Tottenham Hotspur 3 Swansea City 1: When it was all over yesterday and he was asked whether he was relieved that Tottenham Hotspur had at last emerged from their slump in the league, Harry Redknapp bristled with the kind of annoyance that suggested the pressure of finishing above Arsenal might just have been starting to tell.
The fact that his Spurs team had previously gone five games in the Premier League without a victory was, Redknapp said, of so little consequence that he had hardly even noticed. "I don't even know. If you'd said it was the first in three, I wouldn't have known. I don't go home at night worrying that we've not won. I just know we've been playing fantastically well, so really it's not a problem."
Allowing Arsenal to run away with third place? Now that would have been a problem but two second-half goals from Emmanuel Adebayor yesterday means Spurs are level on 58 points with Arsenal, with seven games to play and in fourth place on goal difference. Ding dong, as actor Leslie Phillips, an eccentric half-time guest on the pitch at White Hart Lane yesterday, might say.
Not since their 5-0 win over Newcastle on 11 February, had Spurs won a league game before yesterday and although their intervening run of fixtures has thrown up Arsenal, Manchester United, Everton and Chelsea, the doubts were starting to creep in. Pinned back to 1-1 yesterday when Gylfi Sigurdsson equalised for Swansea before the hour, this could have gone wrong for Spurs but they reasserted themselves.
Redknapp was insistent that he could always see a change coming and it must surely have helped to see Arsenal's winning run halted at Loftus Road on Saturday. "I've been at clubs over the years where players, when you walk in, look as if their confidence has gone," he said. "This lot have been fantastic. I've never felt there's been a problem. We just needed a bit of luck and it'd turn."
For all his praise for his opposite number Brendan Rodgers yesterday, Redknapp would not accept that this game was anything other than there for the taking after the first nine minutes when Swansea threatened. Indeed, his team took the lead through Rafael Van der Vaart on 19 minutes but there was also an excellent save by Brad Friedel from Sigurdsson on 49 minutes until at last the Icelandic midfielder scored Swansea's equaliser 10 minutes later.
In the end there was too much quality in Spurs' team, which Rodgers himself was forced to admit. Especially in the way Adebayor outjumped the Swansea defence to score two identical second-half headers. Without the central defender Steven Caulker, on loan from Spurs and ineligible to play yesterday, Swansea looked susceptible to the height and power of the home team's centre-forward.
There was a fine display from Gareth Bale as well. It was his cross that was partially cleared by Ashley Williams that fell to the feet of Van der Vaart for the Dutchman to sweep the ball past Michel Vorm. Bale then embarked on one of those trademark runs through the heart of Swansea's defence and hit a shot that drew a good save from Vorm.
Aaron Lennon, a second-half substitute, will also be an important figure in the run-in. "It was good to have him back," Redknapp said. "I just got a text from somebody saying it was great we went 4-4-2. I don't remember doing that. It was one of my scouts, which really scares me. We never changed the system. Lennon gave us a bit more width. They've all got key roles to play."
The Tottenham manager is already talking about his forthcoming run of three games in nine days starting on Saturday – Sunderland (away), Norwich (home) and Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final – as "survival of the fittest". "It's going to be tight. City need to win at the Emirates against Arsenal [on Sunday] or it's all over [in the title race]. That'll be a tough game. Chelsea are still there. It's going to be close."
For Rodgers, whose team are 11th and still not, as their manager pointed out, mathematically safe, this was one of those days when they demonstrated themselves to be capable of holding their own with the biggest teams in the division, if not beating them. The Swansea manager did his best to deflect any sense that this was an "audition" for the job at White Hart Lane should Redknapp leave to manage England in the summer but he will have been watched with interest.
Rodgers said: "Harry was very complimentary. He's a very gracious man. He's enthralled by the way we play, the bravery we show. These are players who have played in Leagues One and Two, and have been told they're not strong or tall enough."
Swansea had played well in the first half without ever really hurting Spurs but after the break they had a bit more about them. Sigurdsson's goal, from Wayne Routledge's ball from the left, was struck into the ground and bounced up past Friedel. A loan signing from Hoffenheim, Sigurdsson is only at Swansea for the rest of the season and is building some reputation for himself.
From then on it was a real test of Spurs and they came through. Adebayor headed in Van der Vaart's corner first and then the striker did the same with Lennon's cross from the left with four minutes remaining. Like Sigurdsson he too is on loan and may also prove too expensive for Tottenham to keep longer than May. For now, however, Redknapp's team are back on track.
* The former Swansea striker Giorgio Chinaglia, who went on to play for Lazio, Italy and New York Cosmos at the same time as Pele and Franz Beckenbauer, died of a suspected heart attack yesterday in Florida aged 65.
Spurs: FRIEDEL 7/10, WALKER 6, KABOUL 6, GALLAS 6, ASSOU-EKOTTO 6, VAN DER VAART 6, PARKER 7, MODRIC 7, SANDRO 6, BALE 7, ADEBAYOR 6
Swansea: VORM 7, TAYLOR 6, WILLIAMS 6, MONK 6, RANGEL 5, SINCLAIR 6, SIGURDSSON 7, BRITTON 6, ALLEN 6, ROUTLEDGE 5, GRAHAM 5
Scorers. Spurs: Van der Vaart 19, Adebayor 73, 86. Swansea: Sigurdsson 59
Substitutes: Tottenham Lennon 6 (Sandro, 71), Livermore (Van der Vaart, 85), Rose (Assou-Ekotto ,88). Swansea Dyer 5 (Routledge, 71), Moore (Graham, 79), Gower (Allen, 90) .
Man of the match Bale. Match rating 6/10.
Possession: Tottenham 49% Swansea 51%.
Attempts on target: Tottenham 10 Swansea 7.
Referee A Marriner (W Midlands).