Tottenham Hotspur’s long unbeaten run in the Premier League ended in a pulsating 2-1 loss at Stoke City and Martin O’Neill’s reign as Sunderland manager began with a last-gasp win on Sunday.
Seb Larsson’s stoppage-time free-kick gave Sunderland a 2-1 victory over Blackburn Rovers and Stoke winger Matthew Etherington scored twice to sink 10-man Spurs at the Britannia Stadium in a match full of controversy.
Third-placed Spurs, who had won six successive league games and not lost one since August, fell behind in the 13th minute when Potters striker Peter Crouch set up fellow former Tottenham player Etherington for a powerful finish.
Crouch appeared to handle the ball in the buildup, but Spurs had nothing to complain about when Jon Walters flicked on Ryan Shotton’s long throw and Etherington scooped in at the far post two minutes before the break.
The visitors struck back in the 62nd minute when Stoke midfielder Glenn Whelan tripped Luka Modric in the area and Emmanuel Adebayor converted the penalty, sending goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen the wrong way.
The lively Modric could have leveled with a long-range shot that Sorensen tipped behind and Adebayor put the ball in the net in the 75th minute, but it was ruled offside when television replays showed he had not been.
Just before that, Younes Kaboul’s goal-bound shot was blocked on the line by Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross’ arm. Kaboul was booked for his protests and eight minutes from time he was sent off for a second yellow following a foul on Walters.
Spurs manager Harry Redknapp was not happy with referee Chris Foy.
“A couple of the decisions today were amazing,” Redknapp told Sky Sports. “I just watched the video replays — Adebayor was a yard and a half, maybe two yards, onside. They’ve handled the ball on the line, it’s blatant hand ball. Younes Kaboul got a yellow card for saying to the referee: ‘Referee, he hand-balled it’. I wouldn’t want to comment about what I thought about the referee’s performance today. I never come on TV and complain about referees ... but it was disappointing today.”
The result kept Tottenham in third place, seven points behind leaders Manchester City. Stoke moved up to eighth.
The rousing reception given to new manager O’Neill at the Stadium of Light was temporarily forgotten when Blackburn went in front in the 17th minute with a Simon Vukcevic header.
The hosts, who dominated possession against their defensive visitors, were denied by superb saves from Blackburn goalkeeper Paul Robinson, before David Vaughan’s 84th-minute equalizer from 25m out started the late turnaround.
Two minutes into stoppage-time, Sunderland were awarded a free-kick 20m out and Larsson stepped up to curl in a stunning effort that sent the home fans into noisy celebrations as O’Neill jumped up and down on the touchline.
“We have got some points on the board, which is vital for our confidence and vital for the crowd,” O’Neill told Sky Sports. “For periods I suppose, it was a microcosm of our season. I think the players have played well enough in games, but not been able to score a goal, conceded maybe a poorish goal and then succumbed. I thought they were terrific today, I thought they played brilliantly, they kept at it as well which is important.”
The win lifted Sunderland out of the relegation zone and up to 16th place. Blackburn remain in trouble, second from bottom, two points behind Wigan Athletic and one point above Bolton Wanderers.