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Spurs v West Ham, 09.03.08

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 9TH MARCH, 2008
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 4 (2) WEST HAM UNITED 0 (0)

Dimitar Berbatov sent Spurs on their way to victory with his two early headed goals. Scorers:-
Berbatov, 8, 11
Gilberto, 85
Bent, 90

Referee: - Mr. C. Foy

Attendance: - 36, 062

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Hutton, Dawson, Woodgate (sub Tainio, 76), Chimbonda; Lennon, Huddlestone, Zokora, Malbranque (sub Gilberto, 57); Berbatov, Keane (Capt.) (sub Bent, 68)
(Armband to Robinson)
Subs not used: - Cerny; Boateng

No Bookings

West Ham (4-4-2):- Green; Neill (Capt.), Ferdinand, Spector, McCartney; Ljungberg (sub Pantsil, 70), Parker (sub Noble, 75), Mullins, Boa Morte; Ashton (sub Cole, 76), Zomora

Subs not used: - Wright; Solano

Booked: - Boa Morte, Ljungberg

Sent off: - Boa Morte (second yellow – 43 minutes)

Oh what sport we had at White Hart Lane today! Today’s fixture was part of the 29th game of this season’s Premier League programme. At the same stage last year, Spurs won that dramatic game 4-3 at Upton Park, with a late, late goal by Paul Stalteri. Until the latter stages, it looked like we would have to settle for a 2-0 win, but for good measure, Gilberto scored his first goal for the club, and then Darren Bent headed an added time fourth goal against the team he turned down last summer to make it 4-0. Thus, the Hammers lost their third consecutive game 4-0. Oh what fun we had!

To some surprise, there was hardly any “use of the squad” by Juande Ramos, whose team knew full well how much Spurs fans wanted this win, and how much the club wanted the win to emphasise the gap between 11th and 12th places in the league table. Ledley King was the only notable absentee from the starting line-up, which allowed Michael Dawson to make a welcome return after his injury suffered at Derby one month ago. The ever-reliable Jonathan Woodgate switched to the left side of the central defence, and performed with the style and consistency that he has brought to Tottenham since signing in January. Alan Hutton can only play in the League programme now, and he too demonstrates great reliability at the back, and played with gusto going forward too.

The star for Spurs was of course two-goal hero Dimitar Berbatov, putting Spurs two up in the first ten minutes by planting home headers from Huddlestone free kicks.

West Ham are missing an army of players of course, through injury, and any team facing a defence including Jonathan Spector and George McCartney has to fancy their chances. With a midfield including Ljungberg and Boa Morte, there was plenty to keep the Spurs fans happy. Boa Morte took an early booking for a foul on Huddlestone, and was a liability for the remainder of the first half. Just as I was thinking that Alan Curbishley would be wise to replace his errant left winger, Boa Morte saw yellow for the second time after hauling down Aaron Lennon just outside the Hammers’ area. 43 minutes had gone, and West Ham had to play 4-4-1 after that, with Ashton, then his replacement Carlton Cole doing their best to harry the Spurs defence.

The West Ham support remained vocal (sometimes offensive) despite going two down so early, and only really quietened down when Gilberto got his first goal with five minutes of normal time remaining. By this time many visiting fans were sloping off anyway to the sound of Spurs chanting “3-0 in your Cup Final!”

The Hammers had provided the very early threat, with Mullins having a pop at goal go wide after a needlessly conceded throw in on the Spurs right flank. After 4 minutes there was an element of desperation about the Spurs defence, after a poor defensive ball on the left and a cross from the West Ham right flank. Paul Robinson made a double save – first from Ashton, then Zomora, before Woodgate blocked a third attempt on goal.

That was almost the end of the threat by the visitors, as Spurs took an 8th minute lead. Berbatov had been fouled and made it into the box to head home Huddlestone’s free kick. The West ham fans chant of “Stand up if you hate Tottenham” was duly silenced! Three minutes later, Zokora was fouled, this time on the Spurs left flank. Huddlestone whipped in a near post free kick, once again converted by Berbatov for his 12th league goal and 19th goal in total this season.

Malbranque was his industrious self and robbed the ball off McCartney before setting off on a run which ended in a cross/shot which Huddlestone touched over. Malbranque’s endeavour, coupled with the skill of Berbatov was at the heart of a flowing Spurs move on the half hour, which resulted in a corner – poorly taken by Huddlestone. After 33 minutes, Malbranque hit a shot wide, after Robbie Keane and Aaron Lennon battled on the edge of the West Ham box to work the ball loose. A Huddlestone free kick taken near the touchline was headed half clear as far as Berbatov, whose shot was saved by the busy Robert Green.

For much of the second half, I felt that Spurs were playing within themselves really, but they were struggling to make real headway, with the Hammers adapting to a 4-4-1, pulling Zomora back to the left flank. Hammers defended quite high, and this needed the likes of Lennon to make a ground swallowing run down the flank, but by and large, Spurs settled for possession, rather than penetration.

After a Spurs free kick that was cleared, Jonathan Woodgate powered a pass to Lennon down the right. Lennon passed inside to Malbranque who feed Huddlestone, whose shot was fired over the bar. Lone striker Ashton did then find a bit of space and possession and tried a shot from the left that also went over the target. After 53 minutes, following more nice football down the Spurs left, the ball was fed inside to Huddlestone, who passed on to Robbie Keane, hitting a right foot shot that Green held. West Ham then had a moment of pressure and Robbo was down well to a speculative long range effort by Hammers’ skipper Lucas Neill, labelled a “fat Aussie w***er” by the Spurs contingent after a contretemps with Chimbonda.

Spurs upped the tempo now, and they broke forward through Malbranque and Berbatov, who made the final pass to Lennon. Lennon’s shot was saved by Green, and Zokora’s attempted follow-up was deflected out for a corner. Malbranque was the first of three key players to be given a breather in advance of Wednesday’s crucial UEFA Cup game, and he was replaced by Gilberto, who took up the duties on the left side of midfield. Robbie Keane was replaced by Darren Bent.

With 20 minutes to go, Lennon picked up a Dawson clearance, and gave Gilberto a shooting opportunity, which was wide. Tainio replaced Woodgate and took up Zokora’s midfield slot, with Didier moving back. After 83 minutes, Berbatov won a free kick and took it from a position not too different from that when he scored the equaliser for 3-3 last year at Upton Park. This time he put the kick well over the bar. Gilberto’s goal came as a result of Lennon dummying a ball from the left, which put the Brazilian through, and he scored with a shot beyond Green.

Darren Bent scored Spurs fourth goal in the dying seconds of the game. Spurs smelt more blood now, and Lennon broke into the West Ham half after Hutton started the break out. Hutton continued his run and received the ball from Lennon. Hutton’s shot was parried and when Berbatov tried to finish off, the ball just ran out of play. Hutton capped a fine performance with a good deep cross, met by Darren Bent whose downward header beat the despairing Green in the final throes of added time. It was a great finish and only Spurs second win in 7 of 8 Derby League games this season. They will need to lift the standard on Wednesday night in Holland, but by fielding a winning team, Juande Ramos has raised a smile and lifted confidence levels by a great deal!

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