BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
MONDAY 28TH DECEMBER, 2009
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (1) WEST HAM UNITED 0 (0)
Referee:- Chris Foy
Assistants:- Mr. R. Ganfield & Mr. D. Bryan
Fourth Official:- Mr. S. Attwell
Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Corluka, Dawson, King (Capt.), Ekotto (sub Bale, 87); Lennon (sub Jenas, 89), Huddlestone, Palacios, Modric (sub Kranjcar, 83); Defoe, Crouch
Subs not used:- Alnwick; Hutton, Bassong; Keane
Booked:- Corluka (foul), Defoe (celebration)
West Ham (4-5-1/4-4-2):- Green; Faubert, Tomkins, Upson (Capt.), Ilunga (sub Spector, 19); Collison (sub Stanislas, 79), Parker (sub Jiminez, 12), Kovac, Behrami, Diamanti; Franco
Subs not used:- Stech; Da Costa; Payne, Nouble
Booked:- Franco (foul on Palacios), Diamanti (foul on Lennon), Kovac (foul on Huddlestone)
Defoe delivers a blistering riposte.
Jermain Defoe delivered a blistering response to the vile abuse directed at him and that at Harry Redknapp by their former fans with a superb powerfully driven goal that Rob Green probably did well to stay away from. Although he did actually get a touch, the power of the shot could have been quite painful. The result was painful to The Hammers, who face the risk of slipping back into the bottom three at the end of this round of matches in the Premier League. For Spurs, there was the smug satisfaction of a fourth consecutive clean sheet, a return to fourth place, and a third league double in four seasons over the Hammers, who have failed to beat us at White Hart Lane so far this century.
Spurs' first goal was also well-timed in relation to a crescendo of abusive chants from the away fans, who had little to cheer in their own team’s efforts to break down a superior Spurs side. Gianfranco Zola’s team had already been weakened by the injury to Noble on Saturday, and it soon became evident that the West Ham manager had gambled with the fitness of Scott Parker and Herita Ilunga, both of whom had to be substituted before 20 minutes had passed.
Zola set up his team in an attacking 4-5-1, with Collison and Diamanti on the flanks, and Franco the front runner, whilst Parker, Kovac and Behrami were the more defensive midfielders. Diamanti had the task of supporting Ilunga and Spector against Lennon, but the Spurs winger had a great day, providing the final pass for both goals and generally acting as destroyer-in-chief in the Spurs attack. Harry Redknapp refreshed the side that had drawn at Fulham with Ledley King, Tom Huddlestone, Luka Modric and Jermain Defoe.
To be honest, the Spurs defence was not too sorely tested, but Ledley and all the back four played with competence and confidence. Huddlestone had one of his best games, with some drilled passes to Lennon, who did the rest of the work to make them good passes. Tom was also getting stuck in more than usual today, and won some good ball in the middle. Modric was as sharp as he had been at the start of the season, but as he still lacks a little match fitness, he was the first Spurs man to be replaced, but even that was late in the game. Defoe was clearly keen to impress against his old team, whose fans love to hate him, being the butt of “C word” chants, as well as his manager who probably had more success than any other in recent years at Upton Park.
Even though we were only one goal ahead for most of the game, I have never felt more confident that the opposition would not score, such was their inability to break through the defence and cause Gomes any real trouble. A lot of the reason for that of course was the threat that Spurs carried in going forward at will with some fine approach play, which was not consummated by enough goals. This Spurs team is developing an understanding and a confidence to pass quickly and skilfully. It might not always work, but there was plenty to admire in our football today.
Spurs had all the early pressure and Lennon was cynically fouled by Diamanti, who got away with that and a later similar foul before eventually being booked. That pressure brought a couple of corners, one of which was dropped by Green, who was regaled by Spurs fans with the chant of “England’s Number 6”. That was later amended, after he booted a clearance out of touch, when it was easy to kick well downfield. It might have been “England’s Number 8!”
Scott Parker probably aggravated his injury when he got ahead of the right winger and down the right channel, to hit a shot across Gomes which was well off target. Spurs’ reward for their early domination came from Luka Modric who started and finished the move. Modric had been found assisting the defence just outside his area, before starting a move that eventually led to Lennon racing down the right flank, getting to the bye-line before his cross was deflected into the path of Modric who by now had raced into the Hammers’ area. Modric’s shot bounced into the ground and over Green for a heartily received goal in front of the Park Lane stand. It was Modric’s first goal this season, and came as the visiting fans chanted “Redknapp, Redknapp, you’re a c***” (Did I later detect grievously hurtful chants to Jermain Defoe about his late brother?)
Jiminez replaced the injured Parker, and Spurs put on a display of fine passing which ended in a Defoe ball for Crouch which was just intercepted in time. After another good build up, Huddlestone latched onto another Lennon pass, and hit a shot that just curled outside the top corner of Green’s goal. Gomes did have to dive low to his right to hold a Collison shot, but it was an easy save. Ekotto cut inside and collected a clever through ball by Huddlestone, before hitting a good low left footed shot just wide across the goal-mouth. Palacios tried a wall pass off Lennon, but whilst the ball actually came back at him off a defender, Wilson went off on a run down the right, feeding Crouch who really should have scored, but put his effort wide across Green. MOTD highlights show that West Ham defender Tomkins deflected this shot for a corrner which was not given.
The Hammers’ next whimsy was “He’s gonna twitch in a minute” whilst Lennon raced away yet again, feeding Defoe, whose shot from a sharp angle was held. Defoe won a free kick just outside the area a minute before the break, and took the kick himself with a shot that was very close indeed to Green’s right top corner.
After the break, Zola changed his formation to a 4-4-2 with Jiminez alongside Franco, and whilst they did try to take the game to us, we were never less than comfortable. Spurs countered after a Huddlestone free kick, and Defoe tried a shot from distance that went wide. The tempo had risen and both sets of fans were getting more excited and interested in the game. More good play by Ekotto led to a shot by Huddlestone that went wide, and then after good play by Defoe and Modric, Lennon cut inside and hit a left footed shot that went well over the bar. Lennon then tried to tee up Palacios, whose shot was deflected over for a corner. More good play from Lennon gave Huddlestone another chance, and this time, Tom beat Green all ends up, only to see his shot bounce out off the inside of the far post.
The Hammers were now starting to struggle to keep up with the pace and guile of Spurs, and Franco and Diamanti went into the book at last. Both Crouch and Corluka had headers inside the West Ham area, which were either blocked or saved. There was also a good handball shout against Spector inside the area, which was ignored by the officials. Corluka over-lapped Lennon and got a cross in which Defoe fed to Crouch, who just couldn’t quite get a shot in. Spurs did leave a little space on one or two occasions for West Ham, who won corners as a result. However, it was from one of these situations that (after a great physical win of the ball by Palacios) Lennon led the charge into the Hammers’ half, and fed the ball to Defoe, who rounded three defenders, before loosing a shot at Green, which was parried. Green would not have wanted to make full contact with Jermain’s full-powered follow up shot that nearly burst the net. Off he went for an ecstatic celebration with the Spurs crowd, as far away from the away fans as he could be. However, Mr. Foy followed the rule book and showed him a yellow before the restart.
Harry Redknapp could probably have put fresh legs on before he did, but Modric was rapturously applauded when he was replaced by Kranjcar, whose first touch was almost to single-handedly take on the Irons’ defence, with a shot that failed.
Defoe’s goal lifts him back to the top of the Premier League goal-scorers’ chart, alongside Drogba. They both have 14 to their name. It was the first time that Spurs have managed four consecutive clean sheets since January and February, 2001, when under the management of George Graham they had four consecutive 0-0 draws (one at Upton Park). On that occasion, Spurs next league game also saw a clean sheet and a win at Manchester City. I’d take that against Liverpool at Anfield!
The race for Champions League is really hotting up, with Villa hosting Liverpool tomorrow, and Man City only two points behind us. As long as Villa do no better than a draw, we will go into 2010 in the top four, but it’s going to get harder and harder to stay there!
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