England,February,6-2011:Substitute Niko Kranjcar struck in injury time to give Tottenham Hotspur a 2-1 win over Bolton Wanderers.
It was a spectacular 25-yard strike from the Croatian who has struggled this season to impress manager Harry Redknapp.
The victory keeps Tottenham in the chase for a Champions league place but it was harsh on Bolton, who deserved something after levelling 10 minutes into the second half following a first period which saw Tottenham handed two penalties within 60 seconds.
Dutchman Rafael van der Vaart netted the first but missed the second after being ordered to retake it by referee Mark Clattenburg, who had spotted players encroaching into the area.But that hardly tells the story of a game which saw two teams intent on attacking at all cost.
The match could hardly have begun in more spectacular fashion with referee Clattenburg pointing to the spot after just five minutes.
It was a bizarre incident. Peter Crouch rose high to send a header goalwards, which Bolton goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen managed to scramble away but only to Vedran Corluka on the ground.
The Croatian tried to play the ball in but it struck Kevin Davies, who was also in a prone position, on the hand.
Van der Vaart stepped up to coolly plant the spot kick past Jaaskelainen.
Less than 60 seconds later the referee was pointing to the spot again after Sam Ricketts hacked down the speeding Aaron Lennon as he slalomed into the area.
Up stepped Van der Vaart once more and once again he planted the ball high to Jaaskelainen’s right to send the net rippling.
Unfortunately, this time Clattenburg had spotted Wilson Palacios, among others, encroaching into the area.
He ordered the kick to be retaken and this time Van der Vaart went for the same spot sent the ball the wrong side of the post.
In hindsight Van der Vaart should probably have allowed Jermain Defoe to take the ‘third’ kick but he is a confident man who probably believes he is going to score from the spot every time.
To say that the first half was lively was something of an understatement. The teams could easily have gone in 4-2 at the break after Bolton’s Johan Elmander rapped the Tottenham crossbar with a powerful header.
Crouch, too, had several chances to extend Tottenham’s lead and in injury time he was the focal point of another penalty decision.
This time it was Bolton’s Mark Davies who was adjudged to have handled the ball in the area from a Crouch header and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot once more.
Fortunately for Bolton the assistant referee’s flag was raised, having spotted Crouch in an offside position before the hand ball offence occurred.
Judging by penalty calls and chances alone it would be easy to think it was all Tottenham. It wasn’t. There is more culture to Bolton these days under Owen Coyle.
They are much more than a long-ball team even if much of their attacking threat still goes through big striker Kevin Davies.
The arrival of Sturridge from Chelsea promises even more enterprise and the striker was a constant menace to Tottenham’s defenders.
It was no surprise when he came up with the equaliser.
It was a neat, flowing move with Mark Davies carrying the ball deep into the Tottenham half before feeding Sturridge who opened up his body to send a left-foot shot swerving under goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, who might have done better.
There were yet more appeals for a penalty when Gary Cahill went tumbling in the Tottenham area under a challenge from Pienaar. Bolton appealed for the penalty and there did appear to be contact but the referee instead booked Cahill for diving.
Jermaine Jenas hit the Bolton post with a stinging free-kick after 63 minutes and Tottenham would have retaken the lead but for a superb point-blank save by Jaaskelainen from new signing Steven Pienaar, who had come on at half-time.
It looked as if Tottenham would have to settle for a point, until Kranjcar stepped up to smash home a winner which might yet be worth millions to Tottenham