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Spurs v Arsenal, 21.04.07

FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 21ST APRIL, 2007
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (1) ARSENAL 2 (0)

Spurs scorers:-
Keane, 30
Jenas, 90

Arsenal scorers:-
Toure, 64
Adebayor, 78

Referee: - Mike Dean

Attendance: - 36,050

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, King (Capt.), Rocha; Tainio (sub Malbranque, 59), Jenas, Zokora (sub Defoe, 81), Lennon (sub Huddlestone, 71); Berbatov, Keane

Subs not used: - Cerny; Ifil

Booked: - Berbatov, Zokora

Arsenal (4-4-2):- Lehmann; Eboue, Toure, Gallas, Clichy; Hleb (sub Senderos, 90+), Diaby, Gilberto (Capt.), Rosicky (sub Baptista, 65); Ljungberg (sub Fabregas, 39), Adebayor

Subs not used: - Almunia; Denilson

Booked: - Diaby, Lehmann

One for the Jenas Haters!

Jermaine Jenasís dramatic 20 yard equaliser in the last minute of added time was a spectacular finish to this game for those Spurs fans left in the ground, and one in the eye for the many Jenas-haters amongst Tottenhamís support. Most of those too would have left too, believing that Spurs had been suitably punished for their pathetic second-half display against our hated rivals, who we still have not beaten in the 21st Century.

The way the results have gone today (with Everton and Bolton both losing), the point that Jenas gained for us should actually give us heart that we can go on and qualify for Europe. Indeed mathematically, we can do the necessary, but the team needs to improve its form and commitment for the remainder of the season. It seems that there are too many tired legs having to play for us at present, but Arsenal made us look like a second-rate team in the second half, and apart from Berbatov and Ledley King, we looked like a team full of second-rate footballers in my view. To be honest the red and white shirts were camped in the Spurs half for much of the second half, and the ease with which they controlled the game made it look like a training game against a weak sparring partner. Arsene Wenger might have exaggerated when he said that his team should have won by 5 clear goals, but they did hit the woodwork three times, and could have scored five.

Martin Jol had been playing mind games in the run-up to this game with team news. Only this morning I heard that Ledley was very doubtful to start, but there he was to Captain the team, and there in front of him was Robbie Keane, who had been described as unlikely to start. With the exception of Ricardo Rocha having to improvise at left back, Spurs could claim to be fielding a full strength side, whereas Arsenal were weakened by the long-term absence of Henry and Van Persie, and today by the fact that Fabregas started on the bench. Fabregas was to have every influence on this game though, as he replaced the injured Ljungberg after 39 minutes.

With Lennon positioned on the left to try and beat Eboue, rather than Clichy, and Tainio on the right, Spurs started very well, and were on top of their visitors for the opening phase of the game. Experience has shown that a team needs to make such dominance pay, and once again, Spurs failed. Even at their best, Spurs needed a moment too long to made a creative decision, and as the game progressed and we saw plenty of Spurs at their worst, they failed to defend from the front, close down those in possession, and attack with any indication of desire. That evidence was to follow the Keane goal after half an hour, when tactically it seemed that Martin Jol was seeking to defend the lead. The evidence of the season clearly shows that such tactics were folly.

In the very first minute, Zokora found Berbatov with a long ball into the area, but it left Berbatov plenty of work to do. The super Bulgarian, who continues to charm independent observers wherever he plays, managed to bring the ball under some control and nearly lobbed Lehmann successfully, but hit the ball wide. Zokora himself had a good effort after 4 minutes, when receiving from the left, showing strength against his opponents, but hitting the shot wide of the right hand post.

Berbatov was getting plenty of stick, but it was quite a while before he got a decision off referee Mike Dean. In the 22nd minute, Berbatov was caught in a Gilberto/Diaby sandwich, but sadly Jenasís free kick was too high. Jenasís profligacy from dead balls is the cause of a lot of the criticism aimed at him, and today he made a few mis-placed passes too. But, he was not the only offender in this regard.

Berbatov impressed again after 28 minutes, receiving the ball on the right, only just in the Arsenal half. He made a run to the bye-line, but in trying to fire in a low cross, he hit a defender, winning a corner. For his troubles, as the players prepared for this corner, Berbatov got shoved by Diaby, and elbowed (a downward shot) by Lehmann. Mr Dean saw fit to book not only Diaby and Lehmann, but also our hero, who might have won a penalty had the ball been in play. The next best thing happened though as (erm) Jenas swung in the corner, Dawson headed down, and Robbie Keane was on hand to direct a header low past Lehmannís right hand. The players rushed to the south-east corner flag to celebrate. Robbie Keane has given up cartwheels quite a while ago, and has now taken to standing facing the crowd, arms spread wide. Robbie now has 19 goals this season, and is only one behind Berbatov in the top-scorer stakes.

Sadly, Arsenal took more and more control now, with Spurs seemingly restrained by instructions. Whilst Arsenal always seemed to have three or four players around the man in possession, wherever they were on the field, Spurs often left the gooners to their own devices, until they approached a line say 35 yards out from goal. When Fabregas came on, Diaby moved forward in support of Adebayor.

Spurs had one more chance in the first half, when Berbatov headed down a Robinson clearance and Robbieís shot was half-hit and held by Lehmann. As half-time approached Fabregas threaded a ball to Eboue, who was allowed to enter the area without so much as a sniff of a challenge. Eboueís shot beat Robinson, rebounded off the post and was then skied by Adebayor. Spurs had been given a warning for the second half.

Spurs were very much pressed back, and didnít help their cause by failing to clear effectively. Their aggressive tactics were too predictable, being a long ball for Berbatov, who, if he did win the ball, had too little in the way of support. Spurs were at home, but struggled to get more than one or two men in the Arsenal half. A poor clearance by Dawson led to a chance for Gilberto, whose shot was deflected for a corner. After 51 minutes, from a corner, Toure headed down against the post, and in the follow-up, Rosicky hit a shot that Robinson saved and held. Arsenal hit the woodwork again after 58 minutes, when Clichy got beyond Chimbonda, and crossed for Adebayor, whose header hit the top of the bar going out of play.

Tainio was replaced by Malbranque and Aaron Lennon moved to the right, but the inevitable equaliser came a few minutes later, from a free kick, taken by Fabregas, and Toure was allowed to dart behind the defence and prod the ball past Robbo with his right foot. Lennon was soon to be replaced by Tom Huddlestone, but his touch had deserted him today too. Arsenal took a 78th minute lead Ė this time from a free kick on the right. Fabregas floated the ball to the back post, and Adebayor rose and beat Robinson with a header in his top right corner.

The exodus of disgruntled Spurs fans began, with little evidence of a threat upon the Arsenal goal. Both Keane and Malbranque at least had crosses, but they were too close to Lehmann. Jenas had created the opportunity for Malbranque with a typical tackle on the stretch to win the ball, and pass accurately, and he was to become the hero at the death when Spurs suddenly decided to start playing football in the Arsenal half. Defoe had been brought on too late to make an impact, but Spurs did string a few passes together in the build-up to the equaliser, with Malbranque making the final pass, for Jermaine Jenas who hit a beautiful right-foot low shot that had Lehmann beaten all the way. Cue frantic support in the North-East corner, followed only 30 seconds after the restart by the final whistle. Quite rightly, Martin Jol gave Jenas a massive hug as he left the pitch.

When the score was 1-1, I said to my neighbour that I would settle for a draw, such was the dominance we were suffering by Arsenal. Despite the poor performance (Spursometer only 44%), Spurs are at least still on target for Europe.

If you wanted an omen today - both Spurs scorers were pictured on the cover of the programme!

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