FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 7TH MAY, 2005
MIDDLEBROUGH 1 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)
Referee: - Dermot Gallagher
Attendance: - 34,766
Middlesbrough (4-4-2):- Schwarzer; Parnaby, Ehiogu, Southgate (Capt.), Quedrue; Parlour, Boateng, Zenden (sub Doriva, 78), Downing; Hasselbaink, Nemeth
Subs not used: - Knight; Cooper, Reiziger; Morrison
Booked: - Southgate
Spurs (4-4-2):- Cerny; Kelly, Dawson, King (Capt.), Edman; Davies, Carrick, Davis, Reid (sub Mido, 69); Kanoute (sub Ziegler, 83), Defoe (sub Keane, 58)
Subs not used: - Fulop; Bunjevcevic
Booked: - Davis, Carrick, Mido
Barring a minor mathematical miracle next Sunday, Spurs’ dream of a UEFA Cup season was ended today by a deflected solitary goal scored by George Boateng, who has scored only twice before this season in the Premiership, and not since November. The fact is that Spurs never displayed anything near the quality we saw last week against Aston Villa, meaning perhaps that Villa really were bad, rather than Spurs being so good. Villa lost at home today to Manchester City, who moved above us on goal difference. We now rely upon City to beat Middlesbrough next week, which would leave us to beat Blackburn by a margin of two goals better than a City win. Any other result would leave us having to settle for tangible progress, which has been achieved as Spurs will finish in the top half, no worse than ninth.
Some Spurs fans had clearly not got things in perspective before the game, as they crowed before kick-off about going on a European Tour, when that prospect had not been reached. I had to endure 90 minutes of foul-mouthed moaning and groaning from a lad who I can hardly believe is a Spurs fan – such was his torrent of abuse at those wearing the beloved white shirts. White Hart Lane was opened today for a Jumbotron screening, and a woman called a phone-in after spending the princely sum of £5 to watch the game on the big screen, and then moaned about all the money she had ploughed into the club, claiming there had been a lack of commitment on the part of the players at The Riverside.
Those of us that do follow the team week-in, week-out are only too well aware of the scarcity of away goals and the sad transition that takes place when our heroes play on foreign soil. Yet we have seen excellent results away, although most of these came before Christmas. It was not so much a lack of willingness and effort on the part of our team today, but more the fact they were out-fought by the eager home team, playing in front of a crowd only superceded by a Christmas fixture against Norwich.
Apart from the forced change of Cerny for Robinson, the only other change to the team was Defoe for Keane, but Robbie got on early in the second half, at least to look more of a threat than Defoe, who has been out of sorts for weeks now. Schwarzer was recalled for the home side, and I understand he was not fully fit. Sadly, Spurs rarely tested him, and the chances falling to us could be counted on one hand.
Nemeth had an early chance after a Kanoute pass in the middle to Davis failed. Nemeth’s shot beat Cerny, and dipped at the last second to hit the bar in the top left corner. Spurs did have a quick response as Simon Davies sent Kanoute away down the right, then made it into the box, behind Schwarzer for the cross, which beat the keeper but was headed away for a corner.
Dermot Gallagher is usually a lenient referee, but he was quick to get some Spurs names in his book. After what looked like a harsh free kick decision against Sean Davis outside our box against Zenden, Downing’s free kick went over the bar. Boro took an 11th minute lead after a cross from the left reached Nemeth behind the defence. Nemeth took the ball deep to the right, then cut it back for Boateng, lurking just outside the area. Boateng shot low, Cerny started to dive to his right and was committed when Ledley King’s touch deflected the shot behind the keeper.
Ultimately, that was to be the difference between the two sides, although Middlesbrough had more shots on goal than Spurs, and it is hard to claim the win was not deserved. A dodgy ball across the area by Edman was nearly punished by Downing with a returned shot across Cerny and wide. Sean Davis did have a half chance before the break, from a Kanoute head down, but Davis skied the shot woefully.
Soon after Keane replaced Defoe he demonstrated great skill collecting a high ball and turning in a swift movement before hitting a good shot saved by Schwarzer. Without too much else in the way of a direct threat, Spurs did at least have more of the play, but Boro defended well. Mido mysteriously replaced Reid and played on the left, but his first touch was to commit a foul which got him straight in Mr Gallagher’s book. It wasn’t until Ziegler replaced Kanoute and played on the left, allowing Mido inside that Spurs looked a decent shape again, but now Cerny was having to pat away Hasselbaink’s shot, and then save from Downing. There were more chances for Middlesbrough in injury time, as Downing crossed for Jimmy Floyd, and Nemeth had another shot go wide.
The Boro fans glee was greater than I have seen before, and no doubt they are writing Spurs out of the UEFA equation, as most right-minded people would. Stranger things have happened though, and I’ll be at The Lane next week to see the fat lady sing.
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