Sunderland 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur
SUNDERLAND'S impressive recent upturn in form came to an end at the Stadium of Light yesterday as Andre Villas-Boas' Tottenham Hotspur emerged victorious from the Stadium of Light.
John O'Shea had Sunderland in the lead before half-time but an own-goal from central defensive partner Carlos Cuellar levelled the score before Aaron Lennon won the tie for the North Londoners.
Speaking afterwards to safc.com, Martin O'Neill acknowledged the impact of two quick-fire Spurs goals:
"We got the goal and it gave us something to go for in the second half but then we came out and conceded two goals in two minutes," admitted the Ulsterman.
'It was a major blow and the own goal changed the momentum of the game.'
O'Neill continued: "There were moments when we had really decent possession and it`s from there where you need to choose the right option.
"That is the making of real big players in this league - making the right choices at the right time.
Captain O'Shea was returning to the side following illness which had ruled him out of the Manchester City tie on Boxing Day.
Left-back Danny Rose was ineligible as the Lads took on his parent club, meaning a defensive re-shuffle for O'Neill's side.
Villas-Boas opted to continue with the 4-4-2 system he has employed of late, opting to continue with both Jermain Defoe & Emmanuel Adebayor up front.
Tottenham should have been ahead shortly before the half-hour mark when Defoe worked enough space inside the Black Cats' penalty area to clip an effort toward goal.
The shot was blocked & the lurking Adebayor was on-hand to prod the ball against Simon Mignolet's crossbar from a matter of feet away.
Despite that warning it was Sunderland who struck first, five minutes before the break.
A Seb Larsson free-kick from wide on the left was only blocked as far as Steven Fletcher who hoisted the ball into the path of O'Shea to sweep home his first Cats' goal on 40 minutes.
Unfortunately though, the lead was to be very short-lived as just two minutes into the second period, Spurs levelled.
An inswinging corner from the right was met by Cuellar, who under little or no pressure, flicked a fine centre-forward's header past Mignolet at his near-post.
Just two minutes later and Spurs had scored the decisive goal through Lennon.
A lucky ricochet saw the ball land at the feet of the England pace merchant, who held off his marker long enough to plant beyond the excellent Mignolet at the scene of his first Premier League goal some eight years ago.
It could have been three with the minutes dying away as Defoe was somehow denied by Sunderland's irrepressible Belgian number 22, somehow getting down to block the striker's powerful effort from inside the six-yard box.
Sunderland: Mignolet; O`Shea (c) (Bramble), Cuellar, Kilgallon (Campbell), Colback; Larsson (Wickham), Gardner; Johnson, Sessegnon, McClean; Fletcher.
Unused subs: Westwood (GK), Vaughan, McFadden & Ji.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris; Walker, Dawson (c), Caulker, Naughton; Lennon (Parker), Dembele, Sandro, Bale (Sigurdsson); Adebayor & Defoe (Dempsey).
Unused subs: Friedel (GK), Vertonghen, Huddlestone & Livermore.
Attendance: 41 168
Referee: Mr M Atkinson.