BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 8TH FEBRUARY, 2009
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0) AR5ENA1 0 (0)
Referee: - Mike Dean
Attendance: - 36,021
Spurs (4-4-2):- Cudicini; Corluka (sub Chimbonda, 73), Dawson, Woodgate, Ekotto; Lennon (sub Taarabt, 86), Jenas, Palacios, Modric; Pavlyuchenko (sub Bent, 63), Keane (Capt.)
Subs not used: - Gomes; Bale; Zokora, Huddlestone
Booked: - Modric
Ar5ena1 (4-4-2):- Almunia; Sagna, Toure (Capt.), Gallas, Clichy (sub Gibbs, 87); Eboue, Denilson, Song, Nasri; van Persie, Adebayor (sub Bendtner, 38)
Subs not used: - Fabianski; Djourou; Ramsey; Arshavin, Eduardo
Booked: - Eboue, Clichy
Sent off: - Eboue (second yellow card, 37)
Entertained – not always for the right reasons
Spurs will have to wait for at least another 6 months for a chance to beat Ar5ena1 in the league for the first time in nearly 10 years. They started with some gusto and had the better of the first half, but faded in the second when 10-man Ar5ena1 defended stoutly and had several sharp chances on the break. Robbie Keane made his second debut, but failed to score, although he did have a couple of good opportunities, as did team mates such as Luka Modric and Roman Pavlyuchenko. The star of the show though for my money was Wilson Palacios, who had an outstanding home debut, winning just about every challenge he offered, passing accurately 98% of the time, and even testing the keeper with a decent shot. Palacios had me on my feet several times, applauding his skill and tenacity.
Robbie Keane was received largely with cheers, but there were some boos in the background, which was also the style of welcome for the mention of Pascal Chimbonda. Of course the opposition were roundly booed, and part of the first half entertainment was to see Adebayor collapse in a heap when chasing Woodgate, having to be stretchered off with a hamstring injury the longest way around the stadium. He was jeered, booed and serenaded all the way round.
Another Emmanuel – Eboue – is a player that the Ar5ena1 fans have occasionally booed this season, but he was the gooners’ brightest player in the early stages, starting on the right side of midfield, but popping up across the middle zone and in the goalmouth. Eboue got two first half bookings and was waved off by Mike Dean’s red card after just 37 minutes. Wenger simply withdrew van Persie to the midfield area, and the visitors coped better and better with their shortfall the longer the game went on.
In the absence of Bentley, and despite the presence of Jenas (for Zokora), Luka Modric was the dead ball man today, and he took an early free kick for which Michael Dawson challenged and won a corner. After 5 minutes, a neat Ar5ena1 move down the right wing and channel ended with Eboue hitting a decent shot just wide across the goal, where Cudicini had retained his place with Gomes on the bench. Keane left a Modric pass to reach Lennon on the right. Lennon cut in and hit a good left foot shot which Almunia held. Pavlyuchenko won a header and laid it off for Palacios who fired a powerful low shot, saved by the keeper at his right post.
Eboue had the ball in the net in front of the Park Lane stand after 13 minutes, but we were relieved to learn that the referee had spotted an infringement somewhere. Palacios won a typical midfield challenge and sent a good quick ball ahead to Keane who fed it back to Ekotto. Ekotto chipped the ball to Pavlyuchenko, whose effort went over the bar. Eboue seemed to get his first booking for dissent after a foul by Sagna on Modric. He had been given enough chance to walk away from the argument. Lennon had another chance after Ekotto and Modric had led the Spurs break out of their own half. Lennon’s shot passed outside Almunia’s right post.
After what looked like a Gallas handball in open play was ignored, Modric had a shot pushed around for a corner. At the other end, a bad piece of complacency by Corluka led to a half chance for Ar5ena1, as the ball was crossed from the left but not met by gooner feet. Adebayor took his fall, and before he could be replaced Eboue and Modric had a contretemps which led to the Spurs man getting a yellow, and Eboue seeing red for a second bookable offence. Not long after that Clichy also saw yellow for a foul on Lennon.
Soon after the break, Pavlyuchenko picked up a good ball from Ekotto, carrying it a little wide before firing way over. Corluka and Lennon combined on the right and it was Corluka’s turn to test Almunia with a somewhat weak shot. Here was the nub really. Spurs had quite a few opportunities but never made the keeper work too hard to keep them at bay. Robbie Keane met a Lennon cross and headed just over the bar, before Pavlyuchenko was replaced by Bent. Pav could have had a chat with his Russian comrade – Arshavin – who never saw action today. Bent had little effect on the game.
Song had a good chance for Ar5ena1, firing wide from a van Persie corner. Keane had another good effort after 71 minutes, when he headed the ball to Jenas, who returned for Robbie to hit a flashing shot just wide. Throughout the game it is probably fair to say that Jenas tackled as well as Zokora, and interacted with his team-mates more efficiently than Zokora. However, too often Jenas’s final ball was no improvement! Corluka was replaced by Chimbonda, who did not offer the threat he had last week at Bolton.
In the closing stages it was the visitors who had two of the best chances – both through Bendtner. First as he tried a cross/shot, Dawson tried a header and Cudicini could only pat the ball in front of him initially, before clearing properly. Then in added time, Cudicini made a great fingertip save from Bendtner’s shot. Taarabt had replaced Lennon late on and had the choice of Keane on his left or Modric on his right when breaking through the middle. Keane might actually have been the better option, but he chose Modric, whose shot when one on one against Almunia was saved, assuring the stalemate scoreline, which did not help either side’s league aspirations.
Ar5ena1 look less and less likely to make the Champions League places, whilst Spurs have to be grateful for the point, but now have to wait over two weeks before resuming the battle against relegation. On this form though, they will surely be alright in the end, won’t they?
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