FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
SUNDAY 15TH DECEMBER, 2002
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1) ARSENAL 1 (1)
Pires, 45 (pen)
Referee:- Neale Barry
Spurs (3-5-2):- Keller; King, Richards, Bunjevcevic; Carr, Freund, Anderton (sub Davies, 70), Poyet, Ziege; Sheringham (Capt), Keane
Subs not used:- Hirschfeld; Perry; Clemence; Iversen
Booked:- Keller, Sheringham, Freund (all fouls)
Arsenal (4-4-2):- Seaman (Capt); Lauren, Keown, Campbell, Cole; Ljungberg (sub Toure, 86), Parlour, Gilberto, Pires (sub van Bronkhorst, 79); Bergkamp (sub Wiltord, 70), Henry
Subs not used:- Taylor; Upson
Booked:- Lauren, Parlour (fouls)
Spurs fans were deprived of the Christmas present they so richly deserved, as a result of two goal-line clearances by Ashley Cole in the first half, two saves by Seaman in the second, and a late first half penalty conceded by Kasey Keller, after Christian Ziege had put Spurs into an eleventh minute lead with a superb free kick. Arsenal were missing their midfield engine - Patrick Vieira - and looked nothing like a Championship side, as the home team put them under great pressure in the first half, without capitalising to the degree they should. The quality of the football deteriorated in the second half, when Spurs ran out of their head of steam. It is perhaps surprising that Glenn Hoddle made only one substitution - that of Simon Davies for Darren Anderton with 20 minutes to go. Anderton had a great game today in my view, hitting the target 90% of the time with his passes, often made in very quick time, as is demanded at the very top level.
Hoddle welcomed back Goran Bunjevcevic, who slotted comfortably on the left of the back three, with Richards in the middle and King outstanding on the right. All three played well, as did the Spurs team, to a man, with Steffen Freund also returning to the fray. The dream of Steffen scoring his first goal in a match against our local rivals will have to be put on hold for another year though, unless we get them in the FA Cup. Freund is a great hero anyway, and took time out before warming up to sign autographs for lucky youngsters in the lower East Stand.
You don't really need me to mention Mr Campbell, do you? He got the reception you would expect, and one he can expect as long as he is playing, whenever he returns to White Hart Lane. I think the heckling had an effect upon his first half game, as the home fans cheered a number of clearances and passes to the opposition. I think about the best pass I saw him make all day was 5 yards sideways to Robert Pires!
Spurs put the pressure on the Gooners as early as the fifth minute, when Ziege and Anderton took a short corner, after which Ziege's dipping cross was subject of a scrambled save from Seaman, who could only divert the ball for a corner. A few minutes later, Carr went on a determined run into the box, passed to Poyet who went down under pressure from Parlour. The Spurs appeals for a penalty were waved away by Neale Barry. Then Poyet did get a free kick outside the box, which Ziege curled to Seaman's left with a wonderful left foot curler over the wall. What a start!
The away fans were silent as two minutes later, Richards got up to Anderton's corner, in amongst other players, and headed goalwards. Ashley Cole was behind his keeper and on the line to rescue the visitors. There followed a good move by Robbie Keane and Steffen Freund, who crossed from the right for Anderton, whose shot was wide by a distance.
Arsenal then began to make their presence known, as Spurs took their foot of the pedal somewhat. Parlour had their first decent goal attempt after 25 minutes, when collecting a free kick from the left, then seeing his low drive touched out for a corner by Keller. Soon after, a Bergkamp shot was hit against Richards and the rebound went to the Arsenal half, when Robbie Keane harried the ball off Seaman, trying to deal with Keown's back pass. Robbie took the ball too far from goal though, and the chance fizzled away. Carr got into the box with another great run after 31 minutes, sending the ball to Sheringham who teed up Keane, whose shot was cleared off the line by that man Cole. Seaman got down well to a low shot from Gus Poyet, but then just before the break, things went against Spurs.
First, Pires sent Ljungberg away down the right in too much space. His cross was headed goalward by Henry at the near post, but Kasey Keller was the hero as he dived to his left and pushed the ball round the corner. Next minute though, he was the villain, as Henry beat Bunjevcevic to a long ball that seemed to be going nowhere. Keller raced out all the way to the left edge of his area, with the ball heading out of danger. Henry seemed to have lost control of the situation, but still Keller dived at his legs and the striker went down. Referee Barry had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, and booking Keller. Pires hit the penalty home, and the Gooners went in on level terms, which hardly seemed fair.
Chances became fewer and fewer in the second half, but there were signs that Arsenal might snatch a winner. Horrible memories of Highbury four weeks ago were brought to bear, when the ball was in the Arsenal half from a Freund throw, which was cleared to Henry who went away on another run into the Spurs area. This time he was faced with sterner opposition, but he still got a pass to Bergkamp, whose shot was blocked.
Rather than pass through the middle, Spurs seemed to resort to higher and longer balls for Robbie Keane, as the game progressed. Seaman came out well to save his first one on one chance, and Spurs gave away any advantage by wasting a short corner. Then Keane was through again, but Seaman parried. Sheringham followed up, and seemed to be entitled to go for a 50/50 ball against Keown. The referee did not see it that way as Teddy got booked for his challenge.
There was then an entertaining cameo, as Carr and Campbell tussled down the right touchline, and went down in a bundle. The Spurs fans loved it, screaming "Judas", but "Judas" and Carr shook hands and laughed about it. Worrying isn't it, in view of the rumours that continue to abound about Carr possibly joining his ex-team-mate at Highbury, or Ashburton.
Poyet collected a Sheringham head-down from a throw, and did well to turn and shoot quickly, but his right foot shot was wide. More laughter came when (presumably) a Spurs fan entered the pitch from the lower East Stand, dressed in Gooner kit and as Bin Laden, whilst on the pitch, Robbie Keane was sent away by Ziege, but no-one could keep up with him, and therefore the attack faded. In the last minute, a Ziege free kick reached Teddy Sheringham at the back post, but the ball hit Teddy rather than him gaining control, and the header was way off target.
Spurs are back up to seventh, whilst Arsenal are a point clear at the top. We have now been unbeaten in four games, and if we can keep up this level of performance, it may yet be a very good Christmas for Spurs fans.
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