Tottenham dominated a beleaguered Reading to comfortably win their Premier League encounter 3-1 at White Hart Lane.
The visitors took the lead in the fourth minute through a close-range finish from Pavel Pogrebnyak, but Spurs captain Michael Dawson swiftly levelled with a powerful header to prompt a relentless barrage of pressure from the hosts which eventually totalled 34 attempts on goal.
Spurs have now taken 19 points from a possible 24 in their last eight league games, and Emmanuel Adebayor’s second half header gave Andre Villas-Boas’s side the lead before substitute Clint Dempsey rounded off the win with a third against a Reading side seemingly devoid of confidence and belief.
Tottenham had to do without the in-form Gareth Bale after he missed out through suspension as Reading old boy Gylfi Sigurdsson earned a rare start, and Jan Vertonghen replaced Steven Caulker at the back; Reading boss Brian McDermott, meanwhile, named an unchanged side for the third successive game.
Struggling Reading came into the match having picked up four points from their last two league matches, and they were in front inside five minutes as Pogrebnyak pounced to head the ball home after Ian Harte had struck the crossbar with a devilish free kick. The imposing Russian forward, who had gone almost eight hours without a goal prior to Saturday’s winner against West Ham, left White Hart Lane stunned, but not for very long.
Spurs were quickly stung into action as Aaron Lennon picked out Adebayor at the back post, only for the forward to fluff the chance and miscue his effort wide from close range. Reading found themselves under the cosh, and it was a position they would get used to.
The home fans only had to wait until the 10th minute for their equaliser, as captain Dawson rose to head Spurs level from a precise Sigurdsson corner with the defender ghosting in front of two Reading players to meet the pinpoint delivery and restore parity.
Jermain Defoe came agonisingly close to netting his 15th goal of the season after he jinked inside two challenges and let fly with a fierce strike from the edge of the Reading box with Federici left flat footed and helpless as the ball drifted just wide of the far post. It would be one of numerous chances in a frustrating afternoon for the forward.
By now it was incessant pressure from the hosts as Reading were pinned back inside their own half, and Adam Federici was called into action once more on the stroke of half-time as Sandro drove a low shot which took a vicious deflection off Sigurdsson which almost wrong-footed the goalkeeper.
Tottenham were rewarded for their relentless attacking play within seven minutes of the restart as Adebayor put his side in front with a towering header at the back post from Lennon's sublime delivery from the right byline.
The Spurs players queued up for shots at Federici’s goal, and Lennon came close to getting on the scoresheet himself as he combined with Defoe and Adebayor before dragging a low shot just wide of the far post from inside the Reading box on the hour mark.
More inspired work from Lennon down the right, who gave Harte a torrid afternoon throughout, culminated in Defoe being afforded yet another effort on goal, but again the forward could not hit the target from close range as another chance went begging.
Despite all of Spurs’ possession and abundance of chances, Pogrebnyak squandered a glorious opportunity to level against the run of play in the 72nd minute with a close-range header after Hugo Lloris had parried his initial strike in what was Reading’s first real attack of the second half.
Suddenly the home fans became anxious as Dawson switched off as he looked to play the offside trap, and Jimmy Kebe should have scored as he dallied in front of goal with Kyle Walker able to slide in and concede a corner, before Alex Pearce inexplicably headed wide from inside the six-yard box just moments later.
But substitute Dempsey came on to net his fourth goal of the season 11 minutes from time to effectively end the contest after his speculative strike from range took a looping deflection off Mikele Leigertwood and lobbed the helpless Federici to give Spurs a previously elusive two-goal cushion.
The chances continued to come thick and fast for Tottenham right up until the final whistle without further goals being added as the home fans revelled in a comfortable win which moves their side above Chelsea into third place in the table, albeit having played two more matches. Reading remain rooted in 19th spot.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Aaron Lennon – Tottenham: The pacy winger caused havoc throughout and gave Reading left-back Ian Harte an afternoon to forget as he stepped up in the absence of Gareth Bale to provide an ever-dangerous outlet for his side.
TOTTENHAM: Lloris 6, Walker 7, Dawson 7, Vertonghen 6, Naughton 7, Sandro 6, Dembele 7, Lennon 8, Sigurdsson 8; Adebayor 7, Defoe 6. Subs: Dempsey 7, Parker 6, Livermore 6.
READING: Federici 7; Gunter 6, Harte 5, Mariappa 6, Pearce 7; Karacan 6, Leigertwood 7, Kebe 6, McAnuff 6; Guthrie 5, Pogrebnyak 6. Subs: Le Fondre 6, Hunt 6, Robson-Kanu 6.
- Sports & Recreation
- Aaron Lennon
- Pavel Pogrebnyak
- Emmanuel Adebayor
- Ian Harte
- Michael Dawson