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Wigan v Spurs, 21.02.10

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 21ST FEBRUARY, 2010
WIGAN ATHLETIC 0 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 3 (1)

Scorers:-
Defoe, 27
Pavlyuchenko, 84, 90(+3)

Attendance:- 16,165

Referee:- Mr. A. Wiley
Assistants:- Mr. M. McDonough & Mr. J. Simpson
Fourth official:- Mr. M. Clattenburg

Teams:-
Wigan (4-1-4-1):- Kirkland; Melchiot (Capt.), Caldwell, Scharner, Figueroa; Thomas (sub Moses, 56); N’Zogbia, Diame, McCarthy, Rodallega; Moreno (sub Sinclair, 76)

Subs not used:- Stojkovic; Boyce, Watson, Gomez, Scotland

Booked:- Diame, McCarthy, Figueroa

Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Corluka, Dawson, King (Capt.) (sub Bassong, 52), Bale; Bentley, Huddlestone, Palacios, Kranjcar (sub Modric, 69); Defoe (sub Pavlyuchenko, 73), Crouch
(Armband to Dawson)

Subs not used:- Alnwick; Kaboul; Rose; Gudjohnsen

Booked:- Bentley, Defoe, Dawson, Huddlestone

Roman Conquest

Through no fault of his own that has been perceivable to the Spurs fans, Roman Pavlyuchenko has been something of an outcast at Tottenham, particularly since the arrival of Harry Redknapp. “Super Pav’s” name has been chanted consistently by Spurs fans recently, who clearly have wanted to see him in place of Peter Crouch, who has not scored in his last six games for the club. The fans got what they wanted with the entrance of Pavlyuchenko after 73 minutes, but not for Crouch. Instead, Spurs scorer Jermain Defoe was taken off, to boos from the travelling fans, who clearly unlike Harry Redknapp, were not thinking of next Wednesday night’s FA Cup replay, for which Defoe will be needed. Pavlyuchenko was the hero of the hour as he made not one, but two points in scoring Spurs second and third goals, one of which was superbly made by another substitute – Luka Modric.

Wigan have an apology of a pitch for Premier League football. They share the ground with the local Rugby League team, who play on a Friday night. Thus the pitch was not conducive to good passing football, which, despite the cries of “long ball” towards Crouch, is Spurs forte. Spurs were hardly troubled defensively, and the well earnt three points has enabled them to reclaim fourth spot after the draw between Man City and Liverpool today.

It is disappointing to report that Ledley King lasted just 52 minutes today. We won’t see him before next week’s home game against Everton, and perhaps could have done with his services in the Cup replay. Once again, one substitute was wasted to accommodate the ongoing problem regarding Ledley’s ability to complete a game.

Perhaps surprisingly for the home team, Wigan adopted cautious tactics with Rodallega playing on the left of midfield in support of lone striker Moreno in a 4-1-4-1 formation. Wilson Palacios’s fellow Honduran, Hendry Thomas, played the defensive midfield role, whilst N’Zogbia played on the right of midfield. Later in the game, when Wigan were behind, manager Martinez became more adventurous, replacing Thomas with 19 year old Victor Moses, who was recently signed from Crystal Palace. Moses gave the home side attacking options, and in fact hit an early shot at Gomes. There was no Titus Bramble in defence, and Paul Scharner was called into the central defence for the “Latics”.

Almost three months to the day since the 9-1 win at White Hart Lane, that scoreline was never going to be repeated, and the game was short on meaningful action for nearly a quarter of an hour. Both Huddlestone and Palacios were playing well in the midfield, where Wigan found little space, and Spurs defended well as a unit, across the defensive line. In fact Spurs first two efforts on goal came from David Bentley. The first was a right footer from an angle on the right, and the second came from a more central position and a left foot shot after Bale’s pass. Both shots were held by Kirkland.

Wigan then had a spell of some good passing, but Spurs were getting their tackles in everywhere. Unfortunately the ball ran to Rodallega in space, whose shot was pushed over the bar by the ever-alert Gomes. Spurs’ first goal (which has been called offside by some who watched on TV) came after another good spell of Spurs possession and passing. The move ended with Crouch pushing the ball out to Bale on the left, and Bale crossing low into the centre where Defoe fired home from close range. Spurs collected a couple of yellow cards before the break. One was for a foul by Bentley, and the other was shown to Defoe for getting too close to a free kick by Wigan.

Soon after the break, Bentley won a corner from which Crouch’s header was held by Kirkland, and then Michael Dawson collected a yellow card for a late challenge. Dawson also collected the Captain’s armband when Ledley King was replaced by Sebastien Bassong. Wigan brought on Moses, who played on the left side of a traditional midfield, which allowed them to play two up front. Gomes held that first shot on target by Moses, fired from the left of the area.

Kranjcar had been in industrious form, and nearly set up Defoe for a lovely goal with an accurate long pass, which got Defoe goalside of the defence. Jermain’s shot was blocked and went for a Spurs throw. Kranjcar was a little unfortunate to be taken off in favour of Luka Modric, but Modric was to prove a star in the time he had on the pitch. Once again, Modric hit his best form, with the ball seeming to stick to his feet through plenty of challenges. Within a minute, Modric was carrying the ball through challenges, before threading to Defoe, whose shot was straight into Kirkland’s arms. Defoe then picked up a great ball from Palacios and tried to tee up Crouch for a goal, but the defence managed to clear. This was Defoe’s last contribution of note before he was replaced by Pavlyuchenko.

Modric won his struggle with the sticky pitch conditions and close attention from the Wigan midfield to get a good ball to Crouch, whose shot was not cleanly saved, but cleared by the Wigan defence. Gomes had to make a decent save to his left from a shot by McCarthy, but that was another isolated moment of danger offered by Wigan, who remain immersed in the relegation battle. Modric had an exchange with Bentley, and placed a beautiful shot to the left Kirkland, which rebounded off the post back into the goalkeeper’s grateful arms.

Modric’s next master-stroke was to thread the ball through the middle to the feet of Pavlyuchenko, who had been moving intelligently. The Russian gleefully fired home and celebrated in front of the adoring Spurs fans, clearly recognising their admiration. Pavlyuchenko made it a brace in added time. Bentley had drawn a foul some 35 yards out, and Huddlestone drifted in a free kick which Pavlyuchenko collected and aimed at goal. Kirkland made a save, but “Super Pav” was alert to the rebound, and fired home despite the close attentions of the Wigan defence.

This was Spurs’ fifth away win in the Premier League and the first time they have scored three or more away league goals since their first away match at Hull. That game was the second of a great start of four consecutive wins. Perhaps today’s result can herald a similar run of league form to cement a top four place. However, our next two scheduled games are against Everton and Manchester City, so it’s going to be tough!

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