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Spurs v Everton, 28.02.10

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 28TH FEBRUARY, 2010
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (2) EVERTON 1 (0)

Spurs scorers:-
Pavlyuchenko, 11
Modric, 28

Everton scorer:-
Yakubu, 55

Attendance:- 35, 912

Referee:- Mr. S. Bennett
Assistants:- Mr. A. Halliday & Mr. S. Long
Fourth Official:- Mr. S. Attwell

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Corluka, Dawson (Capt.), Bassong, Bale; Kranjcar, Huddlestone (sub Kaboul, 52), Palacios, Modric; Pavlyuchenko (sub Crouch, 82), Defoe (sub Gudjohnsen, 71)

Subs not used:- Alnwick; Ekotto, Dervite, Walker

Booked:- Modric

Everton (4-2-3-1):- Howard; Neville (Capt.), Heitinga, Distin, Baines; Osman (sub Jagielka, 46), Arteta; Anichebe (sub Donovan, 63), Rodwell (sub Vaughan, 81), Pienaar; Yakubu

Subs not used:- Nash; Yobo; Bilyaletdinov, Gosling

Booked:- Neville, Arteta, Pienaar, Heitinga

Magic Modric seals the win!

In the end it was Luka Modric’s marvellous 28th minute goal that sealed the win and three vital points for Spurs, who held onto fourth place for another week. It was a case of hanging on too, as David Moyes’ made excellent tactical changes at half-time and beyond to take the game to Spurs and test their defence to the full. They were penetrated once, when Yakubu fired home from close range, and it could have been twice as substitute Landon Donovan hit the side netting, when the goal beckoned, but on the whole, Spurs were good for their win.

In form striker Roman Pavlyuchenko gave Spurs an early lead with his fifth goal in three games in the last week.

There was no sign of David Bentley in the 18 man squad, and that gave Niko Kranjcar the right wing berth. Niko was in fine fettle, but the man of the match for me was little Luka Modric, the magician back to his best on the left wing, although his finest moment came when he joined his Croatian countrymen Corluka and Kranjcar on the right flank in the build up for the second Spurs goal.

Everton lined up without key players such as Fellaini, Cahill and Saha, and the Russian midfielder Bilyaletdinov was left on the bench. Yakubu was the chief striker, whilst Anichebe played on the right flank and tracked back to help out his skipper Phil Neville with the threat of Gareth Bale and Luka Modric down the Spurs left flank. That threat was considerable too, and throughout the game gave Spurs their major outlet on the attack. The supreme effort made by both these Spurs players at times was nothing less than heroic, and in both cases, that commitment was coupled with excellent skills in passing players and passing to team-mates.

Surprisingly, Arteta was deployed at the back of the Everton midfield, but part of Moyes’ second half strategy was to make better use of the Spanish midfielder. An added incentive for left back Leighton Baines was to try and win himself a place in the England squad depleted by the injury to Ashley Cole, and the “retirement” of Wayne Bridge. Baines was given plenty to think about with the activity of Kranjcar, assisted by Corluka.

The first half belonged to Spurs, but it was not all one-way traffic. Phil Neville took an early booking from referee Steve Bennett for an 8th minute foul on the marauding Gareth Bale, but whilst Spurs had been dominating possession, they had yet to threaten goal. Their moment came in the 11th minute. An Everton attack broke down when Pienaar’s attempted pass to Yakubu was intercepted, and Tom Huddlestone sent Defoe away down the right channel with an excellent pass. Defoe got into the right side of the box, and put in a low cross, which Pavlyuchenko gleefully converted from close range in the centre of the area.

Everton might have equalised within five minutes, when Baines corner reached Yakubu at the back post, after Gomes dropped the ball. Yakubu got no power in his shot, and the Spurs defence cleared, much to the relief of the goalkeeper. After 20 minutes, Huddlestone won a midfield ball, and sent Modric away. Palacios was also involved in a good move which ended with a low shot by Pavlyuchenko, saved low down near his post by Tim Howard. Gareth Bale did ever so well to get to the bye-line with the ball, sending over a high cross that beat Howard and reached Kranjcar, whose header was easy meat for the keeper.

Spurs took a two goal lead in the 28th minute, and it was arguably the best of the season. Modric turned up on the right to assist Kranjcar and Corluka, as the Croatian triumvirate shared passes. It looked as if the move might break down, but suddenly, Modric was in possession inside the area and he hit a great dipping shot over Howard and into the goal off the underside of the bar. It was only Luka’s second goal of the season, but it has been worth waiting for!

Everton had a chance or two before the break, and one of these came after 40 minutes when Neville crossed and Rodwell headed wide. Palacios won a good tackle in his own half, and Spurs broke out, when Wilson sent Bale away down the left flank. Gareth passed low inside to Defoe, who just failed to get the touch that would have given Spurs a third goal. The ball passed across the goalmouth. Palacios had a chance himself after Corluka crossed, Pavlyuchenko headed down and Modric fed the ball back to Wilson, whose shot was well blocked. Just before the break, Bale showed excellent defensive skills, playing the ball out to Pavlyuchenko, then making the run for a return pass and yet another foray into Everton territory. Bale had a pop at goal, and the shot took a deflection for a Spurs corner.

At half-time, David Moyes replaced Osman with Phil Jagielka, who had made an appearance in Lisbon on Thursday night, but was here making his first Premier League appearance since being injured last April. Jagielka went into the central defence allowing Heitinga to move forward to the holding midfield role, and Arteta to play on the right wing, where he has in the past been so dangerous. Anichebe was also moved up to partner Yakubu. Clearly, Everton were up for it, and they are in a no-lose situation as far as their league status is concerned, but they needed the three points to reinforce their challenge for some sort of place in Europe, which they lost this week.

Huddlestone was guilty of a casual attempted headed clearance inside his own area, and Heitinga had a low shot on goal well held by Gomes. Dawson made a great defensive headed clearance after 48 minutes to Modric, who set off on a typical run, before threading a ball to Pavlyuchenko. Defoe and Kranjcar were then involved in the move, before Huddlestone had a fine effort on goal, only just wide. Unfortunately, Tom did his ankle in the attempt, and eventually had to be stretchered off. He was replaced by Kaboul. Kaboul did alright, but arguably had not been fully briefed regarding his duties. He tended to fall back, which left little creativity in the middle, unless the ball could be fed to Modric.

Everton got a goal back in the 55th minute. When the ball was crossed deep from the left and headed back by Rodwell, where Yakubu fired home from close range. It was game on, and Spurs looked as if they might once again concede a two goal lead to “The Toffees”. Everton certainly went for it, and after a cross from the right, Rodwell had a shot which was well saved by Gomes getting down to his left post.

Gareth Bale had a bit of fun attacking Neville, winning a corner, before Anichebe was replaced by Donovan, who soon provided quite a threat. When young James Vaughan also entered the arena, I started to lose count of attacking players on the field for the ambitious visitors.

Spurs found an outlet with a good ball out of defence to Luka Modric, who ran away before passing inside to Kranjcar, who was in a central spot. Niko’s right foot shot went wide of the target. At this time, the referee started drawing the ire of the increasingly frustrated Spurs fans, when Pavlyuchenko got nothing despite being unfairly blocked whilst on the ball. Everton broke away and Yakubu hit a shot over the bar. Palacios uncharacteristically lost out to Pienaar who carried the ball into the Spurs half, but also fired over the target.

Arteta got booked for a cynical foul on Modric, who would otherwise have been free in Everton territory. Modric did make yet another penetrating run and a pass to Corluka, who hit a powerful drive that Howard tipped over for a corner. Kranjcar took a Spurs corner on the right side, which was headed back in his direction. Kranjcar’s low cross/shot was well held by Howard. Now Pienaar went into the book for a foul on Kranjcar and after the free kick Pavlyuchenko cleverly turned his defender before passing to Kranjcar who had another shot saved.

Donovan had a great chance to equalise at the back post, but put the ball harmlessly into the side netting after the cross from the left had eluded Gomes and Bale. Pienaar could and should have seen a second yellow card for a cynical trip of Pavlyuchenko, but the referee knew he had booked him, and showed undue leniency. A ball by Pienaar was heading towards two attackers in the Spurs box, but Bassong made a timely clearance.

There were 6 minutes of added time, which Spurs played out effectively, including a fantastic effort and successful run literally down the line by Bale to not only retrieve the ball but to pass inside to Kranjcar who brought another save out of Howard with his shot.

The Spurs fans’ nerves were jangling for much of the second half, but this was a good old fashioned blood and guts game, with plenty of skill and effort thrown in. I feel that Spurs did deserve the three points, which takes them back above Man City, who were due to play us next week-end, when we are engaged in FA Cup duties. That Man City crunch game will just have to wait. It looks like being an exciting run-in for Spurs, who face Arsenal, Chelsea and Man Utd in consecutive games in April – depending upon further FA Cup progress of course!

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