Goals from Christian Eriksen and Jermain Defoe secured a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace at White Hart Lane on Saturday, giving us a battling victory in our 200th London derby in the Premier League.
The visitors missed a first half penalty and enjoyed the better of the opening period, before Eriksen broke the deadlock five minutes after the interval and Defoe came off the bench to score a second in the 73rd minute, as we made it five Premier League matches without defeat, winning four of them.
Tim Sherwood kept the same starting XI that began last week’s defeat to Arsenal, while Defoe returned from injury and was named on the bench the day after we announced his move to Toronto FC at the end of February.
Palace started the game in the relegation zone but they certainly began the brighter of the two sides and created their first opportunity inside two minutes, Cameron Jerome rolling a weak shot wide of the post from Yannick Bolasie’s pass.
Three minutes later 19-year-old Nabil Bentaleb tried his luck from 22-yards after some neat possession around the edge of the Palace penalty area, goalkeeper Julian Speroni saved low down and although he spilled the ball, he was able to gather at the second attempt as Roberto Soldado raced in to snaffle the rebound.
And after just eight minutes, Palace were handed the perfect chance to open the scoring from the penalty spot. Damien Delaney threaded a pass into Marouane Chamakh, he broke into the area and went down under Mousa Dembele’s challenge from behind. Referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot and up stepped Jason Puncheon, but he blazed his kick well over the bar and it remained goalless.
Palace were enjoying the better of the half and also keeping us frustrated when they didn’t have possession, bringing everyone bar Jerome back behind the ball and we were finding it hard to break them down.
Chamakh headed over from a corner, Jonathan Parr saw his shot deflect off Michael Dawson for a corner which came to nothing and Jerome hit a fine 25-yard half volley after Chamakh’s flick on which needed a smart save from Hugo Lloris as the visitors pushed forward at every opportunity.
We had another sight of goal on 31 minutes when Soldado flicked the ball to Lennon inside the box down the right, he took on Parr, cut back on to his left foot and curled a cross which just failed to reach Emmanuel Adebayor lunging in at the far post.
Back came Palace and after Puncheon’s shot deflected off Vlad Chiriches for a corner, the Palace player’s set piece was nodded on by Danny Gabbidon, Chamakh fired goalwards from eight yards but it hit his own player Bolasie and the ball was cleared from the danger zone.
Our best chance of the half came 11 minutes before the interval from the boot of Bentaleb. Dembele laid the ball off to the French midfielder, who hit a curling shot which beat Speroni but hit the inside of the post, bounced down across the face of the goal and away for a goalkick.
Having seen the visitors open the first half with an early chance, it was us who went close just two minutes into the second period. Adebayor knocked a pass into Soldado, who laid it off to Eriksen inside the area. The Dane shrugged off Mile Jedinak, went past Parr as he was shepherded across goal but his right-foot shot clipped Delaney and went out for a corner.
But a couple of minutes later Eriksen found the target as we grabbed the opening goal. With 50 minutes on the clock, substitute Kyle Naughton’s long pass was headed on by Adebayor into the path of the Danish international, who lashed a left-foot shot past Speroni and into the top corner.
The goal gave us just the boost we needed and, after Jerome had hit a shot into the side-netting for Palace, we almost added a second. This time it was Defoe, on as a replacement for Soldado, who collected Eriksen’s pass inside the box, left of centre, but his shot went just past the far post.
However, just as Eriksen netted after spurning a chance, so did Defoe! Dembele won possession 25 yards from goal, Lennon picked up the ball and injected pace into the attack, before sliding a pass into the England striker. Defoe did what he does best inside the box, shrugged off the challenge of Parr and drilled his shot past Speroni to make it 2-0. That was his 143rd goal in our colours.
Palace’s attacking impetus from the first half had certainly subsided after the break, with Lloris rarely troubled, although Jedinak headed just wide late on before substitute Adlene Guedioura hit a 30-yard rocket just inches past the post in stoppage time.
The final word went to the visitors, as Chamakh headed goalwards from Guedioura’s corner but Lloris tipped it over the bar, and the final whistle blew seconds later to ensure three hard-fought points.
Venue: White Hart Lane, London
Referee: Mr M Oliver