Spurs down insipid Blackburn to go fourth

Reda Maher - on Twitter @Reda_Eurosport

Rafael van der Vaart fired home from close range midway through the first half of a match the hosts utterly dominated without truly killing off until Kyle Walker’s spectacular free-kick with 15 minutes remaining.

They could and should have scored a hatful, overplaying it at times in the style of North London neighbours Arsenal, also hitting the woodwork twice and spurning a couple of good opportunities.

The victory - ending a run of three defeats - means Spurs move back to fourth, ahead of Newcastle on goal difference and one point clear of Chelsea as the race for the final Champions League place goes to the wire.

The visitors, meanwhile, failed to muster a single shot on goal - the first time that has happened since West Brom drew with Manchester City in 2004 - a terrible performance that puts them three points short of safety with two matches remaining.

And the fixture list makes for worrying reading for Rovers fans - next up they have Wigan, with defeat to the in-form Latics possibly condemning them to relegation.

Like relegation rivals QPR earlier on Sunday, Blackburn were comprehensively outplayed: however they did not even turn up, barely encroaching into the Spurs half and failing to test Brad Friedel, at all, for the entire game.

Spurs, meanwhile, played the kind of confident passing football that has been missing in recent weeks, with Luka Modric and the excellent Sandro pulling the strings in a midfield that Rovers could not touch at times.

The finishing, however, was less impressive, highlighted as early as the first minute when Aaron Lennon put into the side netting when Modric’s cross was deflected to the unmarked England winger at the far post.

Sandro then hit the bar with a long-range thunderbolt, while Lennon crossed when he should have shot after being sent through.

Spurs finally took the lead midway through the first half, and they had the linesman to thank when he correctly saw Van der Vaart’s finish cross the line before Scott Dann hooked it clear: the Dutchman pounced when Emmanuel Adebayor laid it up for him after Gareth Bale’s header can come back off the crossbar.

Spurs continued to press, as Rovers sat deep, the visitors’ lack of ambition seeing Friedel barely touch the ball let alone make a save.

They could not add to their lead before the break, William Gallas hitting the bar with a header, and their failure to finish Rovers off made for a nervy opening to the second half.

Indeed, Spurs seemed as complacent as a team could be with just a one-goal lead, stroking it about cagily, although they could be forgiven as Blackburn showed no interest whatsoever in entering the hosts’ half.

The closest they came were efforts from Lennon, Modric and Bale – all of which went wide – until, with 16 minutes left, David Dunn fouled Lennon some way out.

Van der Vaart initially pulled rank but he surprisingly allowed Walker – who never takes direct free-kicks for Spurs – to blast a curling, dipping strike that may or may not have touched Dunn in the wall.

Deflection or otherwise it was a cracking effort, one that put the match to bed, although given Blackburn’s bizarre strategy of failed containment one has to wonder whether it would have made any difference.

The hosts easily closed out the game – the closest Blackburn came to threatening Friedel’s goal was a long throw from Morten Gamst Pedersen – to seal a satisfying result that puts them in pole position for fourth, with rivals Newcastle and Chelsea also having three games left.

Blackburn, meanwhile, just have the two games remaining, one of which is a six-pointer against Wigan – who, after a 4-0 thrashing of Newcastle, are the form side in England at the moment. Their final match of the season is at Chelsea, and given their outright loathing of playing in London, the Lancashire side face a huge ask to stay in the top flight.

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