FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 2ND APRIL, 2005
BIRMINGHAM CITY 1 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0)
Referee:- Howard Webb
Birmingham:- (4-4-2):- Taylor; Melchiot, Cunningham (Capt.), Upson, Clapham; Pennant (sub Gray, 56), Johnson, Carter, Lazaridis (sub Nafti, 70); Heskey, Pandiani (sub Morrison, 66)
Subs not used:- Vaesen; Blake
Spurs (4-4-2);- Robinson; Pamarot (sub Kelly, 12), Naybet (sub Mido, 70), King (Capt.), Edman; Reid, Carrick, Brown, Ziegler (sub Davis, 37); Kanoute, Defoe
Subs not used:- Cerny; Keane
If Spurs want to realistically challenge for a UEFA place via League qualification, then this is the sort of game they really should have won. Once again events around the country seem to be going in favour of those chasing 7th place in the league, as Newcastle had three players sent off, two of which are likely to miss their semi-final in two weeks time, and our neighbours showed devastating form against Norwich, to suggest that they and Manchester United will battle it out in the FA Cup Final. With Bolton losing and Charlton dropping two home points, Spurs could have been sitting in that 7th place tonight, but they failed to capitalise on some fluent first half football, which lacked the cutting edge required of a team with European aspirations. The opportunity remains though, and a weakened Newcastle side will be our next opponents.
Martin Jol certainly had to ring the changes today, making two first half substitutions. Noe Pamarot was stretchered off after only 12 minutes, and Reto Ziegler was replaced by Sean Davis after 37 minutes. In the second half, Naybet was swapped with Mido, as Spurs improvised in an effort to get a winning goal after Darren Carter had equalised Stephen Kellyís first senior goal for the club. That left Robbie Keane frustrated at being the unused substitute, as Jol kept faith in Fredi Kanoute and Jermain Defoe as his main strike force. Kanoute impressed, particularly in the first half, but Defoe is struggling to find his scoring boots at present.
Spurs started with Andy Reid on the right, and Zeigler on the left flank. When Davis replaced Ziegler, Reid switched to the left and Michael Brown took over the right side. Brown had to switch again in the second half, as Kelly replaced Naybet in the centre and Brown fell back to defensive duties. Birmingham featured just one of the ex-Spurs contingent in his squad, and that was left-back Jamie Clapham, who struggled against Reid, but got forward more once Reid was switched. Clinton Morrison was left on the bench, despite his goal-scoring prowess for Eire, and Steve Bruce was happy to rely on the strength of Emile Heskey and the flair of Pandiani in attack. Heskey was a pain for Ledley King, who was perhaps harshly penalised several times for alleged offences. Naybetís class at the back came to Spursí rescue a couple of times.
The hosts though were easily out-classed by Spurs in the first half. They played some of their most fluent and mobile football of recent months without giving Maik Taylor a stern enough test. The keeper made his best saves in quick succession in the second half.
The tagged Jermain Pennant was of course a focus in this game, as the home fans made a point of cheering his every involvement, and the visiting support happy to serenade him with ďYouíre supposed to be in jailĒ, and other less edifying ditties! Birmingham had the first half-chance after a ball back down the line from Reid to Pamarot was not dealt with properly by the right back, and Pandiani got a chance to shoot, which he sent miles wide. Three minutes later, Reid sent a beautiful ball through to Kanoute, who was flagged offside. In the 10th minute, Kanoute got almost to the bye-line on the right and sent over a great ball, which Defoe headed back across the keeper, seeing it cleared off the line by the defence. Brown followed up but fired over the bar.
Emile Heskey gave Robinson a scare after a quarter of an hour with a shot across the goal, and then Erik Edmanís cross was headed down by Kanoute to Defoe, whose shot was blocked. Andy Reid then beat Taylor with a lovely curling shot, but it just passed outside the keeperís right post. Reid was then involved in a rapid movement, feeding Kelly on a run, then meeting the pass to hit a shot on target, saved by Taylor.
You have to give credit to the referee for the flow of the game (and only one booking), and it wasnít long before Cunningham found Heskey goalside, hitting a shot which Robinson saved comfortably at his left post. Edman crossed again following a throw, and Kanoute headed for Defoe, whose left foot shot on the turn was just wide. Kanoute then had his own effort from a tight angle, driven wide across the keeper.
As you can read above, Carrick had yet to make his mark, but the introduction of Sean Davis gave more grit to the Spurs midfield, and released Carrick for more creative duties, which he fulfilled in the second half. Davis pulled the ball back in an advanced position to Carrick who picked out the run of Stephen Kelly, hitting a great shot that beat Taylor all ends up. Kelly had a similar chance in a recent game, but had failed to make his shot. He was ecstatic and it looked like the one goal was going to be enough. However, Carter managed to leave the Spurs midfield standing with a run that would have made Keane fans wild, but obviously upset the visiting army of Spurs supporters. The ball seemed to stick to Carterís feet, and he made the most of a couple of fortunate rebounds, including the touch that beat Paul Robinson as the ball went low to his right. Carter had a similar run minutes later, this time saved by Robinson.
Taylorís heroics came with 20 minutes to play. Carrick made a great run near the touchline and fed Mido, whose shot went just over. Five minutes later Mido hit a powerful header from Reidís cross that was saved with a great dive to his left by the Birmingham keeper, who then thwarted Fredi Kanoute from close ranger after the corner. The home fans hailed their keeper as ďIrelandís Number oneĒ (Northern Ireland, that is) Spurs never looked like scoring after that, and had one or two scares, not least in injury time when Gray headed Melchiotís cross back across the goalmouth, and Clinton Morrison managed to scoop the ball over from no more than 8 yards out.
This was Birminghamís first league draw in 16 games, and only Spurs 9th away league goal of the season. The match did not win much air-space on the Radio phone-ins, as events at Newcastle dominated the post-match conversation. Letís hope the Geordies are still in disarray next week!
∑ Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
∑ Read the preview for this game.
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