FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 28TH SEPTEMBER, 2002
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0) MIDDLESBROUGH 3 (1)
Referee:- Graham Poll
Spurs (4-4-2):- Keller; Davies, Richards, Thatcher, Ziege (sub Doherty, 12); Iversen (sub Acimovic, 66), Redknapp(Capt), Bunjevcevic, Etherington; Keane, Ferdinand (sub Sheringham, 46)
NB:- Sheringham took over as Captain when he came on for the second half.
Subs not used:- Hirschfeld; Ricketts
Middlesbrough (4-4-2):- Schwarzer; Stockdale, Ehiogu, Southgate (Capt), Quedrue; Geremi, Boateng (sub Wilkshire, 84), Job, Greening; Maccarone, Boksic
Subs not used:- Crossley; Cooper; Marinelli, Whelan
Truly, this was a shocking performance by Spurs. We were outclassed by Steve McLaren's re-vitalised Middlesbrough, who fully deserved their first away win of the season, leaping above us to third place in the table, as a result. Never mind the fact we have players out injured. This was essentially the same team that nearly brought a point from Old Trafford last week with a gutsy performance. Today, they were always second to the ball; were over-run in all departments; and too often, when they did win possession either wanted too long on the ball, or simply gave it away. Thatcher and Doherty in particular were guilty of cardinal errors. Doherty was only on the field because Christian Ziege lasted little more than ten minutes, having seemingly convinced his manager that he was fully fit after his trip to Germany for treatment. The German hobbled off miserably, and could be out for a long spell now. He probably could not hear the baying Middlesbrough fans who, in the second half chanted "Ziege, Ziege - what's the score"
Glenn Hoddle chose to start with Les Ferdinand, leaving the skipper on the bench. Simon Davies was once again forced to play at right back, and had a hard time against ex-Man Utd player Jonathan Greening. Although playing left wing, Matthew Etherington was unable to assist defensively, and when Glenn Hoddle switched tactics in the second half, Matthew was too often found wanting in this area, having to be deployed as a left wing back for some of the time. In desperation, Hoddle tried three different strategies during the game. Such is the disorganisation of the team, that I think they struggle to comprehend even one strategy.
Middlesbrough were seeing plenty of the ball, but the first clear chance did fall to Spurs to Jamie Redknapp, after a stray ball from Boksic in the middle. Redknapp's shot lacked power and went wide anyway. Jamie was as guilty as anyone today of needless mistakes. He is beginning to look tired. Bunjevcevic next to him bears a startled look for much of the time, and he especially seems to want far too long to compose his thoughts on the ball. Robbie Keane showed some skills, but would have benefitted from some "give and go" plays - if only the rest of the team could keep up with him!
Ziege went down with his injury as Geremi crossed from the right, and Dean Richards got as close to scoring as he has for most of the season, when he flung himself at the ball and headed over Keller's bar. Doherty replaced Ziege and Thatcher was pushed out to the left, where he was so often embarrassed by the speed and guile of Geremi, Boateng and Job, whenever they came forward. Job was allowed a free run through the middle and his low shot was straight at Kasey Keller.
Etherington was having his usual runs, but Spurs in general were guilty of poor delivery, whether it was a cross, corner, or free kick. This was typified by Bunjevcevic having space to shoot on the left of the area, choosing to chip the ball to Ferdinand, who could not control the ball, letting it run away to the red shirts. Those in red always seemed to find their team-mates with their passes, and clearances. Their long balls usually left Richards, Doherty and Thatcher floundering. Redknapp got into a good position with players either side of him, after robbing Job, but he too allowed the attack to dissipate.
A goal for Middlesbrough was no surprise after 32 minutes. Greening got the better of Davies, sending a cross to the back post where Boksic sent the ball across the goalmouth and Maccarone (the player we could have bought for just one more million) had an easy finish from close range. Spurs were not learning from the experience and Doherty was too slow gathering an easy ball, which led to a Borough attack, where Boksic crossed for Job to have a decent shot saved by our Kasey.
Simon Davies was getting little chance to get forward, but whenever he did, we looked more threatening, and so it was when he found Robbie Keane in the middle. Robbie sent Etherington away. Despite getting in front of Stockdale, Matthew could get no power in his shot, which was easily gathered by Schwarzer, who was given little work all afternoon.
Thatcher caused despair amongst the Paxton Road fans as he gifted the ball to Geremi. Keller was once again to the rescue to save from Maccarone. Three minutes before the break, Robbie had a 1-2 with Les Ferdinand, before sending a left foot shot that was always going a little wide of the goal.
It looked like a 3-5-2 at the start of the second half, as Steffen Iversen moved up front alongside Sheringham, and Keane reverted to a midfield role. This formation did allow Davies to at least try and get forward, but Middlesbrough either pinned us down, or were just allowed to over-run us. Boksic sent Job away down the right, as he passed Etherington too easily. He hit a cross that went across the goalmouth, and could easily have been hammered home.
Spurs were still struggling to form a decent threat, but when Middlesbrough scored it was on the break, after Iversen had got to the bye line, but headed back to a red shirt, leading to a swift counter. Greening led the attack, Maccarone fed Geremi, who left Keller no chance with his low shot. The Spurs defence was absent without leave. Keller had to make another save from Maccarone, before Spurs did hit the woodwork with a powerful Doherty header from a Sheringham corner. By this time, Hoddle had re-jigged the defence again, as they reverted to a four.
Spurs were a shameful three down before the hour, after another error by Thatcher gave Job a clear run at goal, and an all too effective finish. There was no way back really. Acimovic came on for the hapless Iversen, and although Spurs got forward more, even Glenn Hoddle seemed to be sitting on the wall of the dug-out with a resigned look about him. Referee Graham Poll was unsympathetic to the penalty appeals when Etherington went down under pressure from Stockdale, and an appeal for a handball went un-heeded too.
Whilst the visitors threatened our goal constantly, it is ironic that the only real threat to Schwarzer came from a long drive from Thatcher, which the keeper collected cleanly. Richards seemed unlucky to be penalised on the edge of his area, and Geremi's free kick was saved by Keller with a dive to the left. Most of the full house had left well before the final whistle brought a merciful ending to one of the worse displays seen in recent times by Spurs. We knew that early league position was not a true bearing on our quality, but we must fear that we have now started a slide, with three defeats in the last four games.
All can be summed up with the old expression "S.N.A.F.U"
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