurdsson was first to the loose ball and went down appealing for a penalty, but referee Phil Dowd dismissed the claim.
That early sprint proved too much for Bosingwa, who limped off with a hamstring injury in the second minute. He was replaced by Kieron Dyer, who came on to play at right-back, with Nedum Onuoha switching to left-back.
However, Rangers recovered from that early setback and forced Friedel into two fine saves in the opening quarter of an hour.
Clint Hill rose to meet a corner kick and saw a powerful header tipped over the bar, and Junior Hoilett then chested the ball over Kyle Walker and unleashed a superb volley which was brilliantly palmed away by the diving Friedel.
Spurs were dominating possession but were struggling to find a way through a hard-working Rangers midfield and penetrate the visiting defence, while Rangers continued to threaten on the break and from set pieces, with Nelsen heading over from another corner.
Tottenham briefly dissected the Rs’ rearguard as Sandro freed Defoe, who gifted Dempsey a simple finish into an open net – but the goal was disallowed for offside.
It was the second time in four days that the American had seen a goal ruled out at the Lane – and QPR promptly went up the other end and took the lead as Faurlin slid the ball through to Zamora, who finished past Friedel.
It was a deserved lead, and Mark Hughes’ side found another level after their opener, taking full control of the game and forcing Friedel into action again as the dangerous Hoilett jinked through the midfield and let loose from 30 yards.
Spurs, on the other hand, were reduced to something of a shambles, struggling to string any passes together. Lennon and Walker had a disagreement about their problems on the right flank, while Dempsey misplaced a simple pass to Dembele and jesticulated angrily at the Belgian.
Tottenham had failed to bring a single save out of Julio Cesar in the first half, and the home fans unleashed a chorus of boos as Dowd blew his whistle to end the first period.
Villas-Boas responded by withdrawing Sigurdsson at the interval and introducing Steven Caulker at centre-back. Jan Vertonghen switched to left-back, with Bale moving up to the left wing and Dempsey taking up the No10 role behind Defoe.
The initial response was positive as Dempsey forced Cesar into his first stop with a swerving, 30-yard strike, and Caulker also saw a header parried away by the Brazilian keeper.
Rangers seemed to have regained control of the match before the hour-mark, finding their rhythm again, while Tottenham seemed to be struggling for inspiration - but the hosts turned the game on its head with two quickfire goals.
Lennon broke away from his own half and hared down the right flank to win a corner, and when the ensuing ball came in Caulker saw his looping header flicked into the net by the unfortunate Faurlin.
Moments later Vertonghen raced upfield and freed Bale, whose low drive struck Cesar and flew up onto the bar – and Defoe was on hand to record his sixth goalin nine games for club and country.
Spurs pushed for a killer third strike, and Dempsey tried his luck from distance again before Vertonghen and Bale combined down the left again, with Bale delivering across the goalmouth, narrowly in front of the lurking Defoe.
There was still all to play for though, and Spurs needed a stunning sliding challenge from Vertonghen to deny Hoilett a shot at goal from the middle of the penalty box.
At the other end Lennon crossed for Dempsey, whose header lobbed over Cesar, and Defoe had two attempts to force the ball over the line but was unable to double his tally.
Lennon then found Bale on the edge of the box, and the Welshman darted outside Onuoha but saw his effort saved by Cesar at the near post.
Having conceded decisive late goals against Newcastle, West Brom and Norwich, there was obvious tension in the Tottenham ranks as the minutes ticked away.
Villas-Boas was on his feet throughout the final stages, standing soaking wet in his suit, and his assistants cut equally agitated and animated figures in the dug-out.
There were four added minutes of torture to endure – and Spurs nearly grabbed a third goal as substitute Andros Townsend broke away and freed Defoe, who brought a superb save from Cesar.
That was the final action of the game, and the full-time whistle brought a delirious celebration from Villas-Boas as Spurs moved up to eighth place in the table, while QPR remain in the bottom three with two points from five games.
Tottenham: Friedel, Walker, Vertonghen, Gallas, Bale, Sandro, Dembele, Lennon (Townsend 90), Sigurdsson (Caulker 45), Dempsey (Huddlestone 87), Defoe
QPR: Cesar, Onuoha, Hill, Nelsen, Bosingwa (Dyer 2), Faurlin, Park, Granero, Wright-Phillips, Hoilett, Zamora (Cisse 73).
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