BLACKBURN (AFP) – Dutch midfielder Rafael van der Vaart scored twice to give Tottenham a 2-1 victory over struggling Blackburn at Ewood Park on Sunday.
Van der Vaart took his tally to six goals for the season as Tottenham moved up to fifth in the table, three points behind fourth placed Newcastle with a game in hand.
Blackburn, who have now won just three of their last 23 Premier League matches, had equalised through Mauro Formica but remain in the relegation zone after slipping to a sixth defeat in nine games this season.
But their performance was a significant improvement on the displays of recent weeks, which have led to supporters calling for manager Steve Kean to be sacked.
For all their recent problems, Blackburn got off to a fast start with Junior Hoilett cutting in from the left and hitting a shot just over the bar.
But Tottenham were looking comfortable in possession and getting in behind Rovers with ease.
Gareth Bale was picked out on the left and clipped a cross in behind the defence for Emmanuel Adebayor, whose shot was blocked by Gael Givet before Martin Olsson hacked clear.
Van der Vaart had another opportunity when his curling shot just flew past the far post.
But Tottenham made the breakthrough in the 15th minute. Right-back Kyle Walker burst past Givet and pulled the ball back for Van der Vaart to produce a simple finish from 15 yards.
Adebayor looked set to get on the end of another Bale cross moments later but Olsson managed to get his chest to the ball, forcing Paul Robinson to tip over the bar.
Robinson was worked again when Adebayor got to Bale’s cross first but Blackburn scored a surprise equaliser in the 28th minute.
Morten Gamst Pedersen lifted a free kick into the area and Chris Samba beat Younes Kaboul in the air before Formica drove into the top corner from close range.
As Blackburn searched for a second, Simon Vuckcevic’s low effort was pushed past the near post by Brad Friedel, who was also forced to turn away an effort from Hoilett.
Robinson did well to tip away Luka Modric’s low shot before Samba’s glancing header from Pedersen’s free kick just dropped the wrong side of the post.
Shortly after the restart, Modric had another drive turned away by Robinson and when Aaron Lennon crossed the ball back in from the right, Bale swung and missed.
But in the 53rd minute Van der Vaart added his second with real style.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto cut in from the left flank and laid the ball off for the Dutchman to sweep in from just outside the area.
Steven Nzonzi lifted a shot over from the edge of the area as Blackburn looked for another reply.
They went much closer when Hoilett sent Olsson clear down the left and the Swede’s cross looked set to be turned in by Vukcevic only for Assou-Ekotto to hack clear.
Friedel pulled off a fine save to push Samba’s header over after the Blackburn captain rose highest to meet Pedersen’s long throw.
Bale had to be brave to knock Ayegbeni Yakubu’s close-range header over the bar.
Yakubu also got in behind the Tottenham centre-backs to reach Olsson’s cross but could not direct his shot on target.