FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 19TH AUGUST, 2006
BOLTON WANDERERS 2 (2) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)
Referee: - Phil Dowd
Attendance: - 22,899
Bolton (4-1-2-2-1):- Jaaskelainen; Hunt, Ben Haim, Meite, Fortune; Campo, Nolan (Capt.), Speed; Diouf, Vaz Te (sub Stelios, 86); Davies
Subs not used: - Walker; Fojut; Tal, Smith
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson (Capt.); Lee (sub Huddlestone, 74), Dawson, Davenport, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Jenas, Zokora (sub Keane, 59), Davids; Defoe, Berbatov
Subs not used: - Cerny; Gardner; Ziegler
Pre-season form counted for nothing. Reputations were everything. Stuttering Spurs’ Southern softies were plundered by Bolton’s Northern grit.
Sam Allardyce recently made the record books when he made a signing which gave him players from 20 different nations. Whatever their origins, he had his men fully toned up for this opener, and they played in a typically uncompromising British style. There were no surprises in the way Wanderers played. They used the same formation as they have for a couple of years now. Allardyce’s recipe for success is physical strength, great athleticism, a well-organised formation, where every component knows just what to do in every circumstance arising during the 90 minutes, and where one or two players challenge for the ball wherever it is being played. The (not so secret) ingredient is a hint of cynicism. Call it cheating if you will, but Bolton’s first goal was scored when Bolton’s newest defender (Ivory Coast’s “Mighty” Meite) pulled back Calum Davenport who MAY have otherwise reached Kevin Davies as he headed home the evergreen Gary Speed’s 9th minute corner. Referee Phil Dowd was in a very lenient frame of mind (this did work for both sides), but light-weight Spurs were easily tumbled when in possession, and struggled to play with any flow or creativity.
After all the optimism, this was Spurs worst start for 8 years (a 3-1 loss to Wimbledon in 1998), and I think the new boys were taken by surprise by the physical nature of the British game (whoever is playing it!) Spurs were still in pre-season mode and the truth is they rarely competed. I blame Martin Jol as much as the players, as he started with a diamond midfield. Zokora was the cover, with Jenas and Davids behind little Aaron Lennon at the head of a diamond having to try and pierce Nolan, Speed and Campo, who were the defensive section of Bolton’s midfield. Jol gave up the diamond after going two down, with Lennon reverting to the right hand side. Martin tried everything, with Lennon playing down the left in the second half; Jenas on the right; Lee being withdrawn and Jenas covering at right back. Robbie Keane’s insertion (for Zokora) on the hour was the most impactive, and in the second half, Spurs at least had more composure and possession. Bolton held out though for a clearly deserved three points.
Bolton’s formation was like an arrow-head, fronted by Kevin Davies, who was one of the pre-match doubtful starters. New boy Quinton Fortune was another starter at left back. I always thought of him as an attacking midfielder for Manchester United, but he certainly made a good start against Aaron Lennon (when he did have to face him). Abdoulaye Meite clearly had the better start than his compatriot, Zokora, who was one of a few Spurs players who skidded on the greasy Reebock surface. (It was a grey, wet and cloudy Northern day!)
Behind Davies, Bolton had El-Hadji Diouf and Vaz Te, who interchanged between left and right at will, and who either supported Davies, or their respective full backs when required. Now, I don’t like “Gobber” Diouf, but he was all over the park, and at times you’d see him attacking Ekotto down Bolton’s right flank, or assisting Fortune against Lennon.
Even when Spurs did adjust their formation, in the first half they attacked more down the left, where they had no width, and Ekotto having the task of trying to get ahead of Davids. If I’m honest (and I always am!), Spurs looked seriously flimsy.
There was a bit of entertainment early on, when Ekotto impressed in a battle with Diouf, but then Spurs had their first scare when Vaz Te’s lofty cross from the left had Paul Robinson falling dangerously near his goal-line when challenged by Davies, who was adjudged to have fouled the keeper. Dawson was wise to Speed’s softly directed corner, which was headed towards goal, but it wasn’t long before Spurs went behind. Speed took a second corner, and Davies was in space, able to head past Robinson, whilst Davenport was held back. The replay that was shown on the Bolton screen would never have been played at White Hart lane for fear of the controversy it would cause. As it was, the loyal away contingent saw the evidence of the cheating home side. (By the way, Bolton still can’t fill their ground)
Four minutes later (and Spurs still had not had a meaningful attack), Jenas was guilty of half-clearing the ball, collected by Campo, just inside the Spurs half. Now, in fairness Campo should have presented no danger from such a distance, but he hit a brilliant low pile-driver that deceived Robinson, even from the distance of fully 35 yards, and flew into the net.
Spurs re-formed, and with Lennon moving to the right, Jermain Defoe fell behind Berbatov to support the pressurised midfield. At last, after 23 minutes, Spurs managed a good passing move following a free kick from the back. Davids fed Berbatov, who laid the ball across to Jermain, whose shot was parried with a save to the left, then cleared. Berbatov (another one who kept falling over) and Defoe combined again, before Lee’s cross was blocked in the box. Spurs fans cried handball from the other end, but it was to no avail. Robinson was forced to make a diving save from Speed’s curling free kick, and at the other end, Jenas tried one which went well over the bar, awarded after Berbatov’s great run was foiled by a three-handed cynical foul.
Jenas (who last year scored a great free kick at Old Trafford) clearly fancies the Beckham role, but his only other effort in the second half also failed to test Jaaskelainen. In that second half, Jenas moved out to the right, as Lennon tried to attack Nicky Hunt down the Spurs left flank. Spurs did make a break from that side, which ended with Lennon cutting across the area, before his shot was half-cleared. Young-Pyo Lee who was following up was easily fought off the ball by that man Diouf. See what I mean? Diouf was back on his goal-line to defend this threat.
Michael Dawson made a poor clearance to Nolan on the edge of the box, but thankfully, the Bolton skipper hit his shot wide of the far post. Dawson did better at the other end following a short corner by Zokora and Lennon. Dawson headed Lennon’s cross straight to Jaaskelainen. Robbie Keane came on and played behind the strikers. Almost immediately he sent Berbatov away with a great ball down the middle, which Jaaskelainen saved at the second attempt. One of the Spurs strategies today was to try and send their strikers away with long balls from the back, which never came off.
Paul Robinson’s form in the World Cup was shaky for all to see, and he is not looking in the best form for Spurs as yet. At times he was a little flappy at crosses, and the Spurs defence looked in disarray, but Robbo did make a great close range save after 63 minutes from Diouf’s close ranger header.
Had the scoreline shown a greater advantage to Bolton, I could not have argued injustice. Spurs were that bad. They will have to toughen up for Tuesday night’s game against Sheffield United, who crocked a couple of Liverpool defenders today. Warnock’s side will be another uncompromising physical opponent, and Spurs will have their work cut out on this showing.
· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
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