FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 3RD APRIL, 2004
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0) CHELSEA 1 (1)
Referee:- Steve Bennett
Attendance:- 36, 101
Spurs (4-4-2):- Keller; Carr, Doherty, Gardner, Taricco (sub Kelly, 60); Brown, King, Redknapp (Capt.) (sub Jackson, 65), Ziege (sub Kanoute, 46); Keane, Defoe
Subs not used:- Hirschfeld; Poyet
Booked:- Taricco, Carr
Chelsea (4-4-2):- Ambrosio; Melchiot, Gallas, Terry (Capt..), Bridge; Parker (sub Cole, 73), Lampard, Makelele, Duff; Hasselbaink (sub Crespo, 85), Gudjohnssen (sub Gronkjaer, 78)
Subs not used:- Sullivan; Huth
On the whole Spurs gave a pretty good account of themselves, but the result was all too predictable, as Chelsea wrapped up another White Hart Lane win through a touch of class and clinical finish when it counted. In my mind, there was a touch of offside about the goal, and Spurs were denied two good penalty appeals, plus they had to contend with losing three experienced players through injury. As that man Hansen famously once said, "You don't win games with kids", and much as they tried, Spurs were never going to compete with Chelsea once Kelly and Jackson had replaced Taricco and Redknapp.
The Spurs starting line-up was better than we were led to expect, with all the bad news about injury throughout the week. Gary Doherty recovered from his mid-week injury playing for the Republic of Ireland, and both Ziege and Taricco were deemed fit to play, although neither of them made the 90 minutes. Taricco may have been withdrawn partly to ensure we kept 11 men on the field, as he had been booked and at least three Chelsea players were after his blood.
Jamie Redknapp made a welcome start, but had to go off with 25 minutes remaining; thankfully not with any re-occurring injury, but with a nasty cut to his lip that needed surgical attention. The midfield featured three defensive players, with Brown on the right, Ledley beside the Captain, and Ziege in front of Taricco. Kanoute was left on the bench, but Spurs did miss height in the middle through his absence, although Ledley got forward as much as he could.
Chelsea paid Spurs the compliment of a strong team, and of course were rewarded with three points that takes them 4 points away from Arsenal, who Spurs fans were glad to see exit from the FA Cup at the hands of Man Utd today. Chelsea and Arsenal meet of course on Tuesday, in a competition that Spurs fans dream of one day entering.
For the moment though, we have to continue suffering the ignominy of being the worse London side in the Premiership; a situation we are now unlikely to alter, with 7 games to go this season.
Spurs certainly had the better of the possession in the early stages, and with Taricco, Ziege and Defoe all probing the Chelsea area, the Blues' defence was given plenty to think about, whilst their goalkeeper was not kept too busy. In the first 10 or 11 minutes, it was almost all Spurs, but Taricco had the only shot which went well over the target. Keane was getting no change from referee Steve Bennett, who allowed strong challenges by Melchiot and Terry to name but two potential offenders.
Chelsea had their first attempt after 13 minutes, when Bridge made a run down the left, cut inside and passed back to Lampard, whose shot was wild and high. Five minutes later, a questionable Chelsea corner reached Hasselbaink, who headed goalward, only to see Robbie Keane, of all people, clear in front of the line with Keller diving to his left to cover the effort anyway.
Mid-way through the first half, Taricco switched the play with a great pass to Carr, who fed Brown, in turn putting the ball through to Defoe. Jermain looked as if he had retained all the confidence displayed mid-week for England, when he turned and hit a low shot which was deflected, but held by Amrosio. After 29 minutes, Jamie Redknapp took a quick free kick despite the attentions of Makelele, trying to prevent exactly that. A good long kick found Ziege, who together with Taricco passed to Keane whose quick ball through the defence was met by the advancing Carr, but hit too early, before he could control the ball, which ran out of play.
Spurs had a scare when Michael Brown tried to chip a ball back to Carr, but instead nearly set up Hasselbaink, who, thankfully chipped his shot across the goalmouth and wide. Ten minutes before the break, Ledley King won a free kick just outside the box. The kick was blocked, but Gardner found Ziege who chipped over the defence to Ledley King who had a free header, but sadly sent it wide.
Having had so much of the play, it was then disappointing to surrender what would ultimately be the winning goal. Once again Spurs failed to play their way out of their half, and Lampard latched onto a loose clearance, threading to Duff, looking suspiciously offside, crossing past Gardner for Hasselbaink to make an easy finish in front of the Paxton End. Spurs had a chance to get on terms almost immediately, as Ziege sent Keane away on a run all the way to the 6 yard box, where his shot was blocked for a corner.
Now Chelsea started to boss proceedings. Duff switched to the right to assist Parker in putting the Spurs defence on the back foot for a prolonged period. Spurs looked like the away team, with 10 men getting behind the ball, but afraid to tackle, and giving the Blues too much time and room for manoeuvre. There were some ructions as Taricco appeared to slap Duff in the face during a challenge for the ball, then both Lampard and Parker seemed to be after Taricco - the Spurs man all the opposition love to hate! A Carr cross was missed by Gallas, but also by Keane, before Ziege sent a rocketing low cross from the left, that no-one reached as it whizzed across Ambrosio.
After the break, Kanoute replaced Ziege, and played beside Defoe, whilst Robbie Keane worked from the left side. Keane put in great efforts throughout this half. Within two minutes of the break, Spurs fan Gudjohnssen knocked the ball back for Duff, whose shot was well held by Keller. Significantly, the Jumbotron did not replay the first penalty appeal incident, when Michael Brown hit a shot that first hit Terry's body, then was controlled by his out-stretched arm. Taricco got booked for hauling back Hasselbaink, with Gardner close at hand, as the Chelsea striker nearly got goalside of the defence. Chelsea then broke rapidly out of defence, inadvertently aided by Brown, who got a tackle in, but only put the ball where it would have been passed anyway. The cross from the left was firstly intercepted by Redknapp, but he let the ball run to his cousin - Frank Lampard, whose close range shot was held by Keller.
Keller then made a great save from a glanced effort by Gudjohnssen after Parker's cross from the left. Kasey was not to know the offside flag was already up in his favour.
Jermain Defoe showed a brilliant touch after 69 minutes, when he was 35 yards out, and hit a powerful dipping shot that the keeper had to tip over the bar. Five minutes later, Carr and Brown sent Robbie into the Chelsea area with a typical run. He was nudged in the back by Terry, and shot weakly whilst off balance, whilst the Spurs penalty appeal was turned down by the officials. There was another good appeal, when Doherty was thoroughly man-handled at a Spurs corner. John Jackson took the resulting corner and Gardner's header was punched off the line by Ambrosio. As injury time started, Jackson's deep cross was headed back into the danger zone by Kanoute, and Keane's shot on the turn was only just over the bar.
Spurs have now lost 4 of their last 5 games, including the last three on the trot. In all these games, we have only scored once, and that through an own goal. We have fallen into the bottom three in the form guide, and predictions currently suggest we will just avoid relegation, despite the striking talent at our disposal. It has turned into yet another season to forget, and that new manager will need to be a superstar to lift the fans' spirits this summer.
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