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Spurs v Portsmouth, 22.03.08

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 22ND MARCH, 2008
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (0) PORTSMOUTH 0 (0)

Scorers:-
Bent, 80
O’Hara, 82

Referee: - Mr P. Dowd

Attendance: - 35,998

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Hutton, Dawson (sub Bent, 69), Woodgate, Chimbonda; Lennon (sub O’Hara, 69), Huddlestone, Zokora, Malbranque; Keane (Capt.) (sub Tainio, 82), Berbatov
(Armband to Robinson)
Subs not used: - Cerny; Kaboul

No bookings

Portsmouth (4-1-4-1):- James; Johnson, Hreidarsson, Distin (Capt.), Aubey; Hughes (sub Mvuemba, 89); Utaka, Davis, Mendes, Kranjcar; Kanu (sub Baros, 82)

Subs not used: - Ashdown; Wilson; Nugent

Booked: - Utaka

It has taken 31 games of the League season for it to happen, but substitute Darren Bent finally became the official Spurs hero of the hour in this game, as he nodded home the 100th goal scored at White Hart Lane this season, then demonstrated great power and speed to leave Hermann Hreidarsson in his wake and lay off a ball for Jamie O’Hara’s first league goal for Spurs, securing a justified 2-0 victory for Spurs.

Portsmouth had come without Jermain Defoe and a certain centre half, not to mention several other first team regulars. As a result, Harry Redknapp set up his team in a 4-1-4-1 formation, clearly aiming for a draw. Whilst Spurs played with great skill and dominated the first 30 minutes, they lost their momentum, and a stalemate was looking a distinct possibility until Juande Ramos replaced a defender (Dawson) with a striker (Bent), and also introduced Jamie O’Hara. Initially, Spurs struggled to re-organise, playing Hutton, Woodgate and Chimbonda across the back, and Portsmouth nearly took advantage, but once we settled down, we did re-claim the initiative.

Spurs clearly dominated the early stages of the game and after 10 minutes a quick free kick was crossed by Lennon and Chimbonda’s touch was cleared in front of goal. A ball by Berbatov to Keane on the left side of the box resulted in a shot by Keane not hit with full power and easily claimed by David James. After 14 minutes, Tom Huddlestone took a free kick awarded for a foul on Berbatov. James just about managed to hold the kick under his bar, then nearly fell foul to Robbie Keane’s trick of creeping up from behind the keeper.

David James hit a long kick which Zokora failed to read correctly and claim. Utaka reached the ball and laid it off for ex-Spur Sean Davis who surprised Paul Robinson with a lobbed shot that Robbo just managed to push over the bar at the stretch. Chimbonda came close to opening the scoring for Spurs, after his poor header into the area found its way back to him, and he hit a powerful right foot shot that passed just outside James’ left post. Referee Phil Dowd had words with Glenn Johnson for a foul on Chimbonda who was momentarily playing ahead of Malbranque, after Steed had won and passed the ball with terrific skill and application.

Spurs tried another quick free kick after 25 minutes and Lennon’s cross reached Malbranque in a more familiar position. Sadly, Malbranque’s shot also finished in a familiar position – wide! Spurs had the ball in the net after Huddlestone’s ball through the middle to Keane, who picked out the movement of Berbatov, adjudged offside as he planted the shot into the net. Michael Dawson then crashed a shot against the bar following a corner, with James beaten. Lennon did well to keep possession after Huddlestone’s pass on 34 minutes, and fed the ball to Hutton. Hutton’s low cross was cleared only as far as Berbatov, who pushed a shot well wide. Huddlestone fired over just before the break, after Lennon’s cross.

As the second half started, Spurs tried to take advantage of Portsmouth’s left back Lucien Aubrey. Berbatov nearly picked out Keane with a clever flick, then Zokora passed on Lennon’s cross to Huddlestone who again fired over the bar. Once again, the referee showed lenience having “words” only with Kranjcar for his foul on Zokora, but he did book Utaka for a foul on Chimbonda. A Robbie Keane shot was partially blocked and looped down into James’ hands, and then it was time for Juande Ramos to change tack. In that spell of adjustment, Robinson was nearly caught out by a Kranjcar free kick which he parried then pushed away. Then he was beaten by a Kanu header, but thankful to Zokora for making a good clearance in front of goal.

That was the end of Portsmouth’s threat, and Spurs came forward with gusto. First Malbranque’s shot was blocked and fell to Berbatov, who fired into the ground. The ball bounced up and came down nicely for Bent to nod into the net in front of the Paxton Road crowd. Almost immediately after the re-start, Bent was away down the left for Huddlestone’s ball, beating Hreidarsson, and laying the ball back. Keane tried and failed to make contact, but Jamie O’Hara (who had started the move) came rushing into the area to side-foot low past James for a great personal goal and celebration.

Ramos took off Keane and put Tainio on, re-adjusting to a back four of Hutton, Woodgate, Zokora and Chimbonda, with Tainio just in front of the defence. Tainio got forward through the middle to feed Bent whose shot was picked up by James in added time.

Portsmouth’s hopes of European football look more and more reliant upon FA Cup success, whilst Spurs continue to entertain, and look forward to the visit of Newcastle next Sunday.

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