Christian Eriksen starred as Tottenham Hotspur came from behind to win 5-1 at home to Sunderland on Monday night at White Hart Lane and maintain their hopes for a top-four Premier League finish.
Tottenham dominated the early exchanges but went behind to a shock goal from Lee Cattermole following a defensive miscue by Vlad Chiriches in the 17th minute.
The hosts leveled 11 minutes later through Emmanuel Adebayor and went ahead via Harry Kane in the 59th minute.
Eriksen, who assisted his side's first two goals, scored Tottenham's third himself in the 78th minute, eight minutes before Adebayor bagged his second and Spurs' fourth with a tap-in. Substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson finished the scoring in stoppage time.
The win moved Spurs into sixth place on 59 points with five matches remaining in the season. Manager Tim Sherwood's side are within five points of slumping Arsenal, who currently occupy the Premier League's final UEFA Champions League spot.
But while Tottenham still have ground to make up, they face a favourable fixture list in the run-in, with only one remaining opponent—Stoke City—currently in the top half of the table.
In addition to the Champions League, Tottenham's players could be fighting to save Sherwood's job. According to multiple reports, including Sky Sports, Sherwood could be sacked at the end of the season.
In his pre-match remarks, Sherwood had insisted that it was "business as usual" at the club:
We've worked all week on how we're going to play and it shouldn't affect the players either. We're all professional and we need to get on with the job.
We have still got points to fight for here, six cup finals in my eyes and I'm sure the players see it the same way. If we can get some positive results who knows where it might take us?
Sunderland, meanwhile, are in last place with 25 points, though the Black Cats still have two games in hand on most of their relegation rivals. To avoid the drop, Gus Poyet's side will need a strong return of points in a tough fixture list that still includes trips to Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United.
But despite the daunting run-in, Poyet has said Sunderland still have a chance to maintain their Premier League status. Per the Independent, he said:
It is possible. Clubs in the past played five or six games at the end of the season against teams playing for nothing and won four or five.
People say it’s a miracle, but it depends what the teams put on the pitch and what you do. It can happen.
Against Sunderland, Tottenham attacked from the start and had a half chance in the sixth minute, when Eriksen's cross from the right deflected toward goal. But Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone alertly tipped the ball over the bar for a corner, which came to nothing.
Sunderland created a moment of danger from a set piece at the other end in the 14th minute. Adam Johnson curled in the free-kick from the right and Wes Brown met the ball at the back post with a header across the face of goal. Spurs' goal was unguarded at the opposite post, but the lurking Phil Bardsley was unable to get on the end of Brown's header.
Alarm bells were ringing for Tottenham, and Sunderland made their hosts pay four minutes later.
There seemed to be little danger when Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris controlled a throw-in near his own box. But after receiving Lloris' pass, Chiriches gave the ball away to Cattermole with a sloppy ball into the middle. From there, Cattermole steered in a finely curled finish as Lloris tried in vain to rush back to his goal.
Trailing 1-0, Spurs nearly pulled level within moments. The chance fell to Kane, who collected the ball along the edge of the six-yard box, but the 20-year-old shot straight at Mannone. Tottenham came close again in the 22nd minute, when Kyle Naughton curled a shot just wide of the post from the edge of the box.
Kane had another half chance two minutes later after collecting Eriksen's angled pass in space inside the box. This time, Kane's first touch was too heavy and his shot was blocked. Spurs worked the rebound to Adebayor, who lifted his shot just over the bar.
After maintaining a steady stream of attacks following Sunderland's opener, Tottenham got the goal their play deserved in the 28th minute. Eriksen served as the catalyst, bouncing a cross into the box from the left for Adebayor, who prodded the ball in at the back post with his upper leg.
The home side continued to attack, Kane seeing a shot saved in the 31st minute and Danny Rose flashing a curling effort wide another minute later. Sunderland had a worrying moment at the back in the 35th minute when Bardsley fell over the ball directly in front of his goal, but Mannone scrambled to smother the danger.
Tottenham had one more chance to break the deadlock before half-time, but Eriksen's free-kick flew just wide of the post in the 44th minute. Although the teams were level 1-1 at the break, Tottenham put the game away with four goals in the second half.
Controversy arose early the second half as Kane went to ground in Sunderland's box under pressure from Carlos Cuellar in the 52nd minute. Replays showed Cuellar apparently pulling Kane down, but referee Lee Mason denied Tottenham's penalty claim and instead awarded a corner.
Spurs only had to wait a few more minutes to take the lead as Kane, who had repeatedly put himself in dangerous positions throughout the match, finally found the back of the net in the 59th minute. Eriksen played the role of provider once again, curling in a cross from the left. With his first touch, Kane redirected into the net to complete the turnaround and give Tottenham a 2-1 lead.
It was then Eriksen's turn in the 78th minute as the Dane capped a fine performance and sealed the victory with Tottenham's third goal. After receiving a pass from Nacer Chadli, Eriksen steadied himself with his first touch before placing a low shot that took a slight deflection on its way into the bottom corner.
There was still time for two more as Sunderland swiftly fell apart. Adebayor made it 4-1, finishing from close range in the 86th minute after Kane's initial shot was saved. Replays suggested Adebayor might have been offside. Sigurdsson then completed the scoring in stoppage time, applying gloss to the final scoreline.
With that, Tottenham sealed three points to keep their top-four challenge going for at least another week. Sunderland, on the other hand, are looking increasingly doomed for the drop.
Reaction to follow…
|Tottenham Hotspur Player Ratings vs. Sunderland|
|Gylfi Sigurdsson (for Chadli, 82')||N/A||8|
|Andros Townsend (for Lennon, 84')||N/A||7|
|Milos Velijkovic (for Paulinho, 88')||N/A||7|
|Sunderland Player Ratings vs. Tottenham Hotspur|
|Ignacio Scocco (for Cattermole, 72')||N/A||5|
|Craig Gardner (for Cuellar, 72')||N/A||5|
Tottenham Hotspur play at West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League on Saturday. Sunderland host Everton the same day.