FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 20TH AUGUST, 2005
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (0) MIDDLESBROUGH 0 (0)
Attendance: - 35, 844
Referee: - Mr. M. Atkinson
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson (Capt.); Stalteri, Dawson, Gardner, Edman; Tainio, Davids, Carrick, Reid; Defoe (sub Keane, 76), Mido
Subs not used: - Cerny; Naybet; Mendes, Lennon
Booked: - Defoe (celebration), Tainio, Davids (Fouls)
Middlesbrough (4-4-2):- Schwarzer; Reiziger, Bates (sub Doriva, 72), Southgate (Capt.), Quedrue; Mendietta (sub Morrison, 46), Parlour, Boateng, Downing; Hasselbaink, Yakuba (sub Viduka, 46)
Subs not used: - Jones; Wheater
Booked: - Hasselbaink (Foul)
Spurs went top of the Premiership with their second 2-0 win, and their first two-win start for 11 years. In 1994-95, those wins at Hillsborough, and at home to Everton were achieved with a talisman in the shape of Jurgen Klinsmann. Today saw the League debut of another potential star of the same ilk – Edgar Davids, whose reception was electric, and whose contribution for 90 minutes was brilliant.
Spurs beat Middlesbrough by the same scoreline in last year’s corresponding fixture, with a cracking goal by Defoe and a comedy goal by Fredi Kanoute courtesy of the keeper, Mark Schwarzer, when his attempted clearance was charged down by the now departed Spurs striker. Today we won in similar circumstances. Jermain Defoe put us ahead soon after half time with an absolute stunner of a goal, and his strike partner, Mido sealed the win with a weak 76th minute shot, allowed to creep through pathetically under his body by the once formidable Middlesbrough keeper. (Even the goal times were the same last year)
The atmosphere as the teams came out for this game was hotter than I can remember for some time at the start of a fixture. Sadly, Middlesbrough, despite their UEFA qualification are unable to fill even a lower allocation than average for away teams. The loyal Spurs fans who follow their team up and down the country, and who will surely fill all the away allocations going, are hopeful of at last being rewarded for their perseverance over the years since we last had a team fancied by the pundits to do well in a season.
Davids was the only change of personnel to last week’s team, in place of the injured Wayne Routledge. As predicted, Teemu Tainio played on the right, with Reid out on the left. Carrick was on the right side of Davids, and whilst he was in the shadows of the Dutchman, we saw not one but two great efforts from Carrick, perhaps enjoying a new-found freedom with his new partner. Middlesbrough featured their new signing Yakubu, partnering Hasselbaink, but they were weak at the back, having to use 18 year old Matthew Bates in the absence of suspended Ehiogu and injured absentees. Bates, who has played just 4 full games for Boro, and came on as substitute last week, acquitted himself well in the circumstances.
Edgar Davids had the Spurs fans off their seats in the first minute, when he came off better in his first clash with Ray Parlour, winning a free kick, and getting the opportunity to tip Parlour upside down in the process! Spurs did spend the early minutes testing Bates, with most of their moves coming from the left and inside left channel. No clear cut chances were created, and Boro did not look too interested in the Spurs half of the field in the opening stages. Ironically the first element of threat from Hasselbaink and Yakubu came when Michael Dawson had to temporarily leave the field for a head injury.
Mido and Reid combined well all day, and one early move started with Reid, who then made ground down the line to get ahead of Mido, who ultimately finished the move with shot held by Schwarzer. I thought Reid played very well today, and there should be no doubts about his fitness levels surely, after he impressed midweek for his country and gave 90 minutes today. A 17th minute Spurs corner broke down and Boro broke quickly, with Yakubu having to be smothered by Dawson, happy to concede a corner, taken by Downing, flicked on by Southgate, but missed by Hasselbaink at the back post.
Davids was turning up all over the place, badgering and inspiring all those around him, and he nearly had a debut goal after 20 minutes, when he tried an overhead kick to Mido’s ball. Shades of Jurgen again!
Spurs were easily bossing the possession, as Boro looked intent on keeping the point they started with. Andy Reid lofted a free kick over the defence and Gardner got behind them, but couldn’t quite reach the ball. Davids led a great 24th minute move, as he crossed from the left, saw the ball touched back by Tainio to Carrick who hit easily the best shot I have seen from him since his debut last year. It was a 30 yard ball that screamed just over the left corner of the goal. Defoe hit a fine curling right foot shot that Schwarzer saved inside his left post. Defoe had claims for handball after 35 minutes, when Tainio fed him from the right, and Defoe’s shot seemed to be handled and deflected into Schwarzer’s hands.
Next up was Reid again, finding Davids, whose powerful cross from the left was first parried, then held by Schwarzer, with Mido close at hand. Spurs had a scare just before the break, when Edman was harshly adjudged to have fouled Southgate (still in the attack after a cleared corner). Downing was a danger again, as he delivered a free kick that made the back post, met by Yakubu, who managed to scoop woefully over the bar from close range.
Middlesbrough made two half-time changes, with Mendietta making way for another youngster – Jamie Morrison – and Yakubu being replaced by Mark Viduka, affectionately known to Spurs fans as “Fat Aussie W****er”. (I heard on the radio later that Hasselbaink has been labelled a “Fat Eddie Murphy” by his own contingent). Mido made a bad early miss in front of the Paxton Road stand, with Defoe available at his side, but then Hasselbaink fired over from the left side of the area, after a rare slip by Dawson.
Spurs took the lead after breaking from a defensive position. Tainio – industrious as ever, sent Defoe away just inside the Boro half. Mido was keeping up with Jermain, ready for the pass, and if Defoe had missed his shot we would probably have been cursing his failure to pass, but instead he stunned us all with a rocket of a shot from fully 25 yards with his right foot, that left Schwarzer for dead, just inside his left post. Jermain raced to share his joy with the East Lower fans, and was harshly carded for his natural celebration by rookie Premiership referee Mr Atkinson. It wasn’t as if Jermain was inciting the opposition fans in the opposite corner of the ground.
The crowd became more and more displeased with the referee, who booked two more Spurs men (Tainio and Davids) and also awarded a number of free kicks just outside the Spurs area. Paul Robinson made his first great save from one of these kicks, taken by Downing in the 53rd minute. Robbo flew and pushed the curling shot around his post for a corner. Having gone the goal down, Boro now came out of their shells, and gave Spurs a real test in the closing stages. Boateng shared a one-two with Viduka, before also scooping over the bar and onto the net, then Downing had a good run, before also hitting a poor shot off target.
In the 68th minute, the Boro defence failed to judge the bounce of a Robinson clearance, and Mido pushed the ball out to Reid, who crossed, when Mido headed wide, with Tainio waiting behind him, probably better placed. Davids winning a fight for the ball in the Boro half led to a second effort from Carrick, curling away from the goal. Steve McLaren took off his young defender and replaced him with a midfielder, no doubt hoping to win a gamble for a point, but within minutes, his keeper had surrendered the game to Spurs, when Mido collected from Defoe and only half-hit a shot that Schwarzer looked to have held, then saw it roll under him into the net. The Australian keeper must have wished the ground would swallow him up and take him all the way home!
Defoe was immediately replaced by Spurs only used sub of the day – Robbie Keane – both to rapturous applause. Robbie tried his best to get on the score-sheet, but he must know that in effect he is competing with Defoe for his position, and we must hope he is happy to stay on that basis. There was one occasion when Keano was selfish in going for goal, but it was a natural desire for him, after all. Reid tried a run and a shot, that the keeper held, and Downing had another free kick over the bar, before Robbo made what was possibly the better of his two great saves – this one from a low Hasselbaink free kick through the wall, which “England’s Number One” had to save with one hand out-stretched low to his left.
Once Spurs were 2-0 up the “Glory, Glories” rang around the ground, which I have not heard for quite a while. The news from Pete Abbott appearing on the Jumbotron at the end of the game that we were top of the league brought more cheers to herald a happy trip home, and optimism for our trip to Blackburn. Next Saturday’s game against Chelsea should be white-hot!
· Read a further fan's account of the day here
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