BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 18th AUGUST, 2013
CRYSTAL PALACE 0 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0)
Soldado (pen), 50
Referee:- Mark Clattenburg
Assistants:- Mr. S.Child & Mr. S. Beck
Fourth official:- Mr. M. Jones
Palace (4-4-1-1):- Speroni; Ward, Gabbidon, Delaney, Moxey; Dikgacoi, Jedinak (Capt.), Dobbie (sub Williams, 66), Garvan (sub Chamakh, 66), Gayle; Wilbraham (sub Phillips, 66)
Subs not used:- Alexander; Marange, Campana, O'Keefe
Booked:- Jedinak (Dissent, after foul on Lennon)
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris; Walker, Dawson (Capt.), Vertonghen, Rose (sub Kaboul, 86); Paulinho, Dembele (sub Capoue, 57); Lennon, Sigurdsson, Chadli; Soldado (sub Defoe, 83)
Subs not used:- Friedel; Naughton; Townsend, Carroll
Soldado (and Spurs) off the mark.
Spurs and their new star striker got off the mark today at Selhurst Park, with their first goal (hopefully of many) of the season. It was, of course, Spurs' first penalty of the season, and more than welcome, not least because we did not have a single one awarded in Premier League matches last season.
There was a good crowd on a sun-drenched day, and the home team did their best to wind up the atmosphere, with a small pocket of "Ultra" fans, and a continental style banner featuring a sinister skull ("Jigsaw" from the "Saw" films, apparently), with a massive caption "Palace are here, let the games begin".
There was also the "Crystals" dance troupe, who entertained the crowd before the game and at half-time.
Palace may not have finished their transfer business yet, and they may feel more need to explore for a player or two, after those who started made little real threat upon the Spurs goal. It was really only when Ian Holloway made an adventurous triple substitution mid-way through the second half, switching to a 4-4-2, that the game opened up, and might have featured more goals.
Spurs really should have won by the convincing margin I had predicted, but Palace played it tightly in the early stages concentrating on closing Spurs down tigerishly, and perhaps being afforded some leniency by referee Mark Clattenburg.
It was pleasing to see that Jan Vertonghen made the team, and the only other change from last week's friendly was to see Gylfi Sigurdsson start in the middle with Chadli on the left of midfield. Chadli, joined Paulinho, and Soldado as Premier League debutants.
Spurs looked the more penetrating of the two sides, but just occasionally the Spurs defence would be breached by a telling ball for either Wilbrahams or perhaps the advancing Dobbie or Garvan.
Paulinho looked really excellent on the ball throughout. He plays with the ball very close, and fully under control all the time. He has all the attributes you could ask for in a midfielder. Dembele played well beside him, and perhaps tired, so was replaced by another debutant, Etienne Capoue, officially signed this week. Capoue also impressed. He is a leggy player; physically tough, with plenty of stamina. With Sandro waiting in the wings, we are a truly blessed side in the midfield.
After 6 minutes, Spurs had the first real chance, thanks to good work by Dembele in the middle, a pass to Danny Rose, whose cross was headed over by Soldado.
After 10 minutes, Dawson slipped with Dobbie threatening in the box, and it was Kyle Walker who came to the rescue to win and clear the ball. Aaron Lennon was busy, and well supplied. Dembele collected from him after 13 minutes, and hit a powerful left-footer that just skimmed over the bar.
After a foul on Rose on the left, Sigurdsson hit the free kick to the near post and Soldado tried a clever back-heel flick, but the ball passed wide. Kyle Walker won a corner, taken by Siggy, and headed towards goal by Michael Dawson, but saved by Speroni.
Rose was penalised at the other end, and Garvan took the kick, headed by Dikgacoi, but easily held by Lloris. Walker and Lennon were providers for Sigurdsson, who hit a good shot saved by Speroni at the expense of a corner.
Michael Dawson's passing accuracy was very good today, and it wasn't always the trademark diagonal ball. A nice one through the middle was picked up by Chadli, who tried to feed Soldado. The Spaniard could not quite take the ball on.
Walker sent Lennon away down the wing with a clever ball inside the left back. Lennon crossed to the near post, but Soldado was blocked.
Then, right on half-time, Chadli really should have scored with his header at the back post, after another Lennon cross. Soldado and Sigurdsson had impressed in the build-up.
Palace had a chance early in the second half, when Jedinak tried to put Moxey through. The resulting attempt on goal was easy for Lloris.
Then Spurs had two good penalty claims, the second of which was awarded. Firstly, after Walker and Lennon's passing, Paulinho got into the box, and was felled. Mr. Clattenburg wanted nothing to do with that one, but very quickly he did point to the spot, when Lennon's attempted cross from the bye-line was clearly handled.
Soldado took on responsibility, as he had last week against Espanyol.
Once again, he took a subtle pause in his approach, before firing home convincingly to the right of the keeper.
One of the triple substitutions for Palace was 40 year old Kevin Phillips, who looked far more dangerous than his predecessor. Former Arsenal player Chamakh got a hearty boo, but the Spurs defence was more exercised by Palace's attacking approach. However, the inevitable opening of the game led to more chances for Spurs, some of which should have been converted.
Soldado teed up Sigurdsson for an excellent chance within the box, but the Icelander pushed his effort wide across the goal. At the other end, we saw Lloris doing his excellent "fifth defender" routine, when he raced out to collect the ball from the feet of Dwight Gayle, and soon after that tackled Phillips outside his area, and cleared.
Chadli had a chance after cutting in from the left-hand side, but fired wide. Capoue made a great run down the left flank from his own half, before feeding Chadli, whose shot came to nought. Walker gave Sigurdsson another good chance, following a good run past two defenders and a cross, but Siggy fired this one over the bar.
Phillips had good fortune to receive the ball at his feet, after a Lennon block took an unfortunate rebound, but the shot went wide anyway.
Jermain Defoe was a late substitute for Soldado, and he too could have added to the scoreline. Firstly he was part of a good passing move with Walker and Chadli, before the final pass to Sigurdsson, whose shot was blocked.
Then Defoe himself, chased by at least three Palace shirts, got into the box, but shot wide. Dikgacoi had a chance late in the game, after a deep cross from the right. His shot was well saved by Lloris, and then Spurs managed to clear the follow-up attempt, after Lloris saved again.
I think that once Soldado and the other new Spurs players settle down, getting to know each other's style and positioning play better, then we are in for more goals. I truly feel good about this team, and the season ahead, and look, I haven't even mentioned Bale, have I? DOH!
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