Tottenham Spurs back in fourth
Kyle Walker's stunning free-kick sealed a 2-0 win for Tottenham Hotspur over relegation-threatened Blackburn Rovers as they returned to the top four of the Premier League at White Hart Lane on Sunday.
Rafael van der Vaart opened the scoring in the 22nd minute with his 10th goal of the season before Walker made sure of victory – Spurs' first since the beginning of April – with 15 minutes remaining.
Victory was crucial for Tottenham's hopes of finishing in a Champions League qualifying place and kept Blackburn second from bottom, three points shy of safety with just two games left.
Fourth place would secure Tottenham a preliminary qualifying spot in next season's Champions League, provided Chelsea do not win this term's final against Bayern Munich on May 19.
Tottenham return to fourth place by virtue of better goal difference than Newcastle while Chelsea – 6-1 winners over Queens Park Rangers earlier on Sunday – are a point behind them.
Spurs, who started the game having won just once in their last nine games, made four changes from last week's loss to QPR, with Danny Rose and Aaron Lennon coming in for the injured Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Scott Parker.
Defender Ledley King was rested and Jermain Defoe dropped to the bench, which meant a return for Younes Kaboul and Emmanuel Adebayor.
Blackburn, who headed into the game needing a win by more than three goals to overtake fourth-from-bottom QPR, were unchanged from last week's victory over Norwich City.
But Rovers manager Steve Kean was clearly mindful of Tottenham's attacking prowess with his line-up, as he deployed a five-man backline including Gael Givet, Bradley Orr and Scott Dann in the centre of defence.
And he was right to be wary.
Lennon should have put Tottenham in front in the second minute of the match, but he could only shoot into the side-netting from two yards out after good work from Luka Modric.
Then, in the ninth minute, Sandro launched a spectacular overhead kick from 25 yards out which rebounded off the crossbar.
But Spurs' pressure told in the 22nd minute.
Gareth Bale headed Lennon's cross against the bar and van der Vaart pounced on the rebound to tuck the ball home from three yards.
Dann was adamant he had got to the ball in time to clear the Netherlands international's shot off the line, but replays showed the goal was valid.
William Gallas then hit the bar three minutes before halftime with a glancing header off van der Vaart's corner.
Blackburn were subjected to more of the same after the break – that is seeing precious little of the ball while attempting to stop Lennon, Sandro and van der Vaart marauding forward.
They failed to register a shot on target for the entire match – and spent much of the game in their own half.
But for all the home side's domination, Spurs were wasteful in attack and, as the minutes slipped by, their frustrations began to show.
They came close to boiling over on the hour as Kaboul's long cross went out of play as Danny Rose failed to meet it and the pair had a heated discussion.
But Walker's spectacular free kick, which curled round the Rovers wall and into the top corner from 25 yards, settled Spurs' nerves and sent Blackburn deeper into their shells.