FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
MONDAY 12TH APRIL, 2004
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0) MANCHESTER CITY 1 (1)
Referee:- Chris Foy
Spurs (4-3-1-2):- Keller; Carr (sub Kelly, 30), Doherty, Gardner, Taricco (sub Bunjevcevic, 63); Brown, Redknapp (Capt.), Davies; Poyet (sub Keane, 72); Kanoute, Defoe
Subs not used:- Hirschfeld; Ricketts
Man City (4-4-2):- James; Sun Jihai (sub Sinclair, 73), Dunne, Distin (Capt.), Tarnat; Wright-Phillips, Bosvelt, Sibierski, McManaman; Anelka, Fowler (sub Wanchope, 64)
Subs not used:- Arason; Barton; Macken
Two teams that looked every bit genuine candidates to go down fought out a draw in a match lacking much in the way of quality. The point is precious to both sides of course, but probably more valuable to Spurs, who are 7 points above the bottom three, and four points ahead of those deep in the relegation battle. Those sides do include City, who took a 25th minute lead with their first decent chance of the day, holding on till Jermain Defoe's 52nd minute equaliser.
Once again, team selection brought a surprise or two for Spurs fans, as Robbie Keane was relegated to the bench, no doubt to give more balance to the striker force with the ex-West Ham pairing of Kanoute and Defoe. A bigger shock was the return to action of Gus Poyet, for his first game in a month, who played behind the front two. Whilst the experience of Taricco was welcome (and he did have an excellent game against Wright-Phillips), the old guard of Redknapp and Poyet in the middle allowed Steve McManaman far too much time and room on the ball, eventually leading to danger for the home side.
Davies started on the left of midfield, with Brown on the right, but it was mostly left to Carr to provide width on the right. Carr had to be replaced by Kelly on the half hour, and with the early loss of Taricco in the second half, it was a long time before Robbie Keane could be introduced for the tiring Poyet, who did have some good chances, including a header against the post.
Spurs did start brightly, having a number of good chances, before City scored somewhat out of the blue. After just a minute, Simon Davies combined with Poyet, before the ball was passed to Taricco, whose cross was headed just wide by Gus Poyet. In no time, Defoe was cutting inside Dunne before hitting a low shot just outside James' right-hand post. After 10 minutes, Redknapp switched the play well, with a ball to Carr, whose cross got a flick on by a defender, before Poyet's goal-bound header was held by James' outstretched hands under the bar.
It was looking promising, and City hadn't really mustered a real threat as yet. After 21 minutes, Michael Brown threaded a good ball towards the penalty area. Defoe dummied, and Kanoute slid the ball to his left before hitting a low shot saved by the diving James. Four minutes later, City went ahead, as McManaman was allowed too much room on the left channel, flicking the ball in Anelka's direction. Doherty tackled, but only teed the ball up for Anelka, whose first shot was parried by Keller then fired home by the ex-Gooner.
Spurs never had the same composure thereafter. Too many of their passes and moves are telegraphed, and Redknapp needed to twist and turn left and right several times before getting rid of the ball, by which time the defence had formed up. Indeed, much of the game passed by Jamie, whose passes often lacked power today. Brown is a workmanlike individual, but he too lacks Premiership quality, running the ball too far in front of him at times. Both Doherty and Gardner were too often guilty of hitting defensive headers to opponents, when they had the time to perhaps measure a pass to a team-mate. As always, Keller struggled to distribute the ball effectively.
Soon after the goal, Spurs did have a good move from deep in their half, when Davies hit a long ball for Kanoute, who took it out to the right, then crossed for Defoe, who set up Brown for a pass to the advancing Davies, whose shot went straight to James.
Bosvelt had a free shot on Keller's goal after a free kick fed to him by Anelka. Luckily, with the defence nowhere, the shot went wide. Just before half-time, a sloppy defensive pass allowed Anelka to get behind the defence and cross for Fowler, who shot at close range into Keller's arms. The home crowd were now getting fed up, and the chant rang out "We want Pleat out".
Spurs took the initiative after the break, and Brown fed Defoe, who passed back to Redknapp, who allowed the ball to be swiped off his feet. Then Brown was into the left side of the box, with Defoe on hand for the ball, but Brown chose to cross low straight at the keeper. Poyet's close call came after 50 minutes, when a free kick was floated in. Doherty was threatening, and it was a defender who headed towards Poyet, whose header hit the post from 8 yards. Two minutes later, Spurs were level, as a cross from the right went over all and sundry, and was collected gratefully by Defoe at the back post. With a little twist and turn, Defoe made room for his shot which went into the bottom of James' net from an angle on the left of goal.
Taricco was next to test the England keeper, as his well-hit shot was saved with a volleyball grip by James, pushing the ball up into the air before holding. Taricco was involved in a crunching challenge and went off with a leg injury, being replaced by Bunjevcevic.
There were 20 minutes left, when a short Redknapp pass allowed a quick counter attack, led by McManaman who raced all the way to the Spurs area before being blocked by Gardner. City threatened soon after when Tarnat took a quick free kick, and Sibierski headed just wide. Another tendency for Spurs is the concession of too many dangerous free kick situations just outside the area, which led to several tense moments today, and of course two goals on Friday.
Once Robbie Keane was introduced, he played on the left flank, and was involved in a few moves, chiefly with Defoe. Fredi Kanoute did well on the right, getting between two defenders before sending a cross to Keane, who tried to set up Defoe, but was blocked. As the game moved towards closure, both sides went for a winner, and Anelka was pursued from left to right by Kelly, but still forced a diving save from Keller with his shot.
Spurs had the ball in the net, but the offside flag ruled out Keane's finish, after Redknapp chipped to Defoe, who flicked the ball to Keano. The last exchange involved some desperate defending by Doherty, then a counter by Spurs, culminating in a Davies shot that was wide of the mark.
The draw was marked by the sounds of "Glory, Glory Tottenham Hotspur" over the tannoy. This tune used to be reserved for victories, but we are, after all, desperate. I suppose we must hope for Blackburn and Leeds to lose their games (tonight and tomorrow), to preserve that 7 point gap. There must be no room for complacency by Spurs at The Reebock Stadium on Saturday.
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