FA PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 26TH SEPTEMBER, 1998
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 3 (1) - LEEDS UNITED 3 (2)
Referee:- Paul Durkin
Spurs:- Baardsen; Carr ( sub Calderwood 81 ), Vega, Campbell, Edinburgh; Fox, Anderton, Nielsen, Clemence (sub Dominguez 72); Armstrong, Ferdinand ( sub Iversen 63 )
Subs not used:- Segers; Berti
Leeds:- Martyn; Hiden, Molenaar, Radebe, Harte; Bowyer, Halle, Hopkin, Kewell; Wijnhard ( sub Wetherall 72 ), Hasselbaink
Booked:- Molenaar, Wetherall.
Sol Campbell provided one of those "better than sex" moments in the dying seconds of this pulsating game, when he equalised with a header from close range to send the home crowd ecstatic. It was one of those occasions that makes "being there" really special, and will be put alongside the more vintage memories. I think we sometimes take Sol for granted, and it is worth mentioning here and now that today he was a colossus. He was dominant in defence, and several times made powerful forays forward, winning the ultimate reward with his second goal in two games, and his first league goal for a considerable time. He went as wild when he scored in front of the members stand, as he did when he scored that "winner" in the world cup. And yet, whilst Vega sprawled and posed with exhaustion on the ground at the end of the game, Sol led his side down the tunnel, without savouring the applause.
The story going into this game was of course the apparent appointment of George Graham. By all accounts, this deal is already signed sealed and delivered, and when the official announcement comes next week, it will be the biggest anti-climax for ages. In fact, it will be a surprise if the deal does not go through. Significantly, there were no concerted anti-Graham chants today. It seems that the fans have accepted the seemingly inevitable. Masses of photographers loomed at the players tunnel awaiting his entrance, but he sneaked into the directors box ( on the visitors side ) just before kick-off. The Leeds fans occasionally taunted their manager with "Georgie, Georgie, what's the score?", when they were leading. What a weird situation.
"Daveed" Ginola was unfit with a hamstring strain, and apparently, Ferdinand, and Vega played with stomach upsets. Both sides played 4-4-2, and the benefit to Spurs of having two front runners was immediately evident when Fox, Armstrong, and Ferdinand wwere involved in an early attack that led to a chance for "Sir Les". It is fair to say that throughout the game, Les, and Chris Armstrong had a lot of chances, and should have converted more. We played a lot of pretty approach football, but too often needed two or three touches to get control of the ball, giving the beaverish Leeds defence time to organise. I know this sounds strange, but even though they leaked three goals, I thought the Leeds defence, and their team as a whole was really effective, quickly seeming to have two players around one of our men on the ball.
According to the programme notes ( and I found this rather an amazing fact ), Leeds' Rodney Wallace scored the fastest opposition league goal against us last season at The Lane, after 19 minutes. Sadly, it didn't take that long today. The goal came from a corner kick. Leeds deploy a tactic that has been used many times before, but which gave the Spurs defence a lot of worry. All the attackers form in a line going straight out from the penaty spot, with the clear intention to move in various directions once the kick is taken. This first kick drew all the Spurs defence to the near post, leaving an unmarked Halle to head home.
Spurs responded well, and put the away team under considerable pressure, winning several free kicks, and corners, most of which were taken by Anderton. Sol had a powerful header go over the bar from one such free kick. Sol was the source of another effective attack, when he broke out of defence, feeding the ball to Ferdinand, who passed to Fox, whose cross was headed down by Armstrong, but saved by Martyn.
Leeds were still giving us scares in defence though, and in Wijnhard,and Hasselbaink, have two fast and tricky players, capable of beating even our Sol on occasions. Edinburgh made one or two cardinal errors in the first half, and Steve Carr had one of his worse games, deservedly being substituted in the second half. I hate to get on his back, but Vega was being "pulled" ( not physically ) all over the place, and although he scored the equaliser was quite inept at times. I know - what's new?
The deserved equaliser came from an Anderton corner headed home by Ramon. The ball seemed to take an age before reaching the back of the net, but it was well placed to Martyn's left.
Leeds nearly regained the lead from another corner, when an unmarked Kewell headed wide in the 24th minute. However, they did go ahead two minutes later, when Edinburgh was too easily beaten on the left flank ,and a low cross reached Hasselbaink at the near post, who turned a low shot past Espen. I think Carr was the defender held off by the scorer.
There was a lull in the excitement for some ten minutes, during which time Leeds bossed the midfield. I though Hopkins in particular played some clever, and powerful football. Once again our central midfield boys looked lightweight when called to defend. I know one or two people think differently, but personally, I thought Allan Nielsen had a "mare" today. Perhaps I'm being harsh,and maybe I didn't see the good things he did, but then Football is a game of opinions, isn't it?
About five minutes from the interval, Ferdinand had a good chance to score from an Edinburgh cross, but headed over, when really he had time to place the ball more accurately. Chris Armstrong had a half chance from a Fox cross just before the whistle. We had a lot of pressure early in the second half, and Chris Armstrong seemed to be the victim of some dodgy offside decisions. On one occasion Darren Anderton played a good pass, which, had it not been for a valuable touch by Molenaar, would have teed Armo up for an almost certain goal.
Disaster struck after 61 minutes, when from a right wing cross, Winjhard was able to round Vega, and fire home. Iversen came on for Les soon after. This decision was booed, but the crowd was not to know that Les still had stomach trouble. At this stage of the game, it looked like there was no way out for the Spurs, and one of the biggest cheers came for a one man sit down protest in front of the director's box. Later, someone else tried the same trick, to less effect. Needles to say, both poor souls were unceremoniously escorted out of the ground, probably never to come again?
Things got better though, and Iversen had some positive effect, to say the least, winning a lot of ball in the air, and making some good powerful runs. I can't say we saw any likelihood of such a show when he graced the reserves on Tuesday, but he certainly pleased the crowd today! Fox found himself inside the area with only Martyn to beat, and wheras he might have found it easier to score with a low shot, he chose to send a lifting shot towards the top right corner, across the goalie. Martyn made what will probably look like a spectacular save, but it was quite comfortable for him.
Steffen showed Ruel how to convert such opportunities two minutes later. Fox made a short pass from the wing to Carr, whose quick cross found Iversen suspiciously ahead of the defence. Steff cooly hit a good low shot into the goalie's right bottom corner, and the crowd was up for a rousing finale. Jose Dominguez came on for Clemence, and significantly at the same time, Graham put a defender on for one of his two front men, replacing Winjhard with Wetherall, who took only five minutes to get booked for a crunching foul. Jose worked down the left wing, and had one marvellous cross-shot, which dipped towards the goal, and I'm sure had Martyn beaten. I was ready to greet a spectacular (if fortunate ) goal, but the ball just shaded the top of the crossbar.
Iversen headed down for Chris Armstrong to shoot, and Hasselbaink had a late effort which was deflected by Campbell, and saved by Espen. As the minutes ticked away, Allan Nielsen provided a short cross to set up Sol for that marvellous equaliser to send the home crowd home happy.
· Brian Judson's preview of this game.
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