BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 22ND DECEMBER, 2007
ARSENAL 2 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0)
Referee: - Rob Styles
Attendance: - 60, 087
Arsenal (4-4-2):- Almunia; Sagna, Toure, Gallas (Capt.), Clichy; Eboue (sub Bendtner, 73), Fabregas, Flamini, Rosicky; Hleb (sub Gilberto, 81), Adebayor
Subs not used: - Lehmann; Senderos; Eduardo
Booked: - Gallas
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Tainio, Kaboul, Chimbonda, Lee (sub Taarabt, 79); Lennon, Boateng (sub Huddlestone, 60), O’Hara, Malbranque; Berbatov, Keane (Capt) (sub Defoe, 73)
(Armband to Robinson)
Subs not used: - Cerny; Archibald-Henville
Booked: - Boateng, Berbatov, Tainio
Spurs can be rightly proud of their truly competitive performance at The Emirates Stadium today, and their fans can be proud of their team. The result was predictable, as Arsenal took Spurs by storm early after the break, then saved a Robbie Keane penalty after Berbatov’s equaliser, before substitute Nicklas Bendtner was allowed a free header to score with his first touch from a corner fifteen minutes before the end. It could have been so different, and arguably, Robbie Keane, who returned from suspension, should have scored two goals to secure all three points for Spurs.
Both teams lined up in similar patterns, with Keane playing just behind Berbatov, and Hleb adopting that role behind Adebayor. Arsene Wenger was able to field a 100% first choice side, with Eboue passing a late fitness test to take part. Sadly that cannot be said about Spurs, missing so many defenders, and at the last minute Jermaine Jenas failed his fitness test after getting a knock in Tuesday’s Carling Cup game. That led to Jamie O’Hara’s first start for Spurs, playing in the middle beside Kevin Price Boateng, and what a start it was! O’Hara was a true contender for the man of the match award, winning his tackles and regularly finding Aaron Lennon with long range precision passes that (dare I say) put some people in mind of Glenn Hoddle. O’Hara was of course relishing the chance to play at top level against the team where he was a junior until crossing North London at the age of 16. Due to those injuries and the suspension of Didier Zokora, Spurs had to start with the makeshift back four that finished at Eastlands. Those men fulfilled their task very well, but sadly the gooners were allowed two telling chances that won the game.
Spurs played towards their own fans in the first half, but they had a backs to the wall task in the early stages. Adebayor chipped a ball over the defence where Flamini got a foot to the ball before Kaboul, and hit the side netting with his effort. Paul Robinson (on great form again) held a Toure shot following a free kick taken by Fabregas on the right. Spurs first threat upon goal came after 7 minutes, when Malbranque passed to Lennon whose cross from the right was cleared by Sagna, as Keane prepared to pounce.
After that early exchange there were few clear cut chances, as Spurs more than held their own, and got into home territory on plenty of occasions. O’Hara was regularly spraying the ball to Lennon with great confidence. Malbranque was tireless and effective as ever, and Tainio was incisive in the tackle. The defence as a whole were holding out well, against the regular efforts of the home side, who passed and moved with their usual pace and direct approach.
O’Hara felt confident enough to try a shot from 30 yards after half an hour, but the ball went wide of goal. Paul Robinson had to make a good save from Toure’s right foot shot from the edge of the box following a corner.
Arsenal skipper Gallas got a yellow card for protesting Rob Styles’ decision in awarding a foul on Berbatov. Spurs had a good move after 39 minutes, starting with O’Hara’s ball to Lennon, who passed inside the defender to Keane. Robbie passed it back to Lennon, who teed up Boateng for a right foot shot that went just wide. Arsenal were awarded a corner after 42 minutes from which Robinson made a great save – flying to his left to push away Toure’s header. O’Hara made a great defending tackle, and then sent the ball to Berbatov, who tried to pass three defenders, and appeared to be fouled but got nothing for his trouble. Spurs had competed fully throughout the first half, and were more than worth a share of the spoils.
Unfortunately, they got caught on the hop after the break, when Arsenal came forward with strength, and that man Fabregas cleverly back-heeled the ball to Adebayor, in too much space on the left, where he was able to fire home beneath Robinson.
Another great ball from O’Hara to Lennon led to a good cross, from which Keane should have cored from 8 yards or less, but managed to hit the bar with his rising shot. A minute later, Spurs had equalised when Chimbonda lifted a long ball from half-way, Keane back-heeled to Berbatov who beat the keeper with a rising shot from a tight angle.
O’Hara was fouled just to the left of centre, and Huddlestone took the free kick which eventually reached Berbatov, who was caught by Toure, causing the referee to award Spurs an unexpected but welcome penalty. Keane stepped up and played his usual hesitation trick, but Almunia had read correctly and made the save with the ball just too close to centre. Spurs were unable to collect the rebound.
So, it could and should have been 2-1 to Spurs, but it all went wrong when substitute Nicklas Bendtner was allowed a free headed to score with his first touch from Fabregas’s 76th minute corner.
Taarabt replaced Lee, and got into the area himself and might have been awarded a pen, but it was not to be, and Spurs have to be content with their good competitive performance against the top of the league opposition, whilst nursing their wounded morale over what might have been. Two wins in our home games next week will help to put this behind us.
· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
· Read the preview for this game.
· Spurs record in recent Derby matches
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