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Departing Defoe on target as Hotspurs ‘blank’ Palace Lallana restores Saints home comforts

LONDON, Jan 11, (AFP): Jermain Defoe began his Tottenham Hotspur swansong with a smartly taken goal as his side won 2-0 at home to Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Saturday. Spurs announced on Friday that the long-serving striker will join Major League Soccer side Toronto FC in February and he kicked off his farewell tour with a 72nd-minute goal after coming on as a substitute. Christian Eriksen had opened the scoring for Spurs early in the second half, after Jason Puncheon spurned an opportunity to put Palace ahead in the eighth minute with a horribly mishit penalty. Victory got Spurs back to winning ways after they lost at Arsenal in the FA Cup last weekend and lifted them to fifth place, while results elsewhere saw Palace slip to the foot of the table. Palace had nonetheless started the game in enterprising fashion, with Cameron Jerome and Marouane Chamakh paired together up front, and they saw Puncheon drag an early shot wide from the edge of the box.

Nadil Bentaleb replied for Spurs with a 25-yard effort that Julian Speroni saved at the second attempt, before Puncheon fluffed his lines in spectacular fashion. Mousa Dembele was penalised for running into Chamakh inside the Spurs area, but Puncheon completely miscued his spot-kick, lazily shanking the ball high and wide with his left foot. To their credit, Palace refused to be cowed and the visitors saw Chamakh head over from a corner before Jerome tested Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris with a 25-yard volley. The hosts ended the first half strongly, however, and after Aaron Lennon put a teasing cross into the box, Bentaleb came within a whisker of breaking the deadlock with a 30-yard curler that hit the inside of the post.

They picked up where they had left off in the second half and Eriksen broke the deadlock in the 50th minute when he brought down a flick-on from Emmanuel Adebayor and drove a left-foot shot into the net.
Defoe was given a rapturous reception when he replaced Roberto Soldado with half an hour to play and he almost made an immediate impact with a shot that flashed narrowly wide of the far post. Palace manager Tony Pulis introduced Jonathan Williams and Dwight Gayle for the final 20 minutes, but Defoe put the game to bed moments later when he gathered a pass from Lennon and lifted a shot past Speroni. Mile Jedinak and substitute Adlene Guedioura went close for Palace in the closing stages, while Chamakh headed just over the bar in injury time, but it was to be Defoe’s day.

Saints 1, WBA 0
In Southampton, Southampton snapped a run of four Premier League home games without victory as a strike from Adam Lallana secured a 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion on Saturday. The Southampton captain struck in the 66th minute at St Mary’s, converting a fine pass from substitute Gaston Ramirez to give Mauricio Pochettino’s side only a second win in 10 league games. The result galvanised Southampton’s hold on ninth place, giving them a seven-point lead over Hull City and Aston Villa, while West Brom remained 14th. West Brom’s new manager Pepe Mel was in attendance, two days after his appointment as the successor to Steve Clarke, but caretaker head coach Keith Downing took charge of the team for the final time.

Downing made seven changes to the side beaten by Crystal Palace in the FA Cup last weekend, while Artur Boruc returned in goal for the home side after six weeks out with a fractured hand. Southampton struggled to convert their first-half dominance into chances, with Lallana thwarted by visiting goalkeeper Ben Foster and Rickie Lambert shooting narrowly wide. Jay Rodriguez slotted wide after catching out Youssouf Mulumbu early in the second period, but it took the introduction of Ramirez in the 62nd minute to tip the game in the hosts’ favour. After testing Foster with a free-kick, the Uruguayan playmaker freed Lallana with a clever first-time pass from wide on the right and the England international gathered the ball before drilling home a low shot. Downing sent on Saido Berahino, Zoltan Gera and Matej Vydra as West Brom pushed forward, but Boruc produced a sensational reflex stop to deny Shane Long a stoppage-time equaliser from Liam Ridgewell’s low cross.

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