Much maligned, it was goalkeeper Gomes’ time to shine against Sunderland on Saturday. In a match dominated by the visitors to White Hart Lane, it was the hosts who ran out with the points, thanks largely to the Brazilian shotstopper repelling the bullets of Darren Bent and co. Gomes was the central figure in the game’s biggest talking points as well as being the outstanding performer with a string of top quality saves, including stopping a Bent penalty. It was the Black Cats who had a curious stroke of luck a few weeks ago when a Liverpool-branded beach ball deflected in Bent’s shot for the winning goal against Rafa Benitez’s Reds and one wonders whether even that beach ball would have managed to beat Gomes at the weekend. He was having one of those days.
The former PSV keeper was perhaps fortunate early on to avoid giving away one penalty but he was just as unlucky in the second half to see himself penalised with the award of a Sunderland spot-kick. On the first occasion, replays suggested he was second to the ball behind ex-Spurs striker Bent but referee Kevin Friend was unimpressed. He was perhaps swayed by the appeals coming from Bent’s teammates rather than Bent himself, but they did have a point. After the break, it was a different story. This time the striker, recalled after the match to the England squad, made sure that Gomes was seen to make contact, going down in preparation for the keeper’s arrival and sticking out a leg to make sure that Friend could see a collision. Quite why the referee fell for it given the clear view television replays suggest he had of the incident is anyone’s guess. Fall for it he did and Bent was left with a chance from the spot to equalise Robbie Keane’s early opener for Spurs. Gomes got a yellow card for his troubles.
As is to be expected in the era of rose-tinted spectacle fashion among managers, both Harry Redknapp and Steve Bruce had opposing views on the incident. Redknapp offered: “Gomes says he has tried to get out of the way of the player and got kicked in the chest. Even if it was a penalty, I don’t think he should’ve got a red card. Bent was going away from goal and sometimes we are too quick to send players off.” Disagreeing entirely, Bruce fumed: “The turning point today was the second-half penalty incident. Darren Bent was through on goal, it is a goal-scoring opportunity, and by the letter of the law their keeper should be sent off. Instead it is just a yellow card and he has had the chance to save the penalty. If we are playing 10 men then who knows?”
If the penalty was harsh enough, then a red card would have been a travesty. Bent was going away from goal and there were Tottenham defenders covering with Gomes 18 yards from goal. It was a situation entirely engineered by Bent, even if Gomes was rash coming off his line to challenge, and only the strikers’ striker, Alan Shearer, could find that praiseworthy in his punditry role on Match of the Day. In the end, Bent’s spot-kick was poor and Gomes added a penalty to his roll call of saves.
The match brought back another debate that had subsided somewhat in recent weeks. With Jermain Defoe suspended for Spurs’ last three games following his red card at Portsmouth, Redknapp has had a straight forward decision on who to select up front. With the diminutive England forward returning to the fray, Redknapp had to choose two from Defoe, Robbie Keane and Peter Crouch. He bottled the decision and went with all three. Whilst the team claimed all the points, even Redknapp admitted they were fortunate after a poor performance. Playing the three strikers unbalanced the side and robbed Spurs of a midfielder and some much needed midfield creativity.
What Redknapp must do is choose a settled partnership or look for a fourth striker to make two partnerships to be rotated, as Sir Alex Ferguson did with his treble winning Manchester United side. Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke, Ole Solskjaer and Teddy Sheringham. Redknapp could happily field Keane and Defoe or Crouch and someone new. Just not Roman Pavlyuchenko it seems. The Russian striker has appeared to find it harder to score goals than journalists have found it spelling his surname since he joined Tottenham. One worries that Redknapp is scared of upsetting any of his three main strikers by leaving them out too often, a situation that Defoe found himself in during his first spell at Tottenham when he was regularly sidelined by the quality of Keane and Dimitar Berbatov. Maybe Redknapp could buy back Darren Bent? Or, perhaps, the beach ball?