Tottenham Hotspur rekindled their push for Champions League qualification by overcoming Swansea City 1-0 on Sunday to return to the Premier League’s top four.
Jan Vertonghen claimed the game’s only goal with 15 minutes remaining at White Hart Lane, crisply dispatching a free-kick from Kyle Walker to register his first goal in the English top flight.
Walker had come closest to breaking the deadlock in the first half, only for his rasping 23m drive to be parried by visiting goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel.
Tremmel also denied Jermain Defoe in the closing stages, while injury time saw England midfielder Scott Parker make his first Spurs appearance of the season after a spell on the sidelines with an Achille’s heel problem.
Spurs had slipped out of the top four after shipping two late goals in a 2-1 loss at Everton last weekend and Vertonghen said he was relieved that his side had held firm in the closing stages on this occasion.
“[The goal] was at the perfect time,” the Belgian center-back told Sky Sports. “Swansea play good football, but I think we made lots of chances today. We were strong to the end because we know what’s happened in six or seven other games.”
There were worrying scenes for Swansea in stoppage time when top-scorer Michu was pole-axed in a collision with Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
The Spaniard was able to return to the fray, but visiting manager Michael Laudrup criticized referee Mike Dean for not bringing play to a halt.
“I was very angry and it wasn’t because I wanted a free-kick or a red card for Lloris, or a penalty, or whatever, but there is a debate — should we kick the ball out?” he said. “I watched it afterward on the television and when it happened, when Michu is going down to the ground, the referee is watching them, the linesman is watching them and still they let the game go on. It is such a poor decision and dangerous as well.”
West Bromwich Albion remain in sixth place, two points below Spurs, after a 0-0 draw at home to West Ham United extended the Baggies’ run of matches without victory to four.
West Brom midfielder James Morrison twice hit the woodwork in the second period for the hosts, while Winston Reid, Gary O’Neil and Joey O’Brien all narrowly failed to find the target for the visitors.
“We created half-chances, but they didn’t fall for us,” Morrison told Sky Sports. “West Ham deserve some credit as they frustrated us and we struggled to break them down.”
Injuries meant that West Ham manager Sam Allardyce was only able to name six substitutes at The Hawthorns and the draw prevented his side from climbing into the top half of the table.
Leaders Manchester United preserved their six-point lead at the top on Saturday, seeing off Sunderland 3-1 at Old Trafford after second-place Manchester City had won by the same scoreline at Newcastle United.
Yesterday’s match was to pit Arsenal against Reading, in a repeat of the League Cup encounter between the sides that finished 7-5 to the London club in October.
Victory for the visitors would take Arsene Wenger’s side up to fifth.