FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
WEDNESDAY 1ST JANUARY, 2003
SOUTHAMPTON 1 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)
Attendance:- 31, 890
Referee:- Mark Halsey
Southampton (4-4-2):- Niemi; Telfer, Lundekvam, M. Svensson, Bridge; Fernandes (sub Davies, 90), Oakley, Delap, Marsden (Capt); Beattie, Ormerod (sub Tessem 46)
Subs not used:- Jones; Williams, A. Svensson
Spurs (3-4-1-2):- Keller; Perry, Richards, King; Carr, Bunjevcevic (sub Poyet, 67), Freund, Taricco (sub Anderton, 67); Sheringham; Iversen (sub Acimovic, 87), Keane
Subs not used:- Sullivan; Thatcher
Just when it looked like this first of two consecutive meetings was going to end in a draw, up popped James Beattie to turn Dean Richards (to the obvious delight of the home crowd), and to fire home a left foot shot to give the Saints the spoils, and lift them into the top 6. As for Spurs, they have accumulated just 4 points from their Christmas fixtures, which started so well at Maine Road, but faltered thereafter. I can't remember the last successful Christmas campaign we had, and once again, we have lost momentum, and have started to slip down the table.
Apparently, Simon Davies has some sort of knee injury, hence his total absence today. Pace in the middle was sadly lacking. Spurs had enough chances to put the opposition away long before they scored, but it was the same old story I'm afraid, of Robbie missing a couple of good chances, and the keeper thwarting good efforts from Sheringham and Iversen.
When Glenn Hoddle first took over as manager, I was impressed with the ability to vary tactics during games, never mind from one game to the next. I have to admit that these days, I am being irritated by Hoddle's insistence in tinkering with the formation for each game. He says the players are proving their flexibility with their ability to switch from one style to the next, but I am not convinced. Today, Iversen and Sheringham switched from playing behind the front two, consisting of either one of them with Robbie Keane, and when Anderton and Poyet were put on for Taricco and Bunjevcevic, the side switched to a conventional back four, but Poyet was conspicuously absent, and Anderton played as badly as he had in the first half against Charlton, failing to register more than one successful pass in my memory.
For much of the game, the tempo seemed to pretty low-key, as if both sides were holding themselves back for Saturday's Cup Tie, but it had been Spurs who had the best opportunities. Sheringham headed a Carr free kick across the keeper but wide of the target as early as the second minute, and really should have put the ball away. After 13 minutes, Bunjee passed inside to Keane, with Taricco available outside. Keane's intended pass was misplaced but got deflected to Iversen, in an offside position. Spurs then had a period of good possession, without threatening goal, but the ball broke to Delap, who raced to the edge of the area, but skied his shot.
Keller was brought into the action after 20 minutes, when Telfer hit a cracking low drive to his left, which Kasey pushed round for a corner. At the other end, Bunjee carried the ball into the box, and had a legitimate claim for handball against Marsden, but the referee was having none of it. Ledley King found Carr advancing down the right, but Stephen cut inside and hit a low strength left foot shot to the keeper. The impressive Fernandes was giving Taricco plenty to think about, and brought another save out of Keller, with another shot towards the keeper's left corner.
Spurs had a couple of throws deep in Saint's territory, both taken by Freund. One reached Dean Richards who went down in the box, under pressure from Beattie. The away fans called for another penalty, but in fairness, Deano made no fuss about it at all. With half an hour gone, an Iversen ball fell for Keane, who was through for a one on one. Niemi did enough to prevent Robbie shooting, and his backward pass went to no-one.
Soon after the break, Taricco and Sheringham combined to set up Keane again. Robbie hit a curling left foot shot from the edge of the area, but Niemi was equal to it. Fernandes and Delap then had shots for Saints. The first was wide, and the second was easy for Keller. The tempo lifted as the hour approached. Wayne Bridge hit a driven shot, which Keller picked up cleanly, then from a defensive position, Robbie Keane was sent on a run, but he eventually put his shot wide of the target. Beattie ran across the Spurs area from the left, and hit a right footer over the bar, before Keane had a free kick parried by Niemi.
The next good chance fell to Iversen from a Keane cross. Iversen headed across the goal, but Niemi stretched to save. Keane then stole the ball off Telfer and raced away, giving Sheringham a chance. Teddy's low shot was saved again by the Finnish goalie. Then the danger signals started to come, after the ineffective substitutions for Spurs. Iversen lost out near the half way line, Tessem raced away down the left, and found Beattie at the back post. Keller was well-positioned to collect the header from close range. Next came a poor cross-field pass from Freund, enabling a run from Fernandes, easily beating Taricco. Richards seemed to be expecting an offside flag as he was beaten and Tessem headed over, but there was another defender behind the ball.
With 8 minutes to go, came the sucker punch. A Spurs attack broke down, and a long ball was sent Beattie's way, down the inside right channel. Richards was vulnerable to Beattie's pace, and his ex-team-mate turned him with ease, cutting inside then hitting a left foot shot across and beyond the helpless Keller. Acimovic came on for Iversen with only three minutes left, but his only contribution was a weak shot to the keeper, after working his way across the area with the help of Keane and Teddy Sheringham.
This match, like many others today, had been threatened by the wet weather, and Spurs fans will now wish that the game had been postponed. We return on Saturday tea-time for a crucial third round cup tie. Davies' pace will be much needed.
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