FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 28TH AUGUST, 2004
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1) BIRMINGHAM CITY 0 (0)
Referee:- Mr. M. Clattenburg
Attendance:- 35, 290
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Pamarot, Naybet, King (Capt.), Edman; Brown, Davis, Mendes, Jackson (sub Gardner, 90); Defoe (sub Redknapp, 85), Keane (sub Kanoute, 63)
Subs not used:- Keller; Ifil
Booked:- Brown, Defoe, Jackson, Mendes
Birmingham (4-4-2):- Maik Taylor; Melchiot, Cunningham (Capt.), Upson, Gray; Gronkjaer, Izzet, Clemence (sub John, 78), Johnson; Forssell (sub Morrison, 71), Heskey
Subs not used:- Bennett; Tebily, Martin Taylor
Spurs have achieved what no fan had a right to dream of, with a 4 match unbeaten start, and an early third place in the Premiership. Jermain Defoe scored his third goal of those 4 games, and this one was of the greatest class, in front of England Manager, Sven Goran Eriksson. Spurs fans chanted "Are you watching Eriksson?", and indeed he was, as Jermain dazzled and did his utmost to force his way into the England side for the start of their World Cup qualifying campaign next week.
Having scored, Spurs did have further opportunities, but the new coaching style encourages the team to let their opponents come at them to try and pierce the defence. It is of course early days yet, but this is a Spurs side that is looking like it can hold onto a lead. They came back against Liverpool and did not concede after that. They scored and held against Newcastle, and came back against West Brom. Those two wins and two draws have symmetrical scorelines, and if a pattern has been set for the season ahead, Spurs fans may have to learn patience, and be prepared to have their nerves frayed, as their very well organised defence, re-inforced superbly by a battling midfield, holds out against the opposition.
Birmingham had three strikers on the field in the second half, and threw everything they had, with Gronkjaer getting more balls into the area. Most fell to Heskey, who failed to capitalise, but who also found the entire back four very resistant. Spurs were Captained from the outset by Ledley King today, as Jamie Redknapp started on the bench. Michael Brown took up that right-side slot, and John Jackson replaced the injured Atouba on the left. Robbie Keane made a welcome return, but was substituted by Kanoute after 63 minutes.
For the first three minutes, Spurs struggled to get out of their own area, as Birmingham pressurised, but also the officials seemed to be making perverse decisions in awarding the visitors two early corners. This did not bode well for the rest of the game, and new Premiership referee Mr. Clattenburg will come under the spotlight for penalties denied, and yellow cards issued. Spurs did not threaten till the 8th minute, when Jackson crossed after a corner and Michael Brown's shot was well blocked. Brown was very industrious and really deserved a goal for his efforts, as he got into good scoring positions, but did not have the strength to convert. Once again, both Mendes and Davis excelled, battling away for 90 minutes. Overall, I felt that Mendes was the better of the two today, as he sprayed the ball around effectively, but it was a close run thing, and Davis has surely secured his place as one of the first names on the team sheet.
Mendes was twice involved in a good build up from Spurs, firstly with his good long ball to Brown, and then with a connecting short pass to Brown, ready to shoot but in an offside position. After 17 minutes, Mendes tried an audacious shot from 40 yards, as Maik Taylor was committed towards the right side of his area, and the Portuguese International sent a good curling shot goalward, that Taylor managed to collect. A minute later, Mendes again had a go, this time from 30 yards, and this time wide of the mark.
Mid-way through the half, Edman passed inside to Defoe, who sharply turned the ball to Robbie Keane, whose shot was just outside Taylor's right post.
Probably Birmingham's best chance came after Michael Brown had been booked for a foul, and from that free kick to the back of the Spurs area, Gronkjaer headed the ball into the centre, and Forssell's shot was superbly blocked. Jermain's wonder goal came in the 35th minute. Mendes had started the move, with a good ball to Brown, who brought it down superbly. His ball inside reached Defoe, who was away, leaving two defenders behind him, and beating Taylor with a beautiful right foot shot from 22 yards that curled inside the keeper's left post.
It wasn't long after the goal that Defoe was causing panic for the Brummie defence as he left them trailing in his wake as he went from left to right across the box, he was just about to forge a shooting chance, when he seemed to be brought down. The referee not only decided it was not a penalty, but it seems he decided that Jermain had cheated too. I look forward to the replay, as I do not see the point in a dive, as if he had not been impeded, Jermain was about to pull the trigger! Just before the break, Defoe had another chance, after Edman, Davis, and Keane had provided the passes. The shot went to Taylor. Jermain has scored 10 goals in just 18 League starts for Spurs.
After the break, Mr. Clattenburg continued his trend for perverse decisions, when Brown was felled by the elbow of Johnson. Although a free kick was awarded, there was no card, which at that stage had been reserved for Spurs boys. It looked as though Robbie Keane was pulled down in the area, but this appeal too was waved away. In this second half, Michael Brown had a number of great runs, and one such effort led to a ball to Robbie, inside the box, when it looked like Upson had handled the ball. What did the ref think? You guessed it!
Mendes was barged to the ground, and no free kick was given, and Birmingham might have capitalised, as Gray raced away, feeding Forssell, finding space at last, but shooting yards over the bar. Birmingham now seemed to put more and more pressure on the Spurs area. Heskey headed an Izzet corner over, then tried a first time shot from a Gronkjaer cross, but over the bar it went. Spurs did have plenty of attacks, and Brown did well to leave two defenders trailing behind, as he made it to the area, but put no strength on the shot.
Morrison had replaced Forssell, and for once got the better of Ledley King, teeing up Heskey, but the barn-door effect came into play again, as the ex-Liverpool star was nearer the upper tier of the South Stand, than Robinson's goal. It has to be said that Robinson did not have a save to make all game, which has to be an indictment of the striking skills of Birmingham's expensive signing. Brown was again the creator for Spurs, with a good run and a deep cross that went above Kanoute, but found Jackson beyond the back post. Jackson tried a low shot, but Taylor was his equal. There were more half-chances for Johnson and Heskey for Birmingham, and Defoe for Spurs, but Spurs held out, despite the best efforts of that referee, who even advanced a late free kick at the very edge of the Spurs area for Mendes perceived dissent for not getting back quickly enough. Heskey had also wanted a penalty, going down under Robinson's challenge, but he was denied his reward, and booked for his trouble.
Significantly, Jamie Redknapp did not take the armband off Ledley King, when the club Captain replaced Defoe with five minutes to go. A rumour was being put about that Jamie may leave before the transfer window closes, but we wait and see for that one.
We now have a two week break before the Norwich game, before Sky's cameras, and Spurs could face Chelsea on September 19th unbeaten. August has been a great unbeaten month, and for that I personally thank everyone connected with the club, for what I believe has been no less than 100% commitment to improvement, which has given us results, and reason for optimism.
COME ON YOU SPURS!!!
· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
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