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DAW SLAMS ON SPURS; TOTTENHAM bid in Dawson a Baggies.

Byline: DAVE KIDD Chief Sports Writer

AFTER several months spent not looking very Spursy at all, Tottenham's title bid was virtually ended by the sort of performance seasoned fans were always secretly dreading.

A night on which Spurs rolled out the conjuring tricks, stretched Albion keeper Boaz Myhill early on, struck the woodwork three times, then suffered a street-mugging from a come-and-have-a-go-if-youthink-you're-hard-enough Tony Pulis side.

Spurs are now seven points adrift with three to play and so Leicester will be crowned the unlikeliest champions of all time if they win any of their remaining trio of games, starting at Old Trafford on Sunday.

With Dele Alli likely to be suspended for the rest of the season after TV cameras picked up an off-the-ball punch on Claudio Yacob, Tottenham's chances are even slimmer still.

So this was it, the decisive twist, as West Brom's former Rochdale defender Craig Dawson headed the goal that sent the Premier League title heading inexorably towards Claudio Ranieri, a manager sacked from his previous job for losing to the Faroe Islands. Obvious really.

Spurs have had a good go in their pursuit of the Foxes, yet succumbed to a rare glimpse of that age-old Tottenham flakiness. And Leicester were revving up the open-top bus once Dawson had cancelled out his first-half own goal.

Alli was handed the PFA Young Player of the Year award before kick-off, yet ended up facing a three-match ban after a sneaky first-half punch on Yacob - the sort of devilment which could cost England dearly in France this summer, no matter how rich the midfielder's talents.

Spurs now face a tough run-in - a Chelsea seemingly hell-bent on beating them at Stamford Bridge next week, before the visit of Pochettino's Southampton old boys and then a final-day trip to a resuscitated Newcastle - as they bid to make sure of finishing as runners-up for the first time since 1963.

They play with such slickness, the ball seems to ping around like an ice-hockey puck. They have undoubtedly been the team to watch this season, yet the relentless Leicester have been team to catch, and nobody is going to manage it now.

Stand-in keeper Myhill was stretched twice inside 10 minutes. First he thwarted a curling Christian Eriksen freekick, then he pushed a Harry Kane shot on to the inside of a post after Alli released him.

Another Eriksen free-kick clipped the bar, another Kane shot was repelled by Myhill, and all the while Pulis barked out orders.

Spurs, meanwhile, were playing out from the back obsessively, Pochettino performing keepy-uppies in the technical area and Alli displaying technique so un-English it might be treasonable.

So it was odd when Spurs opened the scoring in such a scruffy manner. Eriksen sent over a free-kick from the right and a falling Dawson, under pressure from Jan Vertonghen (left), deflected the ball over the line off the side of his body.

As if offended by the nature of the goal, Mousa Dembele then skewered Darren Fletcher with a ludicrous piece of skill inside his own penalty area. After the break, Erik Lamela screwed a shot against a post and Eriksen was off-target with a trick-shot when a more straightforward effort might have made it 2-0.

But Albion were pressing hard, hitting long and generally making life uncomfortable. Salomon Rondon was narrowly wide with a header, then had an effort tipped over by Hugo Lloris.

And from the resulting corner, Lloris scrambled unconvincingly, inadvertently punching team-mate Eric Dier as Dawson climbed all over Vertonghen to head the equaliser.

Craig Dawson then, but a touch of Les Dawson too. Just as every Spurs fan feared.


Hugo Lloris 5

Largely untroubled until he made a hash of the equaliser

Kyle Walker 7

Some strong-arm stuff when needed, positive intent too

Toby Alderweireld 7

Solid defensively and pings those long diagonal passes well

Jan Vertonghen 6

Pressurised Dawson for the own goal, but couldn't stop leveller

Danny Rose 6

Plenty of positive surges down the wing, a few defensive blips

Eric Dier 6

Neat and tidy in front of back four, covered the runners well

Mousa Dembele 7

Mugged off Fletcher outrageously ? a sublime talent

Erik Lamela 7

Brought out the party tricks but works hard for the team too

Dele Alli 6

Great understanding with Kane ? but punch on Yacob may earn ban

Christian Eriksen 7

Superb free-kick deliveries ? but could have made it 2-0

Harry Kane 6

Close early on, though the Baggies frustrated him for large parts

SUBS: Mason (Dier 75) 6; Son (Lamela 85); Chadli (Alli 90)


Boaz Myhill 8

MOTM Three fine early saves to stop Albion being overwhelmed

Craig Dawson 6

Unlucky with own goal ? but made amends with the equaliser

Gareth McAuley 6

Not afraid to put his head in where it hurts ? as Pulis demands

Jonas Olsson 7

A proper Pulis centrehalf, enjoyed the physical battles Jonny

Evans Booked 6

Moved to leftback where he used his experience well

Claudio Yacob 6

Got stuck in ? and also got a whack in the guts from Alli

Darren Fletcher 6

Struggled at times with Dembele, but urged Albion back into game

Stephane Sessegnon 7

Can be a slippery customer, and gave Spurs some problems

Craig Gardner 6

Blazed one over but pressed hosts hard chasing a goal

James McClean 6

Plenty of perspiration, rather than inspiration, down the left

Salomon Rondon 7

A proper battering ram, gave the Spurs defence little rest all night

SUBS: Sandro (Sessegnon 89)
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 26, 2016
Previous Article:pochettino: we'll always fight to end.
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