Tottenham 0 Newcastle 1
Goalkeeper Tim Krul produced a performance he describes as the “highlight of my career” to help his side secure a victory at White Hart Lane that not only revitalises Newcastle’s season but leaves Tottenham’s claim to be a title contender in serious doubt.
Dutchman Krul made 14 saves in all — the most by a goalkeeper in a Premier League match since 2007 — to secure a victory, secured by a first-half goal from Loic Remy, that leaves Newcastle, who also beat Chelsea last weekend, on the up and Spurs struggling to keep up with their rivals.
“It was difficult to take,” said Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas, whose team were outplayed in the first half but who fought back dramatically after the break. “Our first half was very, very poor so that’s the negative. That first 45 minutes was probably the blow to us.
“But the positive is we reacted so strongly and if we had scored one of those chances, I believe we would have won. So I think the result is unfair, bearing in mind what we created. Tim Krul was the key to the game; he made the difference. He was amazing. So I think we were extremely unlucky.”
That a goalkeeper should prove the key performer is slightly ironic for Tottenham given they were unable to select their own first-choice keeper — Hugo Lloris — after the club’s medical department made a last-ditch request for him not to be selected.
When you consider their next two Premier League games are away to Manchester City on November 24 and home to Manchester United on December 1, then it sets up a very painful but entirely plausible prospect that Spurs could arrive at Christmas with any hope of a first championship since 1961 already out of the equation.
Villas-Boas’ tactics must take part of the blame for that situation because there was almost unanimous agreement in football that he had spent well over the summer and that Tottenham would this season be serious contenders.
The reason they are not matching that expectation, so far at least, is a lack of attacking potency in a system that places Roberto Soldado as the only man up front — a role he looks uncomfortable with and which has left Spurs fans increasingly frustrated.
Soldado muddled his way through this game on his own too, even though Jermain Defoe — the crowd favourite — became Tottenham’s all-time top European scorer when he started and scored against FC Sheriff in the Europa League in midweek.
They ended it with another blank, making it only five goals in six league games at White Hart Lane this season; so no wonder the natives are restless.
Newcastle were the better and more committed team in the first half, pressing high up the pitch to frustrate Spurs; and they went ahead when Gouffran pick-pocketed Paulinho in midfield and then produced a perfect through-ball for the excellent Loic Remy to finish smartly.
But even during this period Krul made possibly his best save of the match — a flying stop to keep out a clever back-header from Soldado — and his performance became a heroic one after the break as Villas-Boas brought on Kaboul and Sandro and Tottenham dominated for long periods.
Three more saves from Paulinho, a stunning triple-save, a spectacular stop from a Sigurdsson free-kick, an incredible block from a Townsend shot — the list seemed almost endless. And even when Krul was beaten, the ball cannoned back off the crossbar from a Vertonghen header.
Krul said: “To celebrate at the end with the defence was amazing. I’m delighted, I’m over the moon.
“I made so many saves and I would say the first one was the best from the Soldado header; the sun was really low and it was difficult to see. And then it kicked on from there. I’ve never had a game like it; it doesn’t happen very often. This is the highlight of my career.”
SPURS: Friedel 6, Walker 6, Dawson 6, Chiriches 5 (Kaboul 46; 7), Vertonghen 7, Paulinho 6, Dembele 5 (Sandro 46; 6), Townsend 6, Eriksen 6, Sigurdsson 5 (Defoe 69; 6), Soldado 6.
NEWCASTLE: Krul 10, Debuchy 8, Williamson 7, Yanga-Mbiwa 7, Santon 6, Tiote 6, Cabaye 9, Remy 8 (Cisse 74), Sissoko 8, Gouffran 8 (Obertan 85), Shola Ameobi 7 (Anita 60).
Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside).
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