SATURDAY 25TH NOVEMBER, 2000
FA CARLING PREMIERSHIP
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 3 (2) LEICESTER CITY 0 (0)
Ferdinand (3), 34, 39, 84
Referee:- Rob Harris
Spurs (3-5-2):- Sullivan; Perry (sub Thatcher, 31), Campbell (Capt.), Thelwell; Carr (sub Freund, 80), Anderton, Sherwood, King, Clemence; Rebrov (sub Armstrong, 80), Ferdinand
Subs not used:- Walker; Korsten
Leicester (3-5-2):- Royce; Rowett, Elliott, Taggart; Sinclair, Savage (sub Eadie, 67), Lennon, Izzet, Davidson; Akinbiyi (sub Impey, 67), Benjamin (sub Cresswell, 77)
Subs not used:- Price (GK); Gilchrist
Booked:- Taggart, Savage, Lennon
Sent off:- Taggart, 63(2nd yellow)
It's official! Spurs have the best home record in the Premiership after today's win. George Graham kept faith with youngsters Ledley King, and Alton Thelwell, and they did not let him down. Alton even proved his flexibility as he was switched from the left side to the right to accommodate Ben Thatcher who replace the injured Chris Perry on the half hour. There was so much good news for Spurs today, as they welcomed back skipper Sol Campbell to the centre of the defence, and Les Ferdinand (in his fourth season with the club) scored his first hat-trick in our colours, to overtake Sergei Rebrov as the team's top scorer so far this season.
Since the Worthington Cup Final 20 months ago, this contest has taken on a new meaning, and the hatred for Robbie Savage has not diminished. Indeed for much of the first half hour, this was a very physical battle, with no quarter given on either side. For once Spurs had a referee who leant towards them, as the Leicester players were more often punished for their tackles, and the first two bookings (Taggart and Savage) were for dissent, due to the visitors' frustration at the lack of decisions going their way. Much as this was a good performance all round by Spurs, I am concerned that maybe we used up too much of our luck today, what with decisions, Les's second goal, and missed opportunities by Leicester. With Ledley King in the middle, the midfield has been more challenging, and to a certain extent you make your own luck when you work for it, and harry away at the opposition, who under pressure are likely to make mistakes. Spurs reaped the dividends today. Long may it continue.
There was an early contretemps between Savage and Clemence, which set the flavour for the following half-hour. Leicester were fastest out of the blocks when it came to threatening moves, and Sol had an early saving block to make, backed up by a fine tackle by Clemence inside the area. An early Spurs free kick was pushed to Carr loitering on the right, and Spurs fan Royce (covering for Flowers) made a super save to tip Carr's shot out of the goalmouth. Clemence played with real heart today, and did not flinch in a 50-50 challenge with Sinclair whose crunching tackle could be heard and felt at the other end of the ground.
Leicester threatened again on 11 minutes through the anti-hero Savage who whacked a 35 yard effort straight at Sullivan. Chris Perry and Stephen Carr prevented Benjamin from making progress with a strong double challenge, and this was when Perry got his first knock. From the resulting Leicester throw, Sol only got a half touch, and Akinbiyi failed to get enough strength behind his effort. Perry had to be replaced after trying to run off his injury, and on the whole Thatcher looked more comfortable as one of three at the back. He did however make one or two errors, and also missed a good scoring chance in the second half.
Spurs did make more progress through the middle than I can recall since pre-season, with some decent movements. Just before taking the lead one such passing move featuring King, Clemence, Sherwood and finally Anderton resulted in a shot from Darren that went wide. Then came the first goal. Ledley King harried Rowett, until the defender was forced into a mistake, when he pushed the ball back into the path of Les Ferdinand. Les scored arguably his best goal for the club, with a 25 yard shot that curled round Elliott and inside the right hand post. Sol Campbell had a good chance to increase the lead from close range as a Clemence free kick reached him in front of goal. Royce made a fine save, but the lead was increased from the resulting corner, taken by Anderton. There was some ping pong in and around the area, and Sergei Rebrov's powerful shot was cleared off the line, only to go straight to the head of Ferdinand who scored his second. I'm not sure he knew too much about it!
After the interval, Leicester were more threatening, as they tried desperately to get back into the game. Izzet went down in the area, and the away support was baying for a penalty, but the referee only gave an indirect free kick for obstruction. Elliott's effort went high and wide. Next up was a decent cross from Callum Davidson. Akinbiyi headed just past the post, but Benjamin was offside anyway. Lennon found his way into Harris's book for a foul on Rebrov, but Thatcher somehow escaped scot free when he clattered Savage. On 58 minutes Neil Sullivan made a world class save from a close range shot from Elliott.
Leicester had given their all, but it just was not to be their day. Stephen Carr went on a great run down the wing, beating two players, but being brought down by Taggart. A melee followed, with Taggart raising his arms to Ferdinand, but he was sent off for a second yellow for the foul rather than the violent conduct which followed.
Obviously facing a ten-man team helped, but the Spurs midfield played with more gusto, and confidence. Sherwood seems to have found his form again, and Darren Anderton is on top of his game for us. He tried a glancing header after an exchange with Carr, but was well off target. Peter Taylor rang the changes, including the removal of Savage as tempers began to flair, and substitute Eadie sent a left wing cross with almost his first touch that Benjamin failed to contact sufficiently.
Perhaps the best piece of football today was when Sherwood passed to Anderton just inside his own half. Darren slipped the ball between two opponents, and raced through, passed to Rebrov, who crossed for Sherwood's powerful shot to be blocked for a corner. Clemence's corner was flicked on by Sherwood, and Thatcher managed to scoop the ball over the bar from the 6 yard line.
Davidson seemed to dive at one end (unpunished) in the area, and then Stephen Clemence seemed to be brought down inside the box at the other end, but Harris waved play on. Had he given the penalty which I feel was justified, I suspect he would never be safe in Leicester again!
Les Ferdinand passed up one chance for his hat trick, when he tried to lay up for Ledley, who was in a worse position, but the elusive hat trick was complete, after Royce could only parry Anderton's powerful shot to the feet of Ferdinand who could not pass up the gift to finish off. Leicester did have three more decent chances to score, as one hit the bar, one went over, and Sinclair could only shoot straight at Sullivan.
Needless to say, we got to Old Trafford next week in a confident frame of mind. One can only live in hope that we can start taking some of our home form away. I shall not be in attendance, and other eye witness reports would be welcomed.
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