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Match Reports

Spurs v Crystal Palace, 03.01.04

Kanoute (3), 15, 20, 48

Attendance:- 32,340

Referee:- Andy D'Urso

Spurs (4-4-2):- Keller; Carr (Capt.), Doherty, Gardner, Taricco; Dalmat, King (sub Davies, 61), Poyet, Jackson (sub Zamora, 73); Keane, Kanoute

Subs not used:- Hirschfeld; Kelly; Postiga

Booked:- Jackson, Doherty

Sent off:- Poyet (Retaliation)

Crystal Palace (4-4-2):- Berthelin; Butterfield, Symons (sub Smith, 68), Popovic, Borrowdale (sub Granville, 79); Routledge, Watson, Hughes, Gray; Shipperly (Capt.), Johnson (sub Freedman, 46)

Subs not used:- Fleming; Black (no substitute Goalkeeper)

Booked:- Watson, Hughes, Freedman

Sent off:- Butterfield

Spurs gave their season a lift and started 2004 with a bang, as Fredi Kanoute scored a hat-trick to bring the pains on both for the visitors, but also for all connected with Spurs, as they face up to the prospect of losing their top goal-scorer this season to the African Nations Cup. Despite the hat-trick, Stephane Dalmat won the Spurs (((on!))) man of the match award with a dazzling display, especially with the way he set up Kanoute's second goal.

Palace rarely threatened Keller's goal, mainly with speculative shots once the game had been won by Spurs, and the chasm between Premiership and Nationwide was all too evident, as Spurs played demonstration football at times.

A healthy crowd, which included such a strong contingent of Palace fans that they even occupied a section of the Lower West Stand, was introduced to Spurs' new signing before the game. I thought it was a nice touch to see him led on by David Pleat, and I do not recall a Spurs manager performing such a task for some time.

Spurs played towards the Paxton Road in the first half, unusually, and Palace started with a fair amount of possession down the Spurs left flank, which featured John Jackson playing his third consecutive game since his debut. Once upon a time, Palace had a keeper by the same name, but they had to make do today with Cedric Berthelin. Spurs responded to the opening with some bright football, and were frustrated by a harsh offside flag against Fredi Kanoute, being put through by Robbie Keane. The same linesman flagged controversially later in the half, despite the fact that the "offender" had run around the defence whilst the ball was being played!

The linesman's "boss" - Andy D'Urso - was later to live up to the tag of being the worst referee in Christendom (my words), but first he gave an early booking to Palace's Watson and Michael Hughes (once of Wimbledon), to illustrate that he was determined to leave his mark upon proceedings. (And so he did!) Robbie Keane had been up-ended by Watson and Robbie's kick was blocked. John Jackson hit a shot across the goal, and Kanoute was offside on this occasion.

After 13 minutes, Ledley King carried the ball purposefully out of the Spurs half, finding Kanoute on the left of the area. Fredi cut inside and hit a right foot shot which should have at least been on target, but did not trouble Berthelin. Better was to come just two minutes later. A good break from defence was started by Dalmat's skill, and the energetic (Yes , I did say that) Poyet threaded the ball to Kanoute, who this time was on the right at a sharp angle. Fredi beat the keeper with a clinical finish, to make us all glad that he had been allowed to start the game, and not been "benched" as had been rumoured as a possibility.

Spurs continued to attack, and Kanoute fed Dalmat near the corner flag, whose cross was just in front of Jackson at the back post. Palace had still had nothing to sing about, although their fans were making plenty of noise. They must have sensed it was game over though, when Kanoute put Spurs 2 up in the 20th minute. This was the goal made by Dalmat's scintillating skill as he was in and out of 3 defenders, leaving them behind, sending a low ball across the goal for an easy second goal for Fredi Kanoute.

After 35 minutes Taricco won a free kick, having already incensed the away fans with what they considered gamesmanship in front of them. Spurs were away, and again it was Poyet setting up the play, as he fed Jackson, whose shot was half cleared landing to Robbie. Robbie's effort seemed to be handled, but the appeals to D'Urso were wasted. A second handball appeal fell on deaf ears, after Kanoute tried to convert Carr's cross; the keeper saved, and the rebound in the area looked to have been handled again. Just before the break, a Jackson corner was half cleared over Johnson, and Dalmat twisted, turned then shot just outside the post. John Jackson had his name taken by the referee after he DID give a handball decision outside the area. I assume Jackson made the point too forcefully that he had already missed two!(I have since been informed that Jacko was booked for a two-footed foul earlier in the sequence of play)

Palace replaced their top scorer, Johnson, with Dougie Freedman at the interval, but within three minutes, it really was all over, as Dalmat passed back to Ledley, who sent a beautiful chipped ball into the area, where Kanoute had made a run, and finished from close range to secure a match ball to take to Africa in a week or two! Four minutes later, Dalmat teed up Robbie inside the area on the right. Keane hit a powerful rising shot, that went just over the bar.

Doherty got in the book for a clumsy rather than a malicious tackle, and at last Palace had a shot to report, as Butterfield hit a long range effort into Keller's arms.Simon Davies made his entrance after 61 minutes, to a great ovation, taking up Ledley's position in the middle. Mr. Pleat was starting to think about the need to keep certain personnel fresh for next Wednesday's crucial Premiership game against Birmingham.

Davies did nothing spectacular, and Spurs were already taking the foot off the pedal (how wonderful it is to say that about Spurs!), although Anthony Gardner did make a foray into the opponents half to feed Dalmat, whose powerful shot winged across the goal and just over the target. Michael Hughes exercised Keller slightly with a long shot just inside the post, and then came a skirmish in front of the West Stand between Freedman and Poyet. Even those near the scene seem to be uncertain why Poyet was shown a red. One theory is that he retaliated against Freedman with a raised arm; the other is that it was for spitting. (TV pictures show Gus kicking out at Freedman, then putting his head to his face, although not a full head-butt)Ironically, Gus had played well today, but it does seem that he will miss three games starting with the Liverpool match on 17th. Still, Mr. Brown will be available then. (By the way, the Palace fans gave him plenty of booing, so maybe he will be a useful "enforcer".

It was soon to be 10 against 10, as Bobby Zamora was clattered by Jamie Smith. Unfortunately for Mr. D'Urso, he sent off the wrong man (Butterfield), and now I understand why he took an age to leave the field. D'Urso's problem was that he allowed the offender to withdraw to a pack of Palace players, and did not act upon the incident until the whole Spurs team raced towards the miscreant, and his team-mates. Mr. D'Urso could not control a kindergarten group, in my view, and my mind always harks back to the image of him running away from the Man Utd team at Old Trafford when he wanted to impose some discipline.

Zamora hobbled on till the end of the game, but that didn't stop the Palace fans from booing him for his audacity to be brought down so violently! (I have since been informed that Palace fans happily boo Zamora because of his connection to Brighton, with whom they have a running feud)In the closing stages, Robbie Keane and Dalmat combined for a short corner, before Dalmat went on a trademark run, and hit a low shot which was cleared off the line. Then, Palace substitute Granville brought a scrambled save from Keller with a free kick, and then had a header saved from the ensuing corner!

So - it was a much healthier start to a Cup campaign this year for Spurs, who this time last year lost so miserably to Southampton (who incidentally lost at home to Newcastle tonight). However, the priority of Premiership survival needs to be addressed, starting with Birmingham next Wednesday night.

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