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Match Reports
Spurs v Portsmouth, 07.02.04

FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 7TH FEBRUARY, 2004
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 4 (2) PORTSMOUTH 3 (1)

Spurs scorers:-
Defoe, 13
Keane (2), 42, 79
Poyet, 89

Portsmouth scorers:-
Berkovic, 39
LuaLua, 73
Mornar, 84

Referee:- Mr. P. Walton

Attendance:- 36, 107

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Keller; Carr (Capt.), Richards, Gardner, Jackson; Dalmat (sub Ricketts, 71), King, Brown, Davies; Keane, Defoe (sub Poyet, 81)

Subs not used:- Burch; Doherty; Yeates

Booked:- Dalmat

Portsmouth (4-4-2):- Hislop; Curtis, Primus, de Zeeuw, Taylor; Smertin, Berkovic (sub Stone, 84), Faye (sub LuaLua, 64), Quashie; Sheringham (Capt.)(sub Mornar, 46), Yakubu

Subs not used:- Wapenaar; Berger

Booked:- Faye

Just when it looked like there might be a horrific case of deja vu within 3 days, up popped substitute Gus Poyet in the 89th minute to give Spurs the win, in another 7 goal White Hart lane thriller. Hence, Poyet stole the headlines from Jermain Defoe, who had got Spurs off to such a great start with a goal on his debut, and even from two-goal Robbie Keane, who overtook absent Fredi Kanoute, to become the leading scorer for the season. Poyet had been one of two specific Spurs players to be booed, and thankfully stole the headlines also from Pompey, who doubled their away goal tally with a great second-half rally, all to no avail.

The team news had been disappointing for Spurs. Although Poyet was on the bench, his name still drew boos around the ground, whilst the majority were reserved for Dean Richards. (Yes these were from Spurs fans, more than from Portsmouth, who of course do have an agenda with Southampton connections) Gary Doherty had perhaps not proved his fitness to the degree necessary to start, but he was on the bench, and surely could have replaced Richards who was looking like a lost sheep in the latter stages.

Dalmat too got a start, despite a poor midweek performance. Perhaps the psychology of the caretaker manager was to give those who had fared badly during the week a chance to redeem themselves today. Fan power was to work in the second half, as they chanted for Rohan Ricketts, and indeed, it was only after he replaced Dalmat, that Spurs actually managed a shot on target in the second period, such had been Portsmouth's domination of the game after the break.

Teddy Sheringham got a great reception, and perhaps won the toss, as I recall it has been one of his traits to reverse the usual order of things regarding direction of play. Spurs attacked the Paxton Road in the first half, and in fact piled on the pressure from the outset, with a number of corners, the first of which had been one in great style after good work by Defoe and Jackson on the left.

The first sign of danger from the visitors was prompted by Eyal Berkovic, who threaded a ball to the left of Richards, sending Yakubu away. He hit a good shot from a sharp angle on the left, and Keller could only parry the ball, before it was cleared. The first goal came in the 13th minute and it was a real touch of class from Defoe. Ledley King had sent a longish ball down the middle which Robbie collected and flicked to Defoe on the right. Defoe swiftly latched onto the ball and hit a low right foot drive through the legs of de Zeeuw, and beyond Hislop, just inside his right hand post.

In the first half, both Brown and King were challenging and winning plenty of ball. I thought Brown in particular had a good game, whereas in the second half, Ledley seemed to catch erroneous defenders' disease, which had also spread to Richards and Gardner. A good challenge by Ledley in his own half led to a pass to Brown who hit a great cross-field ball to Davies, whose shot was collected comfortably by Hislop.

Dalmat was not having too much success with his runs, but he was at the start of a move with Robbie Keane before Brown sent Davies away down the inside left channel. Davies had a good one on one chance, but shot from too far out, and that was weakly hit to the keeper. Defoe was to be seen helping out in his half at times, and he picked up another sharp ball from Brown, before sending Robbie away. Robbie passed back for Defoe who had caught up with play, but his effort was blocked.

Portsmouth thought they had come close to scoring around the half-hour mark, as Faye rose to a corner and headed goalward. The ball was deflected over the bar, but Faye had been climbing and the referee blew for a foul anyway. Then Quashie tried a left foot shot, but it was always swerving away from goal. Michael Brown won the ball to start yet another good move, with the help of Simon Davies' determination. The ball was passed from left to right, via Robbie Keane and Dalmat hit a good effort, but well outside the post.

Gardner dallied for ages over taking a Spurs free kick, and nearly donated the ball to Teddy Sheringham, but the ball did reach Dalmat, who passed to Keane for another blocked shot. Portsmouth then levelled through something of a freak goal. The Spurs defence wanted the offside flag for Yakubu, but he was allowed to reach the bye-line, before crossing. Carr cleared but the ball basically rebounded off Berkovic's head into the Spurs net. Defensively, Spurs had looked like statues for long enough to grant the opportunity, and it was not the first time I noticed them stop in their tracks to appeal for a flag, instead of playing to the whistle. Richards was "Chief Statue" in this unsuccessful strategy.

The visiting fans' joy was soon quenched as Spurs restored their lead with another classy goal. Carr hit a short cross, and Robbie was just outside the area facing the East Stand. It looked as if he was going to use Defoe who was to his right, but in a flash, Robbie turned on the ball and hit a cracking shot past the despairing dive of the keeper, just inside the left post. In injury time, Robbie collected a Jackson free kick, passing to Dalmat who hit a good right foot shot, saved by Hislop.

Teddy Sheringham did not re-appear, and was replaced by new Croatian signing Ivica Mornar. He proved to be quite a handful, having height and strength, enjoying play on both flanks, as well as the middle. Gardner never really got to grips with him, and was rescued once or twice by John Jackson, who continues to make a great impression, although perhaps not quite fast enough to play full back. Within a minute of the restart, the referee had penalised Gardner for a foul on the edge of the area on the Croat, and Berkovic curled a free kick just outside the woodwork. Simon Davies dummied a low ball from John Jackson, and Keane's shot was blocked, and this was to be Spurs only effort until Ricketts was introduced. Until then, it was almost one-way traffic, and the Pompey fans were singing "We're gonna win 4-3".

In the 56th minute, Mornar crossed from the right and Yakubu headed back for Quashie to hit a shot just outside the target. Then Smertin gave Yakubu another chance, and Keller did well to push the shot round the corner. The flow of the game was excellent, and the referee has to be given plaudits for this. So much so that he seemed to book Faye on the run, but was then lenient when Faye made a late challenge upon Brown, just getting a talking to.

Yakubu was giving Dean Richards a nightmare, and the Nigerian fed Mornar who skied his shot from quite close range. Faye was replaced by LuaLua, on loan from Newcastle, and clearly, Harry Redknapp sniffed blood as he had three attackers on. With 25 minutes to go, Ledley failed to track back with Berkovic, who entered the box after a good 1-2 with Yakubu, and then forced another great save from Keller. Dalmat was replaced by Ricketts, but in the same minute, Portsmouth were level, as Richards simply failed to fathom where the ball was, as LuaLua latched onto it and hit a great shot inside the far post. Off he went for his brand of acrobatic celebration.

Rohan Ricketts hared down the right in the 75th minute, sending a good low ball to Keane, feeding the advancing Brown who hit a good shot - parried by Shaka Hislop. Spurs took the lead for the third time in the 79th minute. Another great ball from Brown was collected by Robbie who worked his way into the left side of the box with great skill and determination. With two defenders close at hand, he squeezed the ball through, and Hislop had already dived when the ball went over him into the net.

The crowd were ecstatic, and no doubt thought that this time, Spurs could hold on to their lead. Oh no! Defoe was cheered and Poyet was booed as the 81st minute substitution took place, and it was Poyet who lost the ball that led to the third equaliser. The ball was sent down the left, and it was Richards again, who allowed Yakubu to get his cross in for Mornar to prod the ball home, having left Gardner struggling behind him.

Amazingly, some fans had left the ground by the time the final dramatic act was provided by, of all people, Gus Poyet. He it was who won the corner taken in the 89th minute by Simon Davies, and at the back post, Dean Richards headed the ball back into the fray, where Poyet finished off. I noticed him pointing to his knee after the final whistle, so perhaps that was where the goal came from, but what the heck, it's goals that count, isn't it? The Spurs fans deliriously sang "we're gonna win 4-3" to Pompey, and so it proved as the referee was encouraged to call time by 30,000+ whistles!

Seeing 14 goals at White Hart lane in four days is great if you are a non-partisan fan of the game. However, my nerves were frayed well before this game ended. Plenty of remedial work will be required for the Spurs team to resist Charlton on Wednesday night at The Valley.

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