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Football: Rebuilding Spurs leave Sunderland marooned

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Tottenham Hotspur pursued their Premier League revival by coming from behind to win 2-1 away to bottom club Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

A 50th-minute own goal from Sunderland captain John O'Shea settled the game, after Adam Johnson's first-half opener was swiftly cancelled out by Spurs' Brazil midfielder Paulinho.

Spurs went four games without a win last month, including a sobering 6-0 thrashing at Manchester City, but having also come from behind to win 2-1 at Fulham in mid-week, they are now moving in the right direction.

Saturday's victory left Andre Villas-Boas's side in sixth place in the table, two points below the Champions League places, after both Chelsea and Manchester City dropped points earlier in the day.

Sunderland, meanwhile, remain five points from safety at the foot of the table, having now gone four games without tasting victory since a 1-0 win at home to City on November 10.

Villas-Boas persevered with Jermain Defoe up front, leaving close-season signing Roberto Soldado to kick his heels on the bench, while Kyle Naughton, Nacer Chadli, Mousa Dembele and Lewis Holtby came into the team.

Sunderland manager Gustavo Poyet also made four changes to the side beaten 4-3 by Chelsea on Wednesday, with Johnson, Ondrej Celustka, Sebastian Larsson and Steven Fletcher brought into his starting XI.

The early skirmishes saw Fletcher drill wide from a Jozy Altidore flick, before Holtby worked Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone at the other end with a well-struck drive that may have been drifting just wide.

Sunderland made the breakthrough in the 37th minute, with Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris at fault.

In attempting to punch clear a right-wing cross from Celustka, the France goalkeeper administered only a weak glancing blow, and Johnson was on hand to lash the loose ball into the exposed goal.

Fortunately for Lloris, it took Spurs only six minutes to equalise, with Paulinho stabbing home from close range after a deep free-kick was nodded down at the back post by Chadli.

Celustka then tested Lloris's alertness with a rasping drive, while Chadli saw a header land on the roof of the net in first-half injury time.

It had been an evenly contested encounter up to that point, but O'Shea's unfortunate own goal five minutes into the second half tipped the balance of the game in the visitors' favour.

Dembele did brilliantly to burst past Jack Colback on the Spurs left and his low centre took an unpredictable deflection off O'Shea and flashed past Mannone at his near post.

Tottenham pushed forward in search of a killer blow, but Defoe twice hit the post and also rolled the ball narrowly wide with only Mannone to beat.

Sunderland felt they should have been awarded a penalty when a corner appeared to strike Spurs substitute Sandro on the arm, but referee Lee Mason was unmoved.

Fabio Borini could only shoot straight at Lloris when a late chance fell to him in the box, but the margin of defeat would have been even greater had Mannone not tipped over an injury-time strike from Andros Townsend.

thw/dj

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131207/football-rebuilding-spurs-leave-sunderland-marooned