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Spurs v Charlton, 09.12.06

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FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 9TH DECEMBER, 2006
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 5 (2) CHARLTON ATHLETIC 1 (1)

Dimitar Berbatov scored his 8th and 9th goals of the season today Spurs scorers:-
Berbatov, 31, 66
Tainio, 33
Malbranque, 55
Defoe, 63

Charlton scorer:-
Dawson (o.g.), 42

Referee: - Mike Dean

Attendance: - 35,565

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda (sub Stalteri, 82), Dawson, King (Capt.), Lee; Lennon, Tainio, Huddlestone, Malbranque (sub Murphy, 70); Defoe, Berbatov (sub Mido, 76)

Subs not used: - Cerny; Ghaly

Booked: - Dawson, Malbranque

Charlton (4-4-2):- Carson; Young (Capt.), El Karkouri, Diawara, Hreidarsson; Kishishev (sub Rommedahl, 52), Faye, Reid (sub Hasselbaink, 66), Hughes; Bent, Sam

Subs not used: - Myhre; Fortune; Holland

Booked: - Hughes, Reid, Sam, Diawara

Spurs climbed to their highest Premiership position so far this season with their biggest win since May 2005, when Aston Villa were the victims by the same score. Last week after the Arsenal debacle, I said that Martin Jol and his team owed us fans 6 points and two performances from this week’s home games. We have the 6 points, and today’s game went a fair way (bit not the whole distance) towards putting losing to the gooners way back in the memory banks. We are level on points with our local enemies, and they play at Stamford Bridge tomorrow.

The fact is that until Spurs scored their first two goals in quick succession after half an hour, Charlton had enjoyed most of the possession, and had come closest to scoring. It was looking as if it might be one of those days, with former Spur Andy Reid enjoying his game too much for my liking. Reid was at the head of a diamond-like midfield, with Amady Faye holding the fort in front of his defence which was to prove all too brittle as the game wore on.

As for Spurs, Tainio replaced Zokora in an otherwise unchanged starting line up. Spurs struggled to string more than two or three passes together though in the opening phase, with Tom Huddlestone struggling to find the form of Tuesday night, and Malbranque also taking a long time to find his rhythm.

It was a near full house, but the crowd figure was only let down by the apathy of Charlton fans, who don’t travel north of the river well. Those that were present were encouraged by what they saw initially and no-one in the stadium had an inkling of what was to come, as Spurs ultimately looked like scoring at will, particularly in the second half.

Aaron Lennon scored a couple of assists Dawson got an early booking for a challenge upon Bent, which by my reckoning is his fifth in domestic competitions and will earn him a one match suspension at Eastlands next Sunday. Bryan Hughes was not long after Dawson into Mike Dean’s book, for a foul on Lennon, who along with Malbranque was to be found in the central midfield area too often for my liking. Mind you, Aaron scored a couple of assists today as a result of his roving commission.

After 16 minutes, with Spurs being pinned back, Lee did well to concede a throw rather than a corner, from which Faye hit a cracker of a shot with his right foot that went across Robinson. Spurs struggled to create any real openings until they scored in the 31st minute. Defoe was fouled as he advanced down the right channel, but the referee waved “play-on” despite the ball going backwards to Tom Huddlestone. Spurs did managed to take the advantage though, as Huddlestone played the ball through the middle where Lennon was waiting and cleverly turned the ball ahead of Berbatov, dead level with the defensive line. Berby scored with just the right touch of his right foot to shoot past the advancing Carson. Dimitar Berbatov celebrates that scoring feeling!

The celebrations were hardy over before Tainio increased the lead. Lennon crossed from the left and the ball was cleared only as far as Teemu about 25 yards out. The Finn hit a low shot, that got a slight deflection, passing through Carson’s legs to hit the net. Game over? Well not quite, as Reid took revenge just before the break. Reid had been impeded just inside his half, but again the referee gave the advantage, which allowed Reid to carry the ball down the left flank. After a one-two, Reid rounded the Spurs right flank, and shot low on goal. Dawson was in front of Robinson, and in trying to clear, mis-hit the ball which rose above the despairing keeper. Thus we had a live match as we entered the second half.

For a long time it was almost one-way traffic. Berbatov headed down a Robinson clearance into the path of Defoe who was in the clear with plenty of time to get closer to goal before unleashing a shot. Defoe hit the ball too early, from 30 yards out and it was a poor effort on goal. Jermain hit a better shot three minutes later, from closer in, and this shot just dipped too late going over the bar.

Steed Malbranque scores his debut goal for the first team Charlton manager Les Reed needed the points desperately and replaced Kishishev with Dennis Rommedahl, seeking more penetration and creativity. Spurs though went 3-1 up, with a crucial goal. Lennon passed to Chimbonda on the right hand side, and Pascal passed inside to Tainio who chipped a cross, again headed down by the excellent Berbatov, falling perfectly for Steed Malbranque’s first Premiership goal for Spurs, scored with a sweet left foot volley. Malbranque saw Mr Dean’s yellow for over-celebrating in the Spurs crowd. In fairness, Mr Dean had his hands on his hips in a gesture towards the bench as if to say “I have to book him, it’s the rules”. Malbranque will consider the card a worthwhile “fine” for an excellent goal.

Spurs next goal came from the break-down of Charlton possession in the middle. Lennon had won a challenge and chipped the ball over the defence. Berbatov was in an offside position, but took no part in the play, whilst Defoe was allowed to run onto the pass, beating Carson with a great right footed shot to the keeper’s top left corner. Berbatov then capped his great day with a solo goal, as he collected a Robinson throw near the half way line, and took on the right side of the Charlton defence single-handed. Berby’s low left foot shot hit Carson’s legs but also hit the right side of the side netting beyond the keeper.

After that, it was time for Martin Jol to make some substitutions to give Berbatov and Chimbonda a bit of a breather before next Thursday’s UEFA Cup tie. Berbatov got a fantastic and deserved reception when he left. Former Charlton man Danny Murphy replaced Malbranque for some midfield duellery with his old team. Spurs eased up somewhat though, despite one Berbatov header which was blocked, and a good shot from Tom Huddlestone, getting a second bite at the cherry, thanks to Lennon’s passing. In the closing stages, Charlton might have got another goal, were it not for some great defending by Paul Robinson against Darren Bent. Robbo made a conventional save then a great tackle! He also had to make a good save from a Rommedahl shot from a sharp angle on the right.

In the second half, Charlton did look more than ragged at the back, and Spurs could easily have run up a cricket score, had they chosen to be more ruthless. We have two tougher tests next week. First there is the UEFA Cup Group B winning-decider against Dinamo Bucarest, and then next Sunday, Spurs must seek to improve one of the worst away records in the Premiership, when they travel to Manchester City. I’ll be there!

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