FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
THURSDAY 10TH MAY, 2007
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0) BLACKBURN ROVERS 1 (1)
Referee: - Rob Styles
Attendance: - 35,974
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, King (Capt.), Gardner; Lennon, Tainio, Zokora, Malbranque (sub Ghaly, 28) (sub Keane, 59); Defoe, Berbatov
Subs not used: - Cerny; Ifil; Huddlestone
Blackburn (4-4-2):- Friedel; Emerton, Samba, Nelsen (Capt.), Warnock; Bentley, Tugay (sub Gallagher, 90+), Mokoena (sub Derbyshire, 75), Pedersen; Roberts, McCarthy
Subs not used: - Brown; Henchoz, Berner
Booked: - Mokoena, Pedersen, Roberts
Sent off: - Roberts (2nd yellow for dissent, after being booked for foul on Zokora)
Spurs edged closer to Europe, thanks to a strong second half performance and Jermain Defoe’s 67th minute close-range goal, created by Dimitar Berbatov. Blackburn had gone ahead in the first half, which lacked much in the way of the excitement expected of a game which meant everything to both teams. Both teams had chances to secure all three points. Blackburn might have made it 2-0 in the 61st minute, when the massive centre-back Christopher Samba headed a cross onto the crossbar. Having equalised, Spurs might have won 2-1, when Robbie Keane’s shot beat Friedel, but bounced back into the keeper’s arms after hitting the bottom of the post. Blackburn’s hopes of automatically qualifying for Europe have gone with this result, and I doubt very much if they are candidates for the fair play league with their previous record, and the physical display seen tonight!
The crowd of nearly 36,000 took Spurs home crowds for the season over the 1,000,000 mark. There were few Blackburn fans, and the extra home contingent should have set their team on their way in the first half. This didn’t happen, and perhaps the absence of Jenas and Keane from the starting line-up did not help. Spurs started with Lennon on the right, and Malbranque on the left flank, although, while he was on the pitch, Malbranque wandered to Lennon’s side at will. Steed did not last long, suffering a knock from Mokoena’s 19th minute foul (for which the Blackburn midfielder saw yellow), from which he did not recover being replaced by Hossam Ghaly after 28 minutes.
Ghaly could have ended his Spurs career, thanks to a poor performance which earnt plenty of stick from Spurs fans, and his subsequent behaviour. It was no surprise when Ghaly was substituted himself by Robbie Keane on the hour, and as he pulled off his shirt before leaving the pitch, Ghaly got booed. Ghaly added to his shame by throwing the shirt to the floor, receiving chants that left him in no doubt where he stood at that moment in the affections of Spurs fans. “You’re not fit to wear the shirt” was the repeatable of the two chants directed towards the Egyptian, who has scored three goals this season, including the memorable effort at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup. This man’s season at Spurs has surely ended.
Spurs had started the game brightly, without creating much in the way of threats to goal, apart from a chipped effort by Defoe that was saved by Friedel at his top left corner, after a clever ball from Berbatov. Neither team was dominating though, and although Zokora was energetic in the middle and Tainio tigerish in the tackle, Bentley and Pedersen were exploiting the wings for Blackburn. Jason Roberts was giving Ledley King a stern test too, as he often held the ball up well, whilst McCarthy got into dangerous positions.
Gardner did a pretty good job on Bentley and still found time to get forward, being one of those to at least have a half chance at a crossed ball, but the most Friedel had to do was stretch high to retrieve one of those balls. It came as no surprise when the visitors took the lead in the 32nd minute, as Pedersen crossed deep from the left, when Ledley failed to meet the ball, leaving McCarthy a straightforward header back across the goalmouth into the net. Soon after this, Ghaly made his first mistake, within minutes of entering the field, getting forced off the ball in the middle, leading to a Rovers’ attack, when Robinson was forced to make a save from a long range effort by Roberts.
Four minutes before the break, Ghaly lost out again, and this led to pressure being brought to bear down in the Spurs area. Chimbonda battled away to try and clear from within the box, and he seemed to get impeded. Rob Styles waved play-on and Bentley had a lobbed effort well over the bar. Mr Styles, and one of his assistants in particular did not win back any friends tonight, as several line decisions and fouls seemed to go against us on balance. As half-time loomed, Aaron Lennon, who had now switched to the left side, went on a run down the left channel, and tried a highish shot to Friedel’s right which the American held easily.
Spurs at last put in the sort of effort in the second half, that if seen throughout the game might have been rewarded with all three points. Gardner led the way with a run on a diagonal from left to right, feeding Ghaly, whose pass to Defoe found the striker in one of his favourite positions – offside! Ghaly was trying a number of chipped passes over the defence and indeed part of the Spurs strategy must have been to try and give Defoe a run on the defence. Sadly, no-one quite got their timing right on the night.
Spurs had a scare in the 52nd minute, when McCarthy’s shot was deflected for a corner. Then Pedersen got his booking for a foul on Defoe just outside the box. It took an age for the free kick to be set up, and when the kick was taken by Berbatov, Friedel firstly pushed the ball above his head, then held it, but appeared to be carried over the goal-line. Spurs fans in the Paxton Stand were baying for a goal, but the officials were having none of it.
Following Ghaly’s substitution, Blackburn had a free kick on the right, taken by Pedersen, met by the head of Samba, as the ball crashed against the bar, and bounced to safety. At that moment, the Blackburn bench were head in hands, sensing the road to Europe opening. Spurs pressed hard, and the reward came with 23 minutes left. Dawson and Chimbonda had joined the attack, but it was Keane’s final pass to Berbatov, which the striker held with three defenders in proximity, turned and fired low at Friedel, who could only parry the ball to Defoe for an easy close-range finish.
A Robbie Keane corner was headed down by Gardner, but bounced back off Defoe, who was outside the goal anyway. In the follow-up Michael Dawson received a cross from the right, and had a good chance at close range, which he put wide. Blackburn replaced Mokoena with another striker – Matt Derbyshire, but there were times when they seemed to want to run down the clock, with delaying tactics at throw-ins and free kicks, then finally with a long walk off in added time by Tugay, when replaced by Gallagher. The best chance probably fell to Pedersen beyond the back post, when he fired first time, but nearly hit his few followers in the upper south-west tier.
Dawson had another effort, from a Chimbonda ball, but again fired outside the target. As added time commenced, Berbatov controlled a long ball from Robinson and set Chimbonda on his way on a run. Pascal threaded a great ball through the middle of the defence for Keane, whose shot beat Friedel, hit the bottom of the post, but bounced back into the welcoming arms of the keeper.
The final notable event was the sending off of Jason Roberts, who saw yellow for a foul on Zokora just outside the box, then red for arguing too vehemently about the decision.
So, Spurs insist on making us wait till Sunday to be sure of Europe. One more point would secure it, but a win could secure the prestige of qualifying in fifth place.
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