Byline: MATT LAWTON
TOTTENHAM 1 PORTSMOUTH 1
Next: Tottenham v Stoke; Portsmouth v Aston Villa (Jan 27)
SHOULD Harry Redknapp ever have to justify why he has spent [pounds sterling]22million in the past year on Jermain Defoe, he need only point to this cracker of a contest.
Because here, in the form of Defoe's equaliser as well as two quite extraordinary misses by Darren Bent and David Nugent, was the evidence that would settle any argu ment.
Redknapp's reaction was a picture when Bent somehow headed a super cross from David Bentley wide of Portsmouth's goal in the 79th minute.
It was the image of a tormented man, cursing the withdrawal of the injured Roman Pavlyuchenko as much as the inability of a player who actually cost Tottenham more than Defoe.
'My missus could have scored it,' fumed Redknapp, which the lovely Sandra may consider something of an insult.
It would have been tough on Portsmouth and their manager Tony Adams had Bent scored not just because Sylvain Distin, Sol Campbell and David James excelled in frustrating their hosts and, in the case of Redknapp and Defoe, their former colleagues. Having secured the lead when Nugent struck with a deflected 59th-minute strike, they were also left to reflect on squandered opportunities.
None more so than when Nugent had only Heurelho Gomes to beat just before the interval and directed his shot straight at the Tottenham goalkeeper.
While Spurs will no doubt feel they deserved more than the single point that propelled them from the bottom of the Barclays Premier League to 16th, there was much that encouraged Redknapp.
They showed great character in responding to Nugent's goal, the performances of certain individuals delighting Redknapp. Bentley, he said, had reacted well to being dropped, while Luka Modric, Aaron Lennon and Defoe were also terrific.
Had it not been for James, Defoe might have struck long before driving a left-foot shot past his England team-mate.
The striker was a constant threat to Portsmouth, the desire to again score on his debut at White Hart Lane evident in what amounted to a tremendously energetic performance.
It was defiant, too. Like Redknapp and Campbell, he had to put up with a fair amount of stick yesterday. But, like Redknapp and Campbell, he reacted maturely, responding only with his football.
Thankfully, this soap opera of an encounter was not quite the controversy many feared. Campbell was booed and at …