MONDAY 18TH DECEMBER, 2000
FA CARLING PREMIERSHIP
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1) ARSENAL 1 (0)
Referee:- J. Winter
Spurs (3-5-2):- Sullivan; Perry, Campbell, Thelwell; Carr, Anderton, Sherwood, King, Clemence; Rebrov (sub Armstrong, 81), Ferdinand
Subs not used:- Walker; Freund; Doherty, Leonhardsen
Booked:- Ferdinand (dissent); Sherwood (foul)
Arsenal (4-4-2):- Manninger; Dixon, Keown, Adams, Silvinho; Ljungberg, Parlour, Grimandi (sub Bergkamp, 62), Pires (sub Vieira, 62); Kanu (sub Wiltord, 71), Henry
Subs not used:- Lukic; Luzhny
Booked:- Pires (foul)
In the end it was honours even, thanks to a last gasp equaliser from Vieira. The pressure on Spurs was relentless in the second half, as Wenger threw everything bar the kitchen sink at Spurs in an effort to gain three points on Man Utd at the top of the league. He used all three substitutes, Vieira, Bergkamp and Wiltord, but Spurs almost held out against the barrage thanks to some excellent saves by man of the match Neil Sullivan, a touch of luck, and some great defending by all concerned.
Much as I would love to say we deserved all three points, it is hard to argue against the fairness of the result. Spurs come out of this game with honour, despite remaining in the bottom half. I thought Thelwell and King were terrific in such a high pressure game, where there was no time on the ball before an ankle snapping opponent would be at your heels. Yes, Thelwell made one or two errors, but he also showed tremendous composure in front of goal. Surely these youngsters are here to stay. Although fit, both Freund and Leonhardsen stayed on the bench, and I would suggest it is going to take an injury for either of them to get back into the side. Perhaps Clemence's place will be most at risk for Leo's presence.
Although there was no need to pump up the atmosphere, the usual "Inspurations" video introduction was edited to include many victorious clips of the Spurs against the enemy, including necessary footage from "St Gascoigne's Day". The early exchanges were fairly tame, and the first real chance came for Spurs after 3 minutes. Stephen Carr sent a marvellous cross field pass to Clemence, who did well to work the ball inside for the returning Sergei Rebrov. Rebrov's threatening shot was deflected for a corner. Arsenal replied with Kanu breaking from the middle to find Silvinho on the left. The Brazilian crossed and Parlour cut back for Kanu who shot straight at Sullivan, for one of his easiest pieces of work tonight.
Kanu outfought Perry after 12 minutes to cut the ball back for Henry, who shot wide of the mark on this occasion. Thelwell's excellent work against Henry led to a sharp build up for Spurs, which only ended as Rebrov lurking on the right, just failed to reach a long ball that was a little too powerful for him to control. There was little break in play, as Ljungberg forced his way down the right. His cross was hooked away by Carr, but only as far as parlour who volleyed well over the target, to cheers from the North stand.
More good work by Thelwell led to Carr feeding the ball to Anderton who made a decent run, hitting a low skidding shot which forced a diving save from Manninger. It wasn't long before Spurs took the lead. Carr hit a high cross from the corner flag, which was headed out by Keown to Clemence. He passed to Anderton, whose shot was not held by the goalkeeper. Les Ferdinand and Tim Sherwood were adjudged not to be interfering as they retreated from offside positions, and Sergei Rebrov with great determination dived headlong to reach the rebound and head the ball high into the net for his sixth goal of the season. Great Joy!
Spurs confidence was high at this point, and they managed to assert themselves until the interval. There was one chance at the other end however, as Pires headed a Kanu cross to Sullivan's welcoming arms. Les Ferdinand seemed to have had a running argument with referee Jef Winter, who felt obliged to show him the card before half time. In fairness, I think Winter let a lot go tonight, and had a good game. Maybe he was too generous at times, as I saw two footed tackles from both Anderton and Perry! Rest assured that the red shirted horde were also taking the rules to the limit and beyond at times!
Spurs were under the cosh mainly from Henry after the break. He gave Perry the slip, and found Grimandi unmarked on the right of the area. Somehow Grimandi failed to make the most of his time and space, and Sullivan saved. Soon after Sullivan made a marvellous snap save from henry, who must have been wondering what he had to do to get the ball in the net in front of his own fans.
We thought we were going to se a Rebrov special as Alton Thelwell returned a poor clearance to the area. Sergei prepared to volley, but miscued badly. Spurs then had chances to secure the game, as Carr and Ferdinand exchanged and found Anderton on the right. Sherwood slid in at the near post to meet Darren's low cross, but could only put the ball into the side netting. Almost immediately, Clemence was in a great position inside the area, and if he could use his right foot would surely have scored. However, he hesitated enough so that when he crossed, Keown somehow managed to keep the ball away from Anderton. Darren did get a touch, but Keown and Manninger managed to retain the ball.
Sullivan was forced to make a diving save from a Perry headed back pass, but then Perry redeemed himself to sweep up a Sullivan save from a short range shot - probably Henry again. Sullivan's grip was firm as he grasped a long range shot from the left from Henry. Next he was depriving the Frenchman after he broke with Bergkamp. The touch of luck came after 69 minutes, when Sullivan could only parry Bergkamp's powerful shot. The ball hit Henry and went to safety, whereas it could so easily have ended up in the back of the Spurs goal.
Les Ferdinand had an excellent game today, but it looked as if he had been concussed and needed replacing. His substitution was announced, but someone changed their mind at the last moment and he stayed on the field! Parlour hit the side netting, and Sherwood fired wide after being teed up by Rebrov. The last decent effort for Spurs came with a typical surging move led by Carr. He got into the box, but the shot was high and wide.
There was always going to be several minutes of injury time, but before they arrived, Vieira popped up to head home a Silvinho corner to frustrate us. I understand that TV replays show he tugged Les Ferdinand to allow himself the freedom of that section of the area - unnoticed by the referee. From there on it was just a case of whether or not we could hold on.
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