BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 11TH JANUARY, 2014
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2(0) CRYSTAL PALACE 0(0)
Referee:- Mr. M. Oliver
Assistants:- Mr. L. Betts & Mr. S. Long
Fourth official:- Mr. J. Adcock
Spurs (4-4-2):- Lloris; Walker (sub Naughton, 48), Dawson (Capt.), Chiriches, Rose; Lennon, Dembele, Bentaleb, Eriksen (sub Chadli, 76); Adebayor, Soldado (sub Defoe, 58)
Subs not used:- Friedel; Fryers; Holtby, Capoue
Booked:- Naughton (foul on Parr)
Crystal Palace (4-2-3-1):- Speroni; Mariappa, Gabbidon, Delaney, Parr; Ward, Jedinak (Capt.); Puncheon (sub Guedioura, 82), Chamakh, Bolasie (sub Williams, 69); Jerome (sub Gayle, 69)
Subs not used:- Price; O'Keefe, Moxey, Bannan
Booked:- Mariappa (foul on Rose), Jedinak (foul on Defoe)
Departing Defoe "Fix up, look sharp"!
This week, we had the news that Jermain Defoe would be leaving at the end of February for a lucrative contract in Toronto. Hopefully, his goal today will not be his parting gift to Tottenham, for whom he has scored so many goals, but when he replaced Roberto Soldado, Jermain certainly looked eager, and was sharp enough to secure the game for Spurs with his 72nd minute goal.
I understand that the title of Dizzy Rascal's hit "Fix up, look sharp"has Toronto origins, and Jermain certainly lived up to that description today. Soldado had been carrying a knock this week, and perhaps he wasn't fully match fit, which necessitated the change.
Another required substitution came within minutes of the second half starting, when Kyle Walker was replaced by Kyle Naughton. How and when Walker sustained his injury, I do not know, but I do know his form in the first half was not good. Walker was being out-paced at the back, and his passing in attacking situations was way off the required standard.
It was Spurs who looked more like the bottom three side in that first half, as Tony Pulis's re-vitalised Palace side surged forward, and somehow managed to out-number Spurs at the back and at the front.
Sherwood's team selection seemed to lack imagination, with the same starting line-up as had played quite dismally at The Emirates last week. Nabil Bentaleb was again given the nod over the likes of Capoue, Holtby and Chadli, who were all on the bench. In fairness, I felt that Bentaleb was one of our best players over the course of the game, making several incisive passes, and playing more comfortably than some of his more experienced colleagues.
Spurs' trouble in that first half was not enough movement; not enough evidence of pace; and not enough imagination to break down the Palace resistance.
Spurs' fans were generally quiet, whilst the fully occupied away section was crowing from the start. That was no surprise, as their team put the Spurs defence under pressure three or four times in the opening two minutes of the game. Luckily, they had a player called offside in one move, before Puncheon put a good chance just outside Lloris's left post. Worse was to come for Puncheon very soon.
Bentaleb did have a good shot inside Speroni's left post from a good
25 yards, but the Palace goalkeeper managed to save at the second attempt.
After only 7 minutes, Spurs conceded a penalty when referee Michael Oliver decided that Dembele had unfairly tackled Chamakh. To my initial sighting, it looked like a "coming together"of the two players, but Mr Oliver pointed to the spot. Thankfully for Spurs, Puncheon was the nominated taker, and he scooped his effort woefully over the bar into Row Z. Apparently, his was the first Premier League penalty not to at least be on target this season. Spurs had been given a lifeline, but they showed little enough desire or ability to take advantage.
Spurs continued to look unconvincing, but managed to keep Palace at bay. In a 4-2-3-1 formation, Chamakh was playing behind Jerome, and Puncheon was giving Danny Rose problems down his flank. Walker and Dawson were too often not at the races, but part of the problem was lack of defensive cover from midfield.
Spurs at last almost scored after half an hour, when Aaron Lennon got to the bye-line, and crossed accurately to the middle, where Adebayor's glancing header was glanced too much, and passed wide of the far post.
Jerome fed a ball to Puncheon, whose shot was deflected for a corner, which when taken could have gone anywhere, as it was ping-ponged around the Spurs 6 yard area. Luckily, the ball went clear.
An Eriksen effort after a Spurs break was half-cleared to the feet of Lennon, but he needed too many touches, and failed to hit a meaningful shot. It was Bentaleb again, who showed the older players the way to goal, with a cracking 30 yarder, which hit the inside of Speroni's right post, before rebounding across goal and clear.
Lennon again supplied Adebayor, who was inside the box, but could not make use of the ball, with his back to goal. Bentaleb fed a ball to Dembele, who was fouled on the edge of the box. Walker's free kick rebounded off the Palace wall.
Early in the second half, with Spurs looking more interested, Danny Rose crossed from the left, and Adebayor fed the ball to Eriksen, who pulled his shot.
Walker was replaced by Naughton, and Lennon worked his way to the bye-line from the left, but there was no-one there for his cross. Spurs soon took the lead though, and it was Naughton's long ball which was headed down by Adebayor to Eriksen, who fired home with powered conviction.
Bentaleb was now providing some good passes down the left channel for Danny Rose. Soldado was replaced by Defoe with over half an hour left. Bentaleb started another move, passing to Eriksen down that left channel. Eriksen found Defoe, whose shot passed agonisingly in front of the far post.
Bentaleb provided yet again, this time for Defoe, whose ball inside was spilt by Speroni, and converted by Adebayor, but he was adjudged to have fouled the keeper.
Spurs were now on top, and took a two goal lead after 72 minutes. Lennon almost snatched the ball off the feet of Dembele in the middle, taking a run across the left of the area, before reversing the ball back to Defoe, who twisted to his right, before planting home in front of the Paxton Stand.
Adebayor was offside when Defoe clipped a pass to him, before Eriksen was replaced by Chadli. In no time at all, when Spurs had a corner, Chadli was off the pitch receiving treatment, and it was a while before he came back on the field of play.
Spurs eased up really, and as we entered added time, Palace won several corners, from which Lloris made one important save, and other chances were spurned.
Spurs have reached the 40 point mark, but as I suspected, the other top teams who played today have won, with the remainder clear favourites to win their games this week-end. Spurs will need to play far better than they did in the first half to maintain a challenge for the top four in the run-in. As for Palace, they have slipped down to bottom place, with other results not going their way today. They face a neck and neck fight for survival, but on this form, they must stand a chance.
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