FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 18TH MARCH, 2006
BIRMINGHAM CITY 0 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (0)
Attendance: - 26,398
Referee: - Uriah Rennie
Assistants: - J. Holbrook, S. Proctor-Green
Fourth Official: - Mr. A. Bates
Birmingham (4-4-2):- Maik Taylor; Melchiot, Cunningham (Capt.), Martin Taylor, Clapham; Pennant, Butt, Johnson, Lazaridis (sub Kilkenny, 80); Heskey (sub Forssell, 57), Campbell
Subs not used: - Vaesen; Tebily; Clemence
Booked: - Cunningham, Butt
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Kelly, Dawson, King (Capt.), Lee; Lennon, Jenas, Carrick, Davids; Defoe, Keane (sub Murphy, 77)
Subs not used: - Cerny; Gardner; Tainio; Mido
Spurs showed they do have a bit of character as they ultimately withstood the pressure they felt as a result of earlier wins for Arsenal, Blackburn and Bolton. Aaron Lennon’s first senior goal for the club, and a close range finish for Robbie Keane – set up by Jermaine Jenas – ensured that the points went back to North London, despite a battling performance by the home side in the first half. Steve Bruce was left cursing the Portsmouth win at Upton Park, where Alan Pardew again fielded a weakened side, in preparation for Monday night’s FA Cup Quarter-final.
Birmingham have their own Cup battle to look forward to on Tuesday night, but their priority of course will be to survive in the top flight. The absence of Matthew Upson, Jiri Jarosik, Muzzy Izzet, David Dunn and Chris Sutton – all through injury – does not help the cause of survival, but the players left did their utmost to foil Spurs, putting the top four side under pressure for a good deal of the first half.
Martin Jol had used his hatchet and dropped Paul Stalteri from the sixteen, following his mistake last Saturday at Stamford Bridge. This had not been the right-back’s first error of course, but Stephen Kelly did not miss out on the opportunity to step into Stalteri’s shoes. Lazaridis on the left wing got little change on the night. Refreshingly, Aaron Lennon was given a start, indicating a clear intention by Spurs to play an attacking game. Mido was left on the bench, and Martin Jol gave the “little men” (Keane and Defoe) a chance.
Spurs lack of height at the front, and indeed across the middle (except for Jenas) gave Paul Robinson little outlet, and too often, long clearances found their way back to the Spurs half very quickly. Melchiot and Pennant pressed Spurs right flank, but thanks to the inept nature of Emile Heskey, and a combination of the reliable Ledley King and “Awesome Dawson”, Spurs rarely had too much to worry about at the back, despite conceding a fair number of corners.
Spurs did enjoy some good early possession, and got an early free kick on the edge of the area. Carrick struck a low kick through the wall, which was collected easily by Maik Taylor. Two minutes later, Jenas (playing a central midfield role) was dispossessed and D.J. Campbell got a deflected shot on target. Campbell was signed in January, following some impressive performances for Brentford. Campbell was generally outclassed by the Spurs defence, and Bruce knows he will need more in his armoury if he really wants to survive the relegation battle.
A Heskey low cross from the bye-line crossed the area, avoiding everyone in sight, which came as a blessed relief to Spurs, defending the goal in front of their own massed fans in the first half. (TV viewing revealed a vital touch by Dawson to take the ball away from D.J.Campbell) Heskey later wanted a penalty off Ledley King as he (Heskey) threw himself at the Spurs skipper, but Uriah Rennie correctly was having none of that attempt. Just before the break, Birmingham had a couple of corners. The second was only half cleared, and the ball was headed back over the defence by Lazaridis, only for Heskey to see his half-hit effort easily blocked by Paul Robinson. As half-time approached, Lennon made a run down the inside right channel, and fed Jenas who was on his right. The cross was met by Robbie Keane but blocked by Melchiot for a corner.
Spurs played with more style and domination in the second half, and any chances for the home side were few and far between and comfortably dealt with by Spurs. Robbie Keane flicked on a ball to Defoe after 52 minutes, and Jermain’s shot was tipped over by Taylor. From the second corner at this stage, Michael Dawson hit a powerful drive, which was deflected wide by Butt’s arm, undetected by the referee. Defoe, playing in front of the England manager, got stronger and stronger, and after Martin Taylor’s header had been tipped over by Robinson, Defoe took advantage of Melchiot’s mistake on the touch line, before beating Cunningham on the left side, before crossing to the box, where Jenas and Lennon waited. Jenas either missed or dummied the shot, but Aaron Lennon took a little time, before slotting home the shot with his left foot for a precious lead.
Twelve minutes later, Spurs sealed the win. Lennon did his bit of battling just inside the Spurs half to win the ball, then Carrick found Jenas with a great ball down the right channel. Jenas crossed accurately and Robbie Keane had an easy finish in front of his own fans for 2-0.
Spurs will have to deal with similar pressure next week, as they don’t play West Brom till Monday night. Perhaps a rejuvenated Portsmouth can take something off the gooners next Saturday! Let’s just enjoy a great win for Spurs today. In previous years, this would probably have been a banana skin. We have eight “Cup Finals” left!
COME ON YOU SPURS!
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