WEDNESDAY 27TH DECEMBER, 2000
FA CARLING PREMIERSHIP
SOUTHAMPTON 2 (2) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)
Referee:- David Elleray
Southampton (4-3-1-2):- Jones; Dodd, Richards, Lundekvam, Bridge; Pahars, Draper (sub Soltvedt, 63), Marsden (sub El Khalej, 46); Davies; Tessem, Beattie (sub Rosler, 87)
Subs not used:- Moss; Bleidelis
Booked:- Tahar El Khalej
Spurs:- (3-5-2):- Sullivan; Perry, Campbell, Thelwell; Carr (sub Sherwood, 46), Anderton, King, Leonhardsen, Clemence; Rebrov (sub Doherty, 60), Armstrong (sub Korsten, 80)
Subs not used:- Walker; Davies
Booked:- Clemence, Campbell, Anderton
Spurs resembled one of those wafer thin mint chocolates that you have after your Christmas feast. Tempting, because of their sweet appearance, but unsatisfying due to their lack of substance. Yiddo Glenn Hoddle outsmarted Gooner George Graham with a blend of football that included everything Spurs did not have:- Strength, pace, movement, flair, imagination, and penetrating tactics. Hoddle's team were unpredictable, as players turned up in unfamiliar positions. Left back Bridge pestered Spurs left flank in the early stages, giving Clemence and Thelwell a torrid time. When he reverted to his left sided slot, and Clemence took on forward positions, Pahars alone pierced Thelwell's defensive efforts with ease. Perry was also exposed too often, as Davies and Beattie were allowed licence to use their greater strength by the weak officialdom of Elleray and his linesman Norman (more of whom later). Hoddle had clearly decreed that the attackers should try and avoid the tower of strength in the middle - Sol Campbell - although he too suffered earning a booking for a desperate foul on Davies as he powered his way through the middle from a deep position.
Spurs' best player - Stephen Carr -was obviously only half fit, as he had to be replaced at half time by Sherwood, who had been dropped in favour of Oyvind Leonhardsen, who was largely anonymous throughout the game. Much as his form has dipped, I prefer Sherwood, who does enough good things to warrant his inclusion at the moment. It is significant that Spurs did at least make more of an impression in the second half, whilst still failing to truly threaten Jones' goal, whereas Neil Sullivan again had to show good form to keep the scoreline down.
Sergei Rebrov once again failed to make an impression, as most of his touches went astray. Armstrong had replaced the injured Ferdinand, and similarly failed to make any headway. It was one way traffic for most of the game, and must have been as painful to watch on television, as it was to be present on this freezing cold night in the tip of a ground they call The Dell.
Within minutes, Spurs were under the cosh, as Beattie found Tessem on the right, and a poor back pass allowed Davies to get a sharp shot on goal, which skimmed the edge of the near post. Spurs did have an early response as Anderton took advantage of a poor clearance to start a build up, which led to Ledley King shooting over from close range.
Linesman Mr Norman, who performed in front of the Spurs crowd throughout, might just as well have been wearing the home strip. First he missed a blatant handball by Tessem, as he gave Clemence the slip. This led to Clemence's booking as he protested with Mr Elleray. The same linesman missed several offsides by the Saints, and then in the second half seemed to raise his flag every time Spurs got forward. Spurs player on the floor? Must be their offence!
Soon after Campbell's foul on Davies, Tessem got through and brought an excellent diving one handed save from Sullivan. Spurs then had about two minutes worth of pressure, as Clemence's long ball was reached by Armstrong who tried to chip the goalie, but was thwarted. From the corner, Rebrov had a shot blocked well. About the only other memorable Spurs attack came when Rebrov chipped to Armstrong, and Clemence got a shot in from close range.
Then came the misery. After 37 minutes, Perry tried to hook clear, but could only hit Beattie in the chest. Beattie took over as he raced in from the left, and curled a glorious shot past Campbell and round Sullivan. The Southampton fans chanted "Same old Beattie - always scoring", and he is on super form at the moment. Within two minutes, Thelwell was well beaten by Pahars who sent a cross beyond the defence, for Davies to volley into the low right corner of the net. Stephen Carr did put a cross onto Armstrong's head, but the striker sent the ball the wrong way.
Spurs were under pressure early in the second half, as substitute Tahar El Khalej hit a low shot which Sullivan stretched to save. In the follow up, Beattie went close with his drive. Spurs had more possession in the second period, but the best they could provide in the way of goalmouth action was a cross from Leonhardsen, which Jones failed to hold, and a late shot from Leo that went a yard wide. For all their efforts, it was still Sullivan who was under more pressure, as Beattie, Davies and Tessem gave him plenty of action.
As I write, the ground is snow covered, and I can only hope that Saturday's Ipswich game is called off, and that perhaps we can play them later in the season, when they are very tired. On this form, Spurs are not going to win away. I keep picking up those wafer mints because of the temptation, but they are beginning to have the same effect upon me as they did "Mr Creosote" in "Monty Python's Meaning of Life". They make me sick!
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