FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 30TH NOVEMBER, 2002
BIRMINGHAM CITY 1 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0)
Referee:- E. Wolstenholme
Birmingham (4-4-2):- Vaesen; Tebily, Purse, Cunningham, Kenna (Capt); Devlin (sub Johnson, 63), Savage, Cisse, Lazarides (sub Kirovski, 90); Morrison, John (sub Hughes, 83)
Subs not used:- Bennett; Hutchinson
Spurs (3-5-2):- Keller; King, Richards, Bunjevcevic; Carr, Freund, Anderton (sub Redknapp, 79), Poyet (sub Acimovic, 84), Ziege; Sheringham (Capt), Keane (sub Iversen, 75)
Subs not used:- Hirschfeld; Perry
When Birmingham skipper Jeff Kenna was allowed the freedom of the left side of midfield by Darren Anderton in the 68th minute, to cut inside and beat Kasey Keller to score only his seventh career league goal, and level the scores, there was only one team that looked likely to win this mostly dreary game. That team was not Spurs who surrendered a lead once again, and will be the most satisfied of the two teams to come away with a point. Kasey Keller was by far the busier of the keepers, and Spurs hardly troubled Vaesen, who unfortunately gifted Spurs their goal.
Spurs have managed just five points from their last 6 league games, and could drop into the bottom three of the form table (for the last 6 games) tomorrow. Their away record looks pretty grim, and this is the type of game they should be looking to win, of they want to maintain a challenge for Europe. Despite fielding a strong side (the same starting line-up as last week). they were too often second to the ball, out-fought in the middle, and off target with their passes. The Blues looked much fitter.
The full house was no doubt hoping for some rip-roaring fare, in this first league meeting between the two side for over 16 years, but almost the biggest challenge in the first half was to keep awake. The Brummies certainly whip up a good atmosphere at St. Andrews, but the dull football soon quietened things down. Robbie Savage featured for the home side, and Spurs fans (never forgiving past differences) decided that they would treat Birmingham as "Leicester by Proxy", jeering Savage's every touch, and treating the crowd to a "We only had 10 men" chant.
Birmingham could have had a sixth minute lead, as Morrison put Stern John through, with only Keller to beat. John has six goals to his credit this season, but the ability to score looked a distant memory, as he tamely chipped the ball into Keller's welcoming arms. There was very little to excite in those early stages, as both sides played very tight to the half-way line, and there was little space to be found. Robbie Keane did send a memorable long ball from right to left for Gus Poyet, who had one player to beat, but managed to stumble and failed to get a shot on goal.
Birmingham had half chances through a Tebily free kick that was badly skewed, then a Devlin shot over the bar after a Dean Richards headed clearance fell into his path. The only booking of the game went to Cisse who sent Freund flying with a lunging tackle. With minutes to go before the break, Stephen Carr at last sent the pulses rising with a typical run, cutting inside before sending a cracking left foot shot to Vaesen's left, which the keeper collected cleanly. Then, Devlin floated a long ball to the far post, where John headed back across the goal, with Keller advancing towards him. Morrison put the chance well over the bar.
Ivory Coast International Olivier Tebily tried to emulate Carr early in the second half, with a similar run. His powerful low drive was parried by Keller and actually went for a throw-in, such was the force behind the ball. Suddenly, when Spurs managed to find their passing boots, they took a lead in the 55th minute. The move started with Carr on the right, and led to Anderton finding Ziege on the left with a longish ball. Ziege homed in on goal, and his low cross/shot was parried by Vaesen, giving Teddy Sheringham an easy finish for his sixth goal of the season.
Having made the goal, Ziege then turned bad guy as he misjudged a piece of defensive play allowing Devlin to get a cross in, and John to head over at the back post. Ziege looked lazy at times today, and never seemed to give his full efforts. It was as if Glenn Hoddle had him on one of those extending dog leads, and would not let him stray too far. There were spells around the time of our goal, when he did challenge the Birmingham defence, but too often he failed to make himself available for a pass. Sadly, each of Anderton, Freund and Poyet were struggling to make their passes anyway. Ziege did make a long ball, and force the slightest of saves from Vaesen for a corner, but that was the last of Spurs real efforts on goal.
Devlin had just forced a save from Keller before he was replaced by Birmingham's own number 22, Damien Johnson, just back from injury. Keller was in action again to save a downward header from Clinton Morrison after a Lazarides cross, and then came the equaliser in spectacular style. Kenna had previously only scored 6 goals in over 300 league appearances, and none in his previous 34 for Birmingham, but he made it look like a regular pastime, as he cut past Anderton, and sent a low right foot drive to Keller's left corner.
Stephen Carr showed good determination to reach Poyet in response. Gus chested, turned and shot in a sweeping movement, but his effort was over the bar. There were worries for Spurs, as Keller went down injured after struggling to collect a high cross from the left by Lazarides, but it was Morrison, who spent more time down injured, as Kasey quickly recovered. Iversen was something of a non-entity when he replaced Keane, but Jamie Redknapp was a welcome replacement for Anderton. Acimovic had too little time to try and make an impression. Only the home side looked like scoring now, and came close when Dean Richards failed to read a Freund tackle that sent the ball his way. Morrison was away with the ball, and only bravery from Keller prevented a late winner.
Birmingham are unbeaten in their last three games, and will take great encouragement from this result, and their mid-table position. Spurs still aspire to greater things, but need to put thoughts into action.
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