THE final whistle at the Stadium of Light on Saturday illuminated a tale of two managers, writes GRAEME ANDERSON.
Although Gus Poyet had still been buoyant at the end of his side’s gutsy 4-3 defeat to Chelsea last midweek, he was genuinely crestfallen after the loss to Spurs – all dark looks and sullen recrimination at his side’s second-half travails.
In contrast, Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas turned to the stands and offered a passionate upper-cut to the air in triumph – it was a display of emotion far greater than one might have expected from seeing the boss of a hugely expensive Premier League side vanquish a bottom of the table outfit.
But the Portuguese coach has found himself under real pressure at White Hart Lane since a 6-0 defeat to Manchester City last month – much of the flak flying around aimed personally at him.
He has muttered about dark forces and personal agendas.
But that final whistle joy on Saturday marked the moment he felt Spurs had behind them that City battering. And he was still beaming in the Press Room long after the game had finished.
“It was a very important win for us and completes a good week and a good start to December,” he said.
“It’s a great comeback from the team after our big defeat at Man City and it puts us back on track.
“Now we have Liverpool at home and Southampton away – two teams in the same frame as us. And these two back-to-back wins over Fulham and Sunderland have put us in good shape going into those games.
“We have actually had quite a good start to the season. But that Man City result left us exposed and I think this result over Sunderland completes our comeback from that point – seven points from nine.”
He praised his squad for closing ranks and sticking together during a difficult time.
“Credit to the players and to the group to put things right the way they have done,” he noted.
“The players were very serious, very focused, they want to honour our fans and our badge and they did a good job.
“I felt we were pretty much in control against Sunderland throughout the game and even their goal came against the run of play.
“Now we want to just get on with it and be near the top and nearer the Champions League positions.”
Spurs remain one of only two teams (the other is Newcastle United) not to have scored more than two goals in a Premier League game this season – something Villas-Boas put down to bad luck rather than a systemic failure.
“I think, sooner or later, it is inevitable we will score three or four in games,” he claimed. “In training, finishing is one of our strongest points, but it is not translating so much into games themselves.”
He did accept, however, that luck might have played a part in the victory over Sunderland after Spurs once again failed to take enough of the hatful of chances they created.
“Sunderland had calls for a penalty and, although I haven’t seen it back again, everybody has confirmed that it is a penalty,” he said. “That’s unfortunate for Sunderland.
“If we had finished the opportunities we had in front of goal, that incident would have irrelevant.”