FA CARLING PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 5TH FEBRUARY, 2000
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0) CHELSEA 1 (0)
Referee:- Graham Poll
Spurs (4-4-2):- Walker; Carr, Perry, Campbell, Taricco; Anderton (sub Nielsen, 85), Sherwood, Clemence, Ginola; Armstrong, Iversen ( sub Korsten, 80)
Subs not used:- Baardsen; Young, Scales
Chelsea (4-4-2):- De Goey; Lambourde, Thome, Desailly, Harley; Petrescu (sub Morris, 84), Deschamps, Wise, Poyet; Sutton (sub Flo, 76), Weah
Subs not used:- Cudicini(GK); Leboeuf; Zola
I was hoping so much to write about the end of THAT run after today's game, but it was not to be. Sadly, I have to say that Spurs' huff 'n puff football never matched the intricacy and accuracy of the opposition, who always looked threatening on the attack, and could have won more convincingly, if it were not for two sharp saves by Walker early in the first half. Once again we were let down by one lapse of concentration, when Lambourde converted a Dennis Wise free kick early in the second half. Spurs were not really stung into what I would call full hearted committed football until the last twenty minutes, when they did have the Chelsea defence rattled. Had they not restrained themselves for so much of the preceding action, the team could easily have got the draw they deserved. Iversen headed onto the bar, and had a close range effort saved by De Goey late on. Iversen was then stretchered off, and failed to finish a Premiership game for the first time this season. Whilst he may have come closest to scoring, I would say that Iversen did not play as well as Armstrong, but both of them failed to get on the end of some decent approach play from Carr, Sherwood, Anderton, and to a lesser degree today - Ginola.
Ginola was marshalled by Lambourde, Deschamps and Petrescu so often in the first half, and unsurprisingly struggled to have an effect. Yet those same opposing players were able to give Taricco and co. a hard time down the Spurs left. What frustrated me more than anything today, was the fact that Chelsea passed the ball so smoothly, and accurately, and yet even our best players too often needed two or three touches before releasing. Ginola, although performing several tricks, and satisfying the gallery, did not deliver such good balls as of late.
Whilst the first half was entertaining, and flowed, with the assistance of the lenience of referee Poll, there were few clear cut chances. Perry struggled against the strength, pace and artistry of Weah early on, and after 5 minutes. Weah turned Perry and latched onto a Wise pass, for Walker to make a good save. Shortly, Lambourde was penalised for a foul on Ginola; Anderton took the long free kick, and Armstrong's speculative backward header went just over the bar.
Chelsea responded with some clever interplay from Wise, Weah, and Sutton, and Sutton's close range shot brought an excellent save from Walker. After 14 minutes, Spurs had a useful build up, when Carr's throw was fed through to Armstrong by Clemence (who impressed me today), Armstrong passed to Anderton running into the box, and his low shot was only just wide of the mark, without bothering De Goey.
Most of the remaining action in the first half seemed to be between the penalty areas, although Perry (now finding his timing), Campbell, and Carr put in some timely tackles against the ever present threat of Sutton, and Weah. The only other chance for Spurs was when Taricco put a decent ball to Iversen, whose quick pass to Armstrong was intercepted, giving the Chelsea goalkeeper a sharp test with the back-pass.
In the second half, Spurs were awarded an early free kick against Ginola, and Sherwood, Anderton, and Clemence hovered over the ball, only to feed it back to Carr who tried a 30 yard low drive. Spurs early desire soon withered, as they lost their concentration. Wise took a free kick 25 yards out, lobbed it over the wall, and Lambourde was allowed the space and time to chip Ian Walker.
Five minutes later, Graham Poll waved away Chelsea's pleas for a penalty, as Weah went flying in the box, but he didn't book the Liberian. As the ball was cleared, Desailly toppled someone with an elbow, but he escaped with a flea in his ear. The recent referees' instructions really are taking effect! Wise took another free kick from a similar spot on 66 minutes, slid it sideways for Sutton, who shot over.
Only for the last 20 minutes did Spurs seem to realise the game was still up for grabs, as suddenly they and the crowd lifted the pace of the game. Carr started to advance more often as well, getting a number of telling crosses into the six yard box. Under pressure from Armstrong, De Goey hoiked a clearance, and comedy set in as Armstrong tried an overhead kick, but mis-cued. To his credit, he did recover his ground, and managed to retrieve the ball, winning deserved applause for his efforts. Armstrong did show more desire than his partner today.
Poyet finally managed to force the referee's disciplinary hand, as he was booked for a foul on Clemence. Stephen Carr put over 2 effective crosses in quick succession. Armstrong had one close range shot blocked, and Iversen headed onto the top of the bar. The Chelsea defence seemed to enjoy some good fortune at this stage of the game. There was a superb build up from Spurs, featuring Carr, Sherwood, and Armstrong, which led to yet another close range effort from Iversen, which De Goey managed to push out. The ball reached Ginola, whose shot went across the gaping goalmouth It was at this point that Iversen had to be stretchered off, to be replaced by Korsten who looked sharper than I have seen him in recent weeks. The replacement of Anderton with Nielsen, seemed to me to indicate surrender. Whilst Darren was often getting hustled off the ball, he was always likely to threaten and create, and I felt ( I am biased - I know) that Nielsen was not likely to emulate Anderton.
There was to be only one more chance for Spurs when Armstrong climbed high to meet another Carr cross, but headed just over
We have won one, drawn two, and lost three of our last six games, and it is a mystery to me how we are still seventh in the league, but I am now convinced that we will not qualify for Europe. I hope I have to eat my words.
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