What a difference three days make. Spurs were as good against Newcastle as they had been poor against Everton. For the first time this year, they started with tempo and conviction and asserted their dominance from the off. Newcastle, it has to be said, were there for the taking. They have lost their best player in Yohan Cabaye in the January transfer market, have several key players injured and their top scorer, Loic Remy, was suspended. But they still had to be put away and this time Spurs did so with conviction. The 0-4 away win was by far Spurs best performance of the season.
What a difference three months also makes. In the corresponding fixture at White Hart Lane, goalkeeper Tim Krul had made 14 key saves to almost single-handedly give Newcastle an unlikely victory. This time, for three of the four goals he parried the ball to waiting Spurs players, and Emmanuel Adebayor and Paulinho gratefully accepted their chances. Not that Krul could be blamed for Newcastle's defeat, but he will know that he should have done better for at least two of the goals.
Tim Sherwood made three changes to the side that beat Everton: Kyle Naughton came in for Danny Rose, Younes Kaboul for Michael Dawson and Etienne Capoue for Christian Eriksen. If the plan was to give Spurs more strength and solidity at the expense of a little guile, it more than paid off. The Spurs defence looked far better organised with Kaboul and Jan Verthongen at its heart while Capoue out-muscled the Newcastle midfield. At times it felt like men against boys, with Newcastle unable to retain any meaningful possession.
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Spurs started strongly and might have been a goal ahead inside five minutes. First Paulinho released an exquisite through ball to release Mousa Dembele on the right. Dembele easily held off Davide Santon but Adebayor hooked the ball just wide from his cut back. Moments later, Paulinho's close range effort was beaten out by Krul. Newcastle might have taken the lead against the run of play when the Spurs defence was caught napping by a free-kick and only a reflex save from Hugo LLoris kept things scoreless.
In the 18th minute, though, Spurs did take the lead. Nabil Bentaleb outfought Moussa Sissoko on the left and his cross was pushed out for Adebayor to tap in. This may have been the easiest of his goals since his recall, but being in the right place at the right time is a priceless asset for any striker. Earlier in the season, these type of chances were going begging because there was no-one in the area to take advantage.
Spurs doubled their lead early in the second half when Paulinho followed up a shot from Adebayor that Krul pushed out to his feet. With that the game was effectively won. Spurs knew it. More importantly, Newcastle also knew it. Though the home side created several good chances -- Lloris again made some key point blank saves -- there was never a moment when it felt as if a comeback was on. Spurs were just too strong and Newcastle gave away far too much possession.
In the end, Spurs' power was repaid. As Newcastle tired, they became more and more stretched and Spurs took full advantage. Krul parried a fierce shot from substitute Andros Townsend and Adebayor's bouncing, first-time volley eluded everyone and found the far corner. Then another substitute, Nacer Chadli, hit a superb right-foot shot into the top corner from the edge of the area for his first Premiership goal. Spurs might even added a fifth as four players queued up in the Newcastle area in injury time. The chance fell to Townsend, whose shot was smothered by Krul.
Only a fool would draw too many conclusions from one performance. Newcastle are in temporary disarray and had conceded six goals in their previous two fixtures. But this was the performance that Spurs fans have been waiting for all season. The defence looked tight, the midfield powerful and the attack sharp.
Maybe that Champions league place isn't such a pipe dream, after all. But there again, this us Spurs we are talking about. There's likely to be a nervy few months ahead.