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Spurs go 3 points behind Man City with Everton win

Updated: January 11, 2012, 17:47


Tottenham's Benoit Assou-Ekotto, third right, celebrates with his team after scoring against Everton during the English Premier League soccer match between Tottenham Hotspur and Everton at White Hart Lane Stadium in London, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

LONDON(AP) Tottenham moved within three points of Premier League leader Manchester City on Wednesday after Aaron Lennon and Benoit Assou-Ekotto clinched a 2-0 victory over injury-hit Everton.

The north London club now only trails second-place Manchester United on goal difference after playing a match originally scheduled for the season opener but postponed due to rioting near White Hart Lane earlier that week.

That postponement may have worked in Spurs' favor, as they went on to lose their opening two matches in August before finding the form that has turned them into a credible title contender.

Lennon put Spurs in front in the 35th minute with a scuffed shot after cutting through the Everton defense and Assou-Ekotto netted in the 63rd with a fierce long-range strike.

While United States goalkeeper Tim Howard conceded twice, compatriot Brad Friedel was never troubled in the Tottenham net.

Entering the second half of the season, Tottenham has a realistic chance of winning the league for the first time since 1961 as it sits third as the top team in London - eight points above Chelsea and a further point ahead of Arsenal.

"It's not impossible to win the title, it's difficult,'' Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said. "It's very hard, but we've got a chance. ... At the moment we can enjoy it because we are playing so well and winning.''

Leader Man City was in League Cup action on Wednesday, losing 1-0 at home to Liverpool in the first leg of their League Cup semifinal.

"The pressure is on Man City because if you look at their squad and the type of money they have ... they are expected to be there and win,'' Redknapp said. "We are just hanging in there at the moment and playing well. We don't put the pressure on the players.''

It is a far cry from August when a relegation battle was looming after Tottenham was crushed by Manchester rivals United and City in a week.

Captain Michael Dawson had not played in the league since the 5-1 rout by City due to an Achilles tendon injury and it was a very different Tottenham, with Lennon also returning to league action after three weeks out with hamstring problems.

Spurs even coped with both holding midfielders, Scott Parker and Sandro, sidelined.

Lennon's return provided more balance to the team with Gareth Bale on the left flank, but it took 24 minutes for the first goal-scoring chance to arrive following a speedy counterattack from the hosts.

Bale slipped the ball through to Emmanuel Adebayor but the Togo striker lifted it too far wide of the onrushing Howard and could not get sight of goal.

As the Everton goal mouth came under more pressure from the hosts, Adebayor clipped the ball wide from close range and Rafael van der Vaart curled a shot onto the roof of the net before it was finally breached.

A deep crossfield ball from Assou-Ekotto was missed by Leighton Baines and was punished by Lennon, who rounded the defender and Sylvain Distin while cutting into the penalty area.

The England winger then sent a low shot into the bottom corner of the net to ensure Tottenham scored for the 19th consecutive league fixture.

Bale forced an early save from Howard at the start of the second half after bursting forward on an electric counterattack.

With Phil Jagielka already sidelined, Everton's defensive woes deepened when center back Distin limped off in the 58th with a hamstring injury and was replaced by the inexperienced Shane Duffy.

And Everton went further behind when Assou-Ekotto blasted a swerving shot into the net from 30 meters (yards) via a slight deflection off Tim Cahill.

The left back was only available to score for the first time since August 2009 - against Everton's neighbor Liverpool - due to Cameroon failing to qualify for the African Cup of Nations this month.

Everton, which had lost only once on five previous visits to Tottenham, remained 11th in the 20-team standings after failing to hit the target once - even with Landon Donovan in the team during his loan spell from the Los Angeles Galaxy.

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