FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 17TH AUGUST, 2002
EVERTON 2 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (0)
Referee:- N. Barry
Everton (4-4-2):- Wright; Hibbert, Weir, Stubbs, Naysmith;
Graveson, Li Tie (sub Rodrigo, 76), Pembridge, Radzinski (sub Unsworth, 84); Campbell, Rooney (sub Alexandersson, 66)
Subs not used:- Simonsen; Linderoth
Spurs (4-4-2):- Keller; Carr (sub Thatcher, 44), Richards, Gardner, Taricco; Davies, Redknapp, Bunjevcevic, Etherington; Sheringham (Capt) (sub Ferdinand, 71), Iversen (sub Acimovic, 84)
Subs not used:- Sullivan; Perry
Day One of the Premiership 2002-3 was a sweltering one temperature wise, but at Goodison Park, it took until the second half before the football got a bit lively. Everton were celebrating 100 years of top flight football, with plenty of old star names on show, and tried to whip up the local crowd support with two contrived fans' songs - one to the tune of "Home on the Range" (No other team), and the other to the tune of "O Come all Ye Faithful" (The Everton Anthem). Most of those in the full house must have known that this would not be their day, as they faced one of their current bogey teams in the shape of Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs had lost only one of the 20 Premiership games between these two sides, and despite going a goal down late in the first half, they came back strongly, thanks to a cracker from Etherington, and a second from Les Ferdinand, which came with a little help from a dodgy keeper - ex-gooner Richard Wright.
Both sides featured similar formations, and seemingly attacking intentions. Everton fielded new loan signing Li Tie, just in front of the defence, whilst Spurs played Goran Bunjevcevic in a similar role. Matthew Etherington excited the very vocal away support, but it was ex-Liverpool midfielder - Jamie Redknapp - making his league debut for Spurs - who shone in the middle. Redknapp is an artist, who can tackle a bit, but whose passing is crucial and was telling today. Spurs trouble though was still a lack of pace, as too often they were unable to exploit the space being offered behind Everton's three pronged attack, as Radzinski offered close support to Kevin Campbell and 16 year old debutant Wayne Rooney.
Rooney became the youngest ever Premiership player by playing this game. We had of course seen him in domineering form in the Youth Cup semi-final last season, and it has only been a matter of time before he was given his senior start. Rooney shows a maturity beyond his tender years, and along with his pace and skill, he has plenty of physical strength, and gave Dean Richards and Anthony Gardner some stern tests. The big surprise really was his substitution after 66 minutes, as he was still giving Spurs problems at the back.
Both these clubs are operating on something of a shoestring budget, although the Toffees have spent more than Spurs with the 3.5 million on Wright, and 5 million on Joseph Yobo - who was not available. Therefore, their youngsters - Naysmith and Hibbert took on the full back roles, and Hibbert was given a torrid time by our own young star - Etherington. Spurs have their usual share of injured absentees, but it was a surprise that Acimovic did not start - presumably as he too is carrying a knock. Stephen Carr tweaked a hamstring just before half time, when he won a tough challenge against Rooney, so here we are at the start of the season with 8 players out already!
There were about 6 different styles of Spurs shirts on display, whereas the home crowd was uniformly dressed in Evertonian Blue. Spurs looked somewhat unconvincing at the back, and although Kasey Keller had been given the vote of confidence by Glenn Hoddle, his handling was not too assured in my book. Spurs were having trouble after 5 or 6 minutes with a couple of corners, and Keller had to tip a Stubbs header over his bar. Spurs had very few penetrative attacks in the whole game really, but particularly in the first half. Teddy made an advance on the area from the inside left, and had a good 1-2 with Iversen, before passing to Redknapp who went down in the area, and was unimpressed by Neale Barry's refusal to grant a penalty.
Everton's Danish midfielder Thomas Graveson was causing some consternation on the right, and was allowed to cut in from right to left before giving a poor ball into the area for Campbell and Pembridge, who could not get a full strength shot on target. At the other end, there was a bit of a scramble in the Everton box after a throw by Davies, and Teddy and Iversen had half-chances blocked. Neither of our front two made many inroads today, and both were deservedly substituted. That quest for a striker before August 31st becomes ever-more important. (Robbie Keane scored a stylish goal for Leeds today!). Sheringham did try an early 22 yard shot from a Carr low delivery, but he was well off target with his effort. After 27 minutes, Matthew Etherington (having already had plenty of exciting runs) got all the way into the box, and set up Iversen, who could only hit a half shot, which was easily thwarted.
Dean Richards demonstrated an air of calm coupled with strength when he held off a Campbell chance, after the ex-Arsenal striker raced in thanks to a 1-2 with Pembridge. However, Spurs got caught out when Taricco just over-committed by half a yard in the midfield, allowing Radzinski to race down the right, cut in and feed to Rooney. Rooney calmly passed to Pembridge who was unmarked on the left of the area, and rifled the ball home. Then came the misfortune for Carr, and things were looking rather ominous for the visitors. (Taricco switched to the right, with Thatcher taking over his slot on the left)
Spurs survived more pressure from Everton early in the second half with a succession of corners. All they had to show for their efforts was an Iversen header wide from Redknapp's floated free kick. Jamie was the corner taker too, until Acimovic came on late in the game. Acimovic also took some of the free kicks.A stray back pass from Sheringham allowed Everton to build, and Keller had to tip a Rooney shot over the bar.Kasey was soon having to look sharp when he was off his line to block a Campbell effort close in.
By now, Spurs were upping the tempo. Matty was playing in front of the away section, who loved every minute of his display. Redknapp continued to drive us on, and he almost set up Iversen again following a corner on the left. The deserved equaliser came just after an hour, and followed a good build from the back, where the ball had been given to Simon Davies out on the right. The ball reached Redknapp in the middle, and he passed to Etherington unmarked in the same spot as Pembridge had been in the first half. Matty hit a rocket into the roof of Wright's net, but it was at his near post, and the goalie probably should have done better. Matty justifiably relished his first league goal for Spurs, and the Spurs fans were just as delighted with him!
Alexandersson gave Spurs a scare soon after he replaced Rooney as he was allowed into the box from the right. He shot across Keller and wide. Les Ferdinand replaced Teddy, wearing a full bandage on his left forearm, and scored with almost his first touch three minutes later.Etherington and Bunjevcevic started the move on the left. Bunjee's cross was touched back by Les to Steffen Iversen, who quickly returned the ball for Ferdinand to turn and hit a fairly soft low shot, which Wright graciously allowed under him and into the net. The Spurs fans were merciless in their taunting thereafter.
Some joy was restored to the home side with nine minutes left, when Radzinski jinked into the box past Thatcher and Gardner, coolly slotting home - Greaves style. All Spurs had in their locker was an audacious 40 yard drive from a free kick, which the taker - Redknapp was convinced had been tipped over by the keeper. His appeals fell on deaf ears.
This was a fair result, allowing just about everyone to go home happy. I heard one fan say of Redknapp's performance that it was the best he had seen in midfield since Gazza. If he can stay fit - he will certainly be a fixture, but I also hope to see more of Acimovic.
Chant of the day?
"Who's got a lovely wife?
Who's got a lovely wife?
Jamie Redknapp, Jamie Redknapp
He's got a lovely wife!"