Tottenham moved back into the Premier League’s top four on Monday following a routine 2-0 victory over West Ham at White Hart Lane.
Spurs playmaker Luka Modric, with only two substitute appearances under his belt since fracturing a fibula in August, struck 11 minutes into the clash as he turned home Aaron Lennon’s cross, with Scott Parker then limping off for the visitors.
To make matters worse, former Hammers striker Jermain Defoe added a second before the end. While Gianfranco Zola’s men failed to earn back-to-back wins to boost their survival hopes,
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Spurs returned to fourth spot and will be boosted by Modric’s return to full fitness. Harry Redknapp will also be encouraged by four successive clean sheets as he tries to break into the Champions League places, after the club came so close three years ago.
West Ham fans reminded their bitter rivals that they denied them a place at Europe’s top table when they defeated them on the last day of the 2006 season, with Spurs’ squad famously struck by a norovirus.
Redknapp will be hoping it will not go to the wire this time – and also that Modric will be available to him for the rest of the campaign. It did not take the Croatia international long to make his mark with the opener.
After two early runs led to rash challenges from Herita Ilunga and Alessandro Diamanti, it was no surprise that Lennon was the creator of the goal. Defoe sent him down the right and the England winger cut inside, his cross half-cleared by James Tomkins before falling for the unmarked Modric. It was not a crisp effort from Modric but his finish, stubbed into the turf, looped over Hammers goalkeeper Robert Green for his first of the campaign.
Adding injury to insult, Parker could not continue after the goal and had to be replaced by Luis Jimenez, depriving the visitors of their most influential player recently.
Ilunga also headed down the tunnel for treatment, with Jonathan Spector brought on at left-back. It was left to Jack Collison to provide the attacking power in West Ham’s midfield.
The Wales youngster, whose father died in a motorbike accident on the way to watch these teams play earlier in the season, tested Heurelho Gomes with a low drive as the visitors attempted to find a way back into the game.
At the other end, Tom Huddlestone went wide with a couple of efforts, while Peter Crouch had a finish deflected to safety by Tomkins after Wilson Palacios surged down the right flank.
In the final minute of the first half, Defoe curled a 25-yard free-kick just over Green’s crossbar after he was fouled by Radoslav Kovac.
West Ham remained in the game while Spurs were in a wasteful mood – Huddlestone and Lennon both shot over the crossbar from promising positions just after the restart. Palacios also had an effort blocked by Matthew Upson.
With 10 minutes gone in the second half, Huddlestone received the ball from Vedran Corluka with his back to goal, turned and struck the foot of the post with his shot.
Guillermo Franco was not having much joy as a lone striker for the visitors and his frustration earned a yellow card from Chris Foy when he tripped Palacios.
Defoe grabbed his goal eight minutes from full-time. Green blocked his initial effort from the edge of the area but the England striker followed it up with a powerful strike that crashed into the top corner. Gomes superbly denied Diamanti and Franco headed wide as the Hammers failed to find a late consolation.