SATURDAY 18TH AUGUST, 2001
FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0) ASTON VILLA 0 (0)
Referee:- Dermot Gallagher
Spurs (3-5-2):- Sullivan; Doherty, Bunjevcevic, King; Taricco (sub Perry, 80), Freund (sub Anderton, 66), Clemence, Poyet, Ziege; Rebrov, Ferdinand (Capt) (sub Iversen, 20)
Subs not used;- Keller; Davies
Booked:- Clemence (foul), Doherty (foul), Ziege (Dissent - kicked ball away)
Aston Villa (4-4-2);- Schmeichel; Delaney, Mellberg, Alpay, Wright; Merson (Capt), Boateng, Hendrie, Kachloul (sub Stone, 80); Angel (sub Ginola, 62), Vassell (sub Hadji, 73)
Subs not used:- Enckelman (GK); Barry
Booked:- Boateng (foul), Delaney (foul)
The wave of pre-season optimism around the Lane for today's opener dissipated in the second half, as Spurs struggled to keep pace with this Villa side, who are physically sharper, and have an ongoing Intertoto campaign in the melting pot. Both sides rarely threatened the goalkeepers though, but it was Villa who had the better chances as the game wore on, and Spurs will be happy with a point.
If you look at the bigger picture for Spurs, then there was plenty of skill and confidence on show in the first half. This has been injected by Glenn Hoddle's signings, and Gus Poyet really impressed in that first period. Even Stephen Clemence and Steffen Freund could be seen anticipating their move like chess players, as they received the ball, and there were enough tricks, and quick passes to give support to that optimistic feeling.
Hoddle did perhaps play a more defensive line-up than expected, with Clemence and Freund supporting the defence, whilst Poyet had licence to get up front - usually further ahead than Sergei Rebrov who played so deep that he made several valuable defensive interventions. With newly-appointed club skipper Sheringham missing, along with Carr and Sherwood to name but two, the early loss of stand-in captain Les Ferdinand after 20 minutes was not wanted. Ferdinand tried to run off a knee injury but had to go after a 50-50 clash with Wright, and Steffen Iversen never had the same influence on attack. Late in the game, Taricco too had to be replaced through injury, and Hoddle will be hoping that one or two absentees return on Monday night at Goodison. Darren Anderton did not start today, and neither did Chris Perry (Is he still being held back for a possible swap plus cash deal for Dean Richards at Southampton?)
It was the usual 3-5-2 formation for Spurs, but this was a game when Ziege's defensive responsibilities were taken often by Freund and Clemence, whilst he was given freedom to go forward. However, I was disappointed with his off the ball movement, and the end product of his crosses did not please too much either today.
The pre-match build up tune "Inspurations" was replaced by a medley of fans' favourites, starting with McNamara's band. Helpfully the song sheet was included in the centre spread of the (20% price increase) £3 programme, just in case you didn't know the words to "Hoddle, Hoddle - born is the King etc. etc) Spurs started powerfully through a Ferdinand-Poyet attack which led to a corner. Ziege took, and Les fired over from close range, with what was to be one of Spurs very few direct shots on goal.
Clemence got an early booking but was not to be discouraged from his duty to keep Boateng under wraps. In fact, I thought he had an excellent first half, whilst his detractors will busily report how he made many mistakes in the second. We all had a laugh when he deprived Merson in the middle and then tried to chip Schmeichel from 40 yards, failing dismally. (Remember the big picture though, and think what extra confidence he has been given to try!)
There were several nice passing passages for Spurs, but usually the best result was for Schmeichel's holding to be tested by the crosses. He was not that convincing, but no-one could take advantage. Iversen did have a header go wide, after a Taricco-Poyet move, and then Doherty found Taricco, whose cross led to blocked shots from Iversen and Poyet.
Villa came out with extra spark after the break. Vassell headed over an early Merson corner from close range, and again missed from close range, after Taricco gifted the ball to Merson, for Delaney to cross from the right. Referee Dermot Gallagher had one of his worse games, with several weird decisions. He would let blatant fouls go, whilst punishing others that were innocuous. Then he angered the home crowd most when he seemed to miss a blatant foul by Kachloul upon Taricco as he advanced into the edge of the area.
Schmeichel had little to do after the break. Alpay headed over yet another Merson corner, and after David Ginola came on to the usual rapturous cheers from the Spurs crowd, Sullivan dived late to his left to fend a Kachloul header onto the post and out of play. Ginola had a good half-hour, and tested Sullivan with a typical 20 yard curling shot.
The Spurs pattern was disrupted by the substitutions, but Gary Doherty coped well with his right back responsibilities, when Chris Perry replaced Taricco. King looked strong today, and Bunjevcevic competent. Doherty nearly snatched all the points for Spurs, when he rattled the bar with his shot from the edge of the box, after Rebrov passed.
Everton had a surprise win at Charlton today, and will perhaps provide sterner opposition than we had thought for Monday night's live Sky game. I shall be at Goodison, but my report will be delayed till Tuesday.
· Brian Judson's Preview for this game can still be read here
· Declan Mulcahy's Last Five Stats for this game can still be read here
· Check the current team appearances, cards and scorers in all competitions
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