Darren Bent endured an unhappy return to White Hart Lane as Tottenham’s 2-0 win over Sunderland lifted Harry Redknapp’s side above Manchester City and into the top four of the Premier League.
Goals from Robbie Keane and Tom Huddlestone gave Spurs the points but the defining moment of the match came when Bent had his second-half penalty saved by Heurelho Gomes, who might have been sent off for the foul on the England striker which led to the spot-kick.
Sunderland had looked the better side for long periods after falling behind to Keane’s controversial 12th-minute strike.
Keane looked suspiciously offside as he connected with Peter Crouch’s knockdown from Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s cross, but the flag stayed down and the Ireland striker was able to tap the ball in after Craig Gordon failed to hold his first, volleyed strike.
By that stage, Sunderland had already squandered one good half-chance — Jordan Henderson steering an inviting cross from Bent wide of the target — and Steve Bruce’s side went on to dominate the rest of the first half.
Kieran Richardson and Phil Bardsley both struck efforts wide of the target before Sunderland had a good penalty shout waved away after Gomes sent Bent sprawling after a dive at the feet of the striker.
Gomes was then beaten by a long-range striker from another former Spurs player, Andy Reid, but the Irish midfielder’s effort came back off the post.
Gomes was called into action again just before the interval when Vedran Corluka’s misjudged backpass left Richardson with only the goalkeeper to beat. The Brazilian won the one-on-one duel, saving Richardson’s shot with his legs.
Despite leading, the Spurs players were booed off by their own supporters at the break and Sunderland fully deserved their chance to equalise seven minutes after the break.
Gomes was the last man when his dive sent Bent to the turf but referee Kevin Friend must have felt that the goalscoring opportunity was not clear cut and only gave the Spurs keeper a yellow card.
With England coach Fabio Capello watching from the stands, Bent struck an unconvincing penalty and Gomes was able to save.
The Brazilian then made two more important saves to frustrate Steed Malbranque before Huddlestone had a powerful drive cleared off the line by Paulo da Silva.
Gordon suffered an injury in the build-up to that incident and had be replaced by Marton Fulop, whose first action involved picking the ball out of the net after a stunning strike from Huddlestone.
Niko Kranjcar’s through ball was held up by Defoe and the England foward’s lay-off to the edge of the area was hammered home off the underside of the bar.
Sunderland continued to battle and only a superb save from Gomes prevented Michael Turner from claiming a goal that would have set up a tense finale.
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