Defoe denies Portsmouth victory

Jermain Defoe scored against his old clubJermain Defoe scored against his old club to earn Tottenham a point that lifts them out of the Premier League relegation zone on goal difference.

Portsmouth keeper David James, who made a series of superb stops, denied Aaron Lennon seconds before David Nugent put Pompey in front with a deflected shot.

But Luka Modric set up Defoe to drill home an equaliser soon after, and Spurs pushed forward in search of a winner.

Darren Bent should have won it for Spurs but headed wide from close range.

Although a draw does little to improve the prospects of either side, it was probably the fairest outcome from a frenetic encounter that lived up to its pre-match billing on and off the pitch.

The police took action after former Tottenham defender Sol Campbell was subjected to abuse from a section of Spurs supporters when these sides met at Fratton Park in September but he was not given much respite on his return to his former club.

There was no repeat of the chant that led to accusations of racism and homophobia but Tottenham fans have clearly still not forgiven Campbell for joining Arsenal in 2001 and the hostile reception he received contributed to a heated early atmosphere at White Hart Lane.

Although Spurs boss Harry Redknapp escaped any retribution from visiting fans over his recent departure from Portsmouth for north London, they heartily booed Defoe with his every touch in the opening minutes.

Defoe, who returned to Tottenham earlier this month after less than a year on the south coast, had an early opportunity to silence his detractors when he latched on to a disastrous cross-field ball by Sean Davis and ran clear but he drilled his shot agonisingly wide.

That was the first of a flurry of chances for both sides in a breathless first half that silenced most of the vitriol from the stands.

James did well to push away shots by Defoe and Lennon from the edge of the area then, when Lennon escaped down the right soon afterwards, he superbly tipped Defoe’s header over the bar.

At the other end, a Heurelho Gomes fumble almost let in Peter Crouch and only a fine Vedran Corluka block denied Armand Traore as he looked to turn in Nugent’s cross.

The amount of scoring opportunities on offer probably explains why Pompey, like Tottenham, are in trouble at the wrong end of the table and neither side tightened up defensively as the game progressed.

James had to be at his best to push away Ledley King’s header from Corluka’s cross and he was up on his feet to block substitute Bent’s follow-up, even though the striker had already been flagged offside.

And Nugent wasted a golden opportunity to break the deadlock before half-time when, with King limping, he escaped the home defence but fired straight at Gomes.

Nugent did not have to wait long to claim his first top-flight goal, however, although there was an element of fortune in the way he broke the deadlock on 59 minutes.

After James somehow kept out Lennon’s deflected shot, Traore ran at the home defence and the ball fell for the former Preston striker, who saw his first-time effort clip Gareth Bale and spin inside the far post.

Tottenham’s response was to come forward in greater numbers and they only had to wait 11 minutes before they were level.

Modric found Defoe on the edge of the area and there was a mark of quality about his finish, which flew through Campbell’s legs and past James.

By now Pompey were on the back foot and, with Tottenham enjoying all the late pressure, Corluka was unfortunate to see his header cleared off the line by Davis.

The chances kept coming for the home side and it looked impossible for Bent to miss when David Bentley’s cross found him unmarked at the back post but, to the exasperation of Redknapp, he directed his header wide.

Tottenham: Gomes, Corluka, Woodgate, King (Dawson 44), Bale (Bentley 68), Lennon, Zokora, O’Hara, Modric, Pavlyuchenko (Bent 28), Defoe.
Subs Not Used: Alnwick, Huddlestone, Campbell, Taarabt.

Goals: Defoe 70.

Portsmouth: James, Johnson, Campbell, Distin, Belhadj, Nugent (Utaka 73), Davis, Kaboul (Wilson 88), Kranjcar (Hreidarsson 90), Armand Traore, Crouch.
Subs Not Used: Begovic, Pamarot, Little, Kanu.

Booked: Davis, Kaboul.

Goals: Nugent 59.

Att: 36,011

Ref: Steve Bennett (Kent).