SUCH is the congested nature of this year’s Premier League, Harry Redknapp’s heavy-hearted assertion that Tottenham remain deeply embroiled in the relegation squabble cannot be dismissed as mere kidology.
Spurs, for the record, are 11th in the table and nine points clear of the bottom three. But Redknapp, who has inspired a remarkable transformation at White Hart Lane since his appointment in October, remains painfully aware that in this harum-scarum season, good work can swiftly unravel.
“We are not safe yet,” Redknapp said. “Thirty eight points is not safe. It is still all to play for. When I arrived staying in the Premier League was the only thing that mattered. We have to make sure we do that first and foremost.
“The general performance was terrific, so to come away with nothing is unbelievable.”
Redknapp’s chagrin was understandable. His side were in complete control here thanks to Robbie Keane’s controversial first-half penalty until the last nine minutes, when goals from Benni McCarthy and sub Andre Ooijer gave Blackburn a vital victory.
The turning point was the decision of referee Peter Walton to dismiss Wilson Palacios in the 79th minute, a moment Redknapp described as “farcical”.
Palacios was sent off after two challenges on substitute David Dunn in quick succession.
“He never touched him for the second one,” Redknapp fumed. “I think Dunny was embarrassed as he shook his hand and apologised.”
It was, nonetheless, a superb comeback by Blackburn, achieved despite Jason Roberts suffering a foot injury and Morten Gamst Pedersen also pulling up with a calf problem.
Samba made a nuisance of himself and set up the equaliser in the 81st minute for McCarthy, who scored his 11th goal of the season.
Blackburn maintained the momentum and Ooijer sealed the points three minutes from time when goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes failed to deal with a corner from El-Hadji Diouf. Diouf milked the moment and Gomes reacted angrily with team-mates forced to separate the feuding duo.
BLACKBURN (4-4-2): Robinson 7, Andrews 6, Samba 8, Nelsen 6, Givet 6, Diouf 7, Mokoena 5 (Tugay 63, 5), Warnock 6, Pedersen 4 (Dunn 26, 7), Roberts 5 (Ooijer 46, 6), McCarthy 5.
Subs Not Used: Brown, Villanueva, Treacy, Olsson.
TOTTENHAM (4-4-2): Gomes 5, Corluka 6, Woodgate 5, King 6, Assou-Ekotto 5, Lennon 6 (Zokora 83, 5), Jenas 6, Palacios 6, Modric 6, Bent 6, Keane 8.
Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Bentley, Dawson, Huddlestone, Pavlyuchenko, Chimbonda.
REFEREE: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire) 3: A catalogue of errors brought rebukes from both managers.
MATCH RATING: *** Easy enough for Spurs until Palacios’ dismissal.
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