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Blackburn v Spurs, 06.10.02

FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
SUNDAY 6TH OCTOBER, 2002
BLACKBURN ROVERS 1 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (1)

Blackburn scorer:-
Ostenstad, 59

Spurs scorers:-
Keane, 6
Redknapp, 89

Attendance:- 26,203

Referee:- Andy D'Urso

Teams:-
Blackburn (4-1-3-2):- Friedel; Taylor, Berg (sub Ostenstad, 46), Johansson, Neill; Tugay; Thompson, Flitcroft (Capt), Dunn (sub Grabbi, 69); Duff, Cole (sub Gillespie, 46)

Subs not used:- Kelly; Todd

Booked:- Berg (foul on Sheringham)

Spurs (4-4-2):- Keller; Taricco (sub Perry, 69), Richards, Bunjevcevic, Thatcher; Davies, Freund, Redknapp, Acimovic (sub Iversen, 69); Sheringham (Capt), Keane

Subs not used:- Hirschfeld; Doherty, Ferdinand

Booked:- Sheringham (over exuberant celebration of winning goal)

Spurs got back to winning ways in the league with a late goal from Jamie Redknapp, which was a bit of a "smash and grab", just when we were settling for a share of the spoils in this game of two halves. Robbie Keane had broken his duck with a super goal as early as the sixth minute, and Blackburn struggled to assert their home advantage until Souness rung the changes at half time. With a double substitution of Andy Cole, and Henning Berg, Souness fought back with an attacking 3-5-2 that put Spurs under pressure, and soon brought its rewards through Cole's replacement - Ostenstad. Jamie Redknapp was to spoil the day for Rovers, despite having a poor game by his standards.

Matthew Etherington was missing from the action altogether, and this may have put Souness's plans askew, as the left winger had started every game for Spurs until today. Steffen Freund and Taricco did play, despite the attempted smoke-screen from Glenn Hoddle after their returns against Cardiff mid-week. Acimovic played on the left, the intention being for Simon Davies to have more freedom to get forward on the right, although he struggled to get into the game for much of the time today. Redknapp and Acimovic were guilty of too many midfield errors. Milenko tended to bottle out of challenges when they were there for winning, whilst Jamie too often gave the ball away, or tried fancy footwork when simple passing would have sufficed.

Robbie Keane though was taking the game to Blackburn from the outset, as Spurs camped in their half for the first few minutes. Spurs enjoyed a couple of early free kicks and a corner, before Robbie was heading goalward when he rolled the ball under a defender, but was beaten to the ball by the ever-reliable Brad Friedel, kitted out in light grey Kappa, as was his opposite number, Kasey Keller. Keane was to break that duck in the sixth minute, when he picked the ball up in a deep position and beat the defence by rounding them on their right, before driving a great shot into the roof of the net to Friedel's right. Keane's first trademark celebration (regrettably in the third strip yellow) in Spurs colours was of course heartily welcomed by fans and team-mates alike.

Acimovic then threatened Friedel's goal with a 25 yard free kick which just swerved away from the keeper round his right post. Blackburn had started with Cole supported by Duff up front. Dean Richards had Cole in his pocket, but the home side did better once Duff was withdrawn to his usual left side position. Duff, Dunn and Thompson in particular then took it in turns to take the initiative, and began the cause the Spurs defence problems with their darting runs. On 13 minutes, Dunn had a 1-2 with Duff before just losing the ball in the six yard box, with Keller at full stretch.

Sheringham had a couple of good chances to score around the 25 minute mark. Firstly, Simon Davies won the ball with a good tackle, and Freund made a run down the right for Jamie Redknapp to send him away, via Robbie Keane. Freund's cross was well met by Sheringham at the near post, but hit wide. Shortly after, Thatcher took a quick throw to Acimovic, whose cross was headed wide by a distance by the Spurs skipper. After 32 minutes, Dunn was allowed to fly into the edge of Spurs area, before sending a shot that whistled past Keller's right post. Somehow, Mr D'Urso awarded a corner, although Kasey did not appear to touch the ball. On the whole it was the Blackburn fans who would have been more upset with the referee today, especially as they had two "goals" disallowed for offside, and they felt he had missed some foul play by their arch-enemy Taricco upon Duff. (I didn't see that either).

Richards hit a lovely long ball to pick out Robbie Keane, but this was one of those times when Keane lost the ball. At the other end, Tugay appeared to try and grab the ball off Redknapp's feet having lost out in his challenge. Then he feigned a head injury, as Spurs broke away. Redknapp sent Davies away, but his cross/shot was off target, and too far in front of Sheringham. The referee awarded a dodgy free kick against Taricco when Duff appeared to throw himself to the ground just outside the right side of the area. Thompson's quick free kick was not far over the bar and wide. Just before the break, Richards (who had been having an excellent game) sold himself to Dunn, who crossed to Flitcroft at the back post. Cole stumbled onto his Captain's ball to put the ball into the net, but the flag was already up against Flitcroft.

Then came Souness's changes, and it is to Ben Thatcher's credit that Keith Gillespie failed to make much impact down the right. I felt that this was one of Thatcher's best performances against an out and out winger, as he managed to strip Gillespie of the ball several times. The only time he blotted his copybook was when he was found strolling, after doing a great job carrying the ball down the line, allowing a potential attack to dissipate. Neill, Taylor and Johansson formed the back three for Blackburn, but everyone else seemed to be committed to attack, and the pressure was on us for the first ten minutes, with Ostenstad's runs, and Duff's forays against Taricco. Once Taricco was replaced by Perry, Spurs resisted better, although Blackburn penetrated our central midfield too easily, due often to Redknapp's errors.

One of Jamie's failed fancy passes found its way to David Thompson, who did everything to improve his three goal tally for the hosts so far this season with several runs and decent shots. This one was just outside Keller's right post. Keller was then down to another Thompson 20 yard shot. Spurs then managed to slow the game down and get control, before Teddy set Redknapp up for a one on one against Friedel. Jamie really should have scored with ease, but allowed the keeper to coolly remove the ball off his feet.

Blackburn equalised with a quick break-away attack, after Sheringham appeared to be pulled around in the area, ignored by the referee, allowing the attack down the inside right channel. Richards and Bunjee (I think) got a bit close together and the ball was eased through to Ostenstad who made no mistake with his right foot effort. Five minutes later, Friedel was again the hero. Thatcher hit a long cross field ball to Teddy, who passed to Davies on the inside, finding Robbie Keane who sneaked round the defence only to have his short range shot saved by the feet of the keeper.

The game was becoming more and more stretched, as both teams went for the win. Ostenstad teed the ball up for substitute Grabbi, who hit a 25 yard drive across the area but beyond the goal. Iversen made a good impression when he replaced Acimovic, although he was a little hesitant before executing his passes. He combined with Teddy to give the advancing Redknapp another shot on goal, which lacked power and was comfortably picked up by Friedel. A Gillespie cross was headed over by Duff, before Grabbi found Thompson at the back post. Thompson slotted the ball home, but once again, the linesman's flag was already raised.

Then, with two minutes left, Spurs snatched a dramatic winner. Teddy fed Keane working on the left. His cross was met by Iversen who took an age and could have shot himself. He passed to Redknapp, who looked to have scooped the ball over the bar from close range, but somehow, it fell into the goal, and we were on our feet as one! Sheringham got booked for his celebration, but I did not see quite what he had done to upset D'Urso who seemed to respond to a protest by the defence.

After that, it was only Spurs who were going to score again, as they had a couple of chances to grab a third. First Robbie Keane put another Sheringham pass wide, and then Robbie collected a long ball from Perry before sending Davies away, whose shot was turned round for a corner.

This was a much-needed win to take us to fourth place (likely to be fifth after Man Utd beat Everton tomorrow!), as another two week break for International matches looms. In the week that Blackburn won through to the next round of the UEFA Cup, after beating us at Cardiff in February, the victory was that much sweeter.

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