Harry Redknapp has produced many impressive feats since becoming Tottenham manager but the next required of him may prove the most challenging: working out how to get his team to shift from European to domestic challenge without turning into lost souls. Yet again Spurs returned from the high of the Champions League to produce a Premier League low and despite his bullishness afterwards, it must concern Redknapp that such complacency could cost his men a place in Europe's elite competition next season.
Until a late eight-minute flurry by the visitors, which culminated in stunning goals from Alan Hutton and Roman Pavlyuchenko, it was hard to believe this was the team that had swept aside Internazionale in midweek. There was little of the thrust or desire that had been displayed in that fixture. Instead Spurs reproduced the casual regard that has marked the opening stages of many of their post-Europe league fixtures this season.
This, after all, is a team that lost 1-0 to Wigan after beating Young Boys Bern 4-0 in the qualifying stages of the Champions League, had to recover from 1-0 down to beat Wolves and Aston Villa following group-stage fixtures against Werder Bremen and FC Twente respectively, and then could only draw with Everton after losing 4-3 away to Inter.
"It's not a concern for me," insisted Redknapp, who instead put his team's fourth league defeat of the season down to an injury list that contains, among others, Rafael van der Vaart, Aaron Lennon, Jermain Defoe, Michael Dawson and Ledley King. "We would have been better had I had those five players, for sure. But credit to Bolton. They got after us, worked their socks off, and deserved to win."
The hosts were certainly worthy of victory and showed none of the frailty that may have affected them following last week's defeat to Liverpool. No one typified their unrelenting desire better than Kevin Davies, who, in front of Fabio Capello, delivered a performance that may persuade the Italian to hand the 33-year-old a second England call-up.
His was a performance that again combined hustling and panache in a manner that may be unique to the Bolton captain. Tottenham's central defenders, Younes Kaboul and William Gallas, could well still be aching from the barrage of pushes and pulls he handed them, while the goalkeeper, Heurelho Gomes, one of four changes Redknapp made to the side that beat Inter, will not have forgotten how the forward twice beat him here.
Davies's first goal came on 31 minutes via a precise drive following what was becoming typical sloppiness on Spurs' part. The Brazilian midfielder Sandro, making his fifth appearance for the club, dallied in possession long enough for Fabrice Muamba to steal possession and eventually feed his waiting captain. Davies appeared to be in an offside position, but the flag stayed down. His second arrived via the penalty spot on 76 minutes and by that stage the score had risen to 3-0 through a goal from Gretar Steinsson.
That the Bolton right-back should feature prominently was no surprise but most observers expected his contribution to be that of cannon fodder for Gareth Bale. The Welshman was primed to torment following his humiliation of Maicon against Inter but a couple of teasing crosses and one free-kick aside, he was well shackled by Steinsson and Bolton's right-winger Lee Chung-yong.
"We knew this would be a tough game against a side that had just dismantled the European champions and in Gareth [Bale] they have an outstanding player, but it was a great performance by us from start to finish," said Owen Coyle, the Bolton manager. "We focused on what we could do and how we could cause Tottenham problems."
Hutton's curling drive and a Marco van Basten-esque volley from Pavlyuchenko raised Tottenham hopes of securing a draw but defeat was sealed in stoppage time when the substitute Martin Petrov ran clear to score a fourth for the hosts. Spurs' record of having never won a Premier League game at the Reebok Stadium goes on and the club may also have to deal with a possible retrospective red card for Tom Huddlestone after the midfielder was caught on camera stamping on Johan Elmander late in the game.
These sides now find themselves level on 15 points and while Spurs continue to entertain, Redknapp's "nightmare" of ending up in the Europa League next season could become a reality should his side continue to display such recklessness.
THE FANS' PLAYER RATINGS AND VERDICT ADAM ORR, Observer reader It was a pretty phenomenal performance. I was disappointed to concede two goals but to beat Tottenham after they won 3-1 against Inter was fantastic. When you get Kevin Davies and Peter Crouch on the pitch at the same time you can see who is the better player. I know Tottenham had a few out but the players they brought in were worth over £40m. We're above Tottenham right now but I'm not thinking about Europe – I'd be happy with 10th. It's nice to be able to look forward to games again, hoping to do more than just scrape a 1-0 win. We were on TV so it was important we gave some entertainment.
The fan's player ratings Jaaskelainen 6; Steinsson 8, Cahill 8, Knight 7, Robinson 7; Lee 8, Muamba 7, Holden 8, Taylor 7 (Petrov 82 7); Elmander 8 (M Davies 90 n/a), K Davies 9 (Blake 90 n/a)
DAN VOGEL, Observer reader Back to reality. An away match at Bolton is a world away from playing Inter in terms of the approach you need to take – not that Harry Redknapp noticed. We were out-fought, tightly marked, tactically second-best, totally predictable going forward, and just didn't seem up for it mentally. It's frustrating to go backwards like this, but credit to Bolton: they did what they do really well, and got stuck in to our frailties. It definitely takes the edge off what happened in midweek. Our midfield was weak, Crouch and Palacios were awful, and we made Kevin Davies look like a first-choice England striker.
The fan's player ratings Gomes 5; Hutton 5, Kaboul 4, Gallas 4, Assou‑Ekotto 5; Kranjcar 4 (Bentley 78 5), Palacios 3 (Pavlyuchenko ht 7), Sandro 5 (Huddlestone 62 5), Bale 6; Modric 5; Crouch 3
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