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Spurs v Sunderland, 07.11.09

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 7TH NOVEMBER, 2009
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (1) SUNDERLAND 0 (0)

Scorers:-
Keane, 12
Huddlestone, 68

Attendance: - 35, 955

Referee: - Mr. K. Friend

Teams:-
Spurs (4-3-1-2):- Gomes; Corluka, Woodgate, King (sub Dawson, 59), Ekotto; Jenas, Huddlestone, Palacios; Keane (Capt.) (sub Kranjcar, 63); Crouch, Defoe
(Armband to Jenas)
Subs not used: - Alnwick; Hutton, Bale; Bentley; Pavlyuchenko

Booked: - Gomes

Sunderland (4-5-1):- Gordon (sub Fulop, 66); Bardsley (sub Ferdinand, 77), Turner (Capt.), Da Silva, McCartney; Campbell, Andy Reid, Henderson, Richardson, Malbranque (sub Healy, 77); Bent

Subs not used: - Nosworthy, Meyler, Adam Reed; Murphy

Booked: - Henderson, Turner

Black Cats Not Lucky.

On Remembrance week-end, the players were led onto the pitch by the returning heroes from Afghanistan – 2nd Battalion The Rifles (2 Rifles) – who received deserved and lasting applause and respect. Unfortunately the Spurs players could not come up with a performance that warranted such respect, and despite being one goal up at half-time, they were actually booed off the pitch. Because of Manchester City’s surprising home draw against Burnley, Spurs have climbed back into the top four, but they will be unable to sustain that position unless their performances improve significantly.

Several Sunderland players were received with fondness and applause, especially Steeeeeeed!, Malbranque and Darren Bent. Even former reserve goalkeeper Marton Fulop got in on the act, as he had to replace Craig Gordon who got injured in a 50/50 clash with Jermain Defoe. Andy Reid might not have got quite the same welcome, but he had an outstanding game, nearly capping his efforts with a goal, as his first half shot dipped and beat Gomes only to rap against the post. The last (but not least) former Spurs was Fraizer Campbell, who supported Bent from a right wing position in a midfield of five players that too often just flooded Harry Redknapp’s different formation out of the game.

To accommodate “he who we suspect cannot be dropped” – Robbie Keane - Spurs started with a 4-3-1-2, where Keane played behind Crouch and Defoe. Yes, Robbie got the all important first half goal (from almost Spurs only chance), but he did little else and was replaced quite early in the second half, by which time, Harry had reverted to a 4-4-2. When Kranjcar entered the field, Spurs became much more threatening, and pressed their opponents’ goal more.

Another team selection issue that needs to be resolved is that of Ledley King, who sadly could not finish the game and had to be replaced by Michael Dawson. I personally do not feel we can carry on with Ledley’s special status, and feel that we need a settled centre-back pairing. Woodgate played well, and Dawson did fine when he came on. Bassong won’t be out for too long, so whilst I might be controversial here, I’d rather we did not carry on with the special accommodation of Ledley, who is not as fast and mobile as he used to be.

It was Sunderland who looked more composed and controlled the spaces and possession throughout the first half, getting too much time on the ball. Darren Bent raced onto a long ball down the right channel and passed through two Spurs defenders, getting in a good cross that the advancing Henderson flicked wide across the goal. There had been little to excite us and Spurs took the lead against the run of play after a good deep cross by Ekotto, which was headed back across the goal by Crouch and bundled in by Keane from close range after two attempts, with Gordon making a save from the first shot. The Sunderland fans later chanted “1-0 to the referee”, but I think that might have been down to a denied penalty rather than anything untoward about Keane’s goal, although he flirted with the offside flag as the header was made by Crouch.

Sunderland’s right back, Phil Bardsley tried a long cross/shot after 22 minutes that passed the players and just wide of Gomes’ post. Gomes was bravely out to Bent after 34 minutes, and managed to beat the ball away, suffering an injury in the process. This was one of those penalty claims by the visiting fans, but not so much by the Sunderland players, as Gomes appeared to get the ball first. Gomes was next beaten by Andy Reid’s shot that whacked the post at the Paxton End. Gomes did then save the day when Corluka was short with a back-header and the Brazilian goal-keeper managed to save off Bent’s feet.

Corluka than got fouled at the other end and took the free kick, which was headed down by Crouch and fired wide by Defoe. Into the 4 minutes of first half added time and Ekotto conceded a corner against the threat of Campbell. Reid took it and Bardsley headed into the side netting from beyond the back post.

Turner got booked for a foul on Defoe early in the second half. Spurs’ lead was seriously threatened within five minutes of the re-start when Gomes was deemed to have brought down Bent as he advanced into the area but at an angle away from the goal. The referee Kevin Friend (in his first Premier League season) awarded the penalty, and booked Gomes. Gomes was therefore allowed to become the saviour, as Bent took the free kick as less than full strength to the left of the keeper who made a great save to tumultuous Spurs’ fans’ cheers. It wasn’t long before Gomes had to save a Malbranque shot following a corner. At the other end, after a Spurs corner, Woodgate headed the ball ahead of the Sunderland defence and Defoe got through to a one on one against Gordon, who bravely dived at Jermain’s feet. We later learnt that Gordon had sustained a fracture to his arm, but he was not immediately replaced.

Huddlestone had a shot deflected for a Spurs corner, before Ledley had to be replaced by Dawson. Gomes made yet another good save, and again it was a Malbranque shot, before he saved a Bent header. Keane traipsed off to be replaced by Kranjcar and Jenas took over as Captain. The Spurs midfield had been dominated throughout the game, but it did tend to be the runs of Jenas that managed any penetration, although of course big Tom Huddlestone got the second Spurs goal. This came after a long ball to Defoe who cleverly held up the ball before laying it back into the path of Huddlestone, whose shot crashed into the net off the underside of the bar, with Fulop a spectator.

Jenas led an attack with a ball to Kranjcar who took a return pass off Ekotto before hitting a shot that won a corner. Kranjcar had another decent effort which dipped before going a yard over the bar with ten minutes of the game remaining. Still Gomes was having to make good saves, as Campbell turned a ball to Turner who made the shot. There were five minutes added to the second half, but little action of note, as Spurs ran out unconvincing winners of what had been a pretty poor game.

Spurs now have over two weeks (till Sunday 22nd November) to mend their nets and hopefully get the class of Lennon and Modric back on the playing field to try and retain that top four slot – at least before we have to face big guns again.

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