FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SUNDAY 28TH NOVEMBER, 2004
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (0) MIDDLESBROUGH 0 (0)
Referee:- Mr. P. Dowd
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Pamarot, Naybet, King (Capt.), Atouba; Ricketts, Mendes, Carrick, Ziegler; Defoe, Keane (sub Kanoute, 67)
Subs not used:- Fulop; Davenport; Redknapp, Brown
Booked:- Defoe (took shirt off to celebrate goal)
Middlesbrough (4-4-2):- Schwarzer; McMahon (sub Reiziger, 74), Riggott, Southgate (Capt.), Quedrue; Parlour, Boateng, Zenden, Downing; Hasselbaink, Viduka (sub Nemeth, 80)
Subs not used:- Nash; Doriva, Job
Booked:- Boateng, Parlour
Sent off:- Quedrue (Two footed challenge on Pamarot)
Two goals, one of a sublime and the other of a somewhat ridiculous nature, were enough to ensure the end of Spurs' dismal run of defeats, and to enable the first home win for three months, since beating Birmingham on August 28th. That comical second goal was scored when substitute Fredi Kanoute charged down Mark Schwarzer's attempted clearance, and when the ball rebounded into the net, you knew it was going to be Spurs' day. The fact that left back Franck Quedrue got sent off five minutes before the break for a two-footed lunge upon Pamarot helped of course, but after a generally lack-lustre first half, Spurs came out with purpose after the break, and ran out deserved winners.
Rohan Ricketts made his first Premiership start of the season, and played on the right, enabling Pedro Mendes to take up his natural central midfield position. Erik Edman did not make the line-up and Atouba took up the left back slot, thus accommodating Reto Ziegler on the left wing. Kanoute was left in the wings, and often before he came on, the ongoing conundrum of no height up front was causing Spurs to lose the ball too easily when cleared over long distances. In fact, until the second half, Spurs lacked height in the middle too, until Atouba was allowed more freedom to get forward.
Middlesbrough featured such loved characters at White Hart lane as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Mark Viduka, and Ray Parlour, but I can't remember much in the way of direct threat to Paul Robinson in the Spurs goal. Hasselbaink did manage an undetected crafty elbow in the side of Ledley King, but on the whole, referee Dowd was on top of today's proceedings.
Rohan Ricketts got the biggest cheer from the fans when the teams were announced, but he will have to perform a lot better than this to keep his place in the side. It was a long time before I noted a significant contribution from him. Michael Carrick was quite disappointing in that midfield role as well, whilst Mendes main achievement today was to make the final telling pass for Defoe's superb 49th minute goal.
Reto Ziegler was showing some tricks on the left flank, but was also wont to make occasional faulty passes, and it was one such mis-placed effort that "Boro" broke after 14 minutes. Stewart Downing's cross was headed back by Hasselbaink, but Parlour sent his shot just outside the post. Spurs responded well with a close call. They had been awarded a free kick upon Defoe, after some good battling by Ziegler. Defoe's shot was blocked and his second effort was only just wide of the mark. It was the first piece of action to excite the home fans, who out-numbered the away support more than usual, as Middlesbrough only occupied the upper tier of the away section.
Defoe created the next opportunity for Spurs with a run down the left, and a cross that was cleared as far as Carrick just outside the area, whose shot was comfortable for Schwarzer. Spurs best move of the half deserved a goal, as they advanced play down the left on 35 minutes. Ziegler had an exchange with Keane, then slipped the ball behind the defence for Defoe, whose left foot shot was only just over the bar to bring rousing applause. However, another poor ball from Ziegler led to a counter from Middlesbrough, but thankfully Viduka got his legs in a self-inflicted tangle when he tried to convert Parlour's cross from the right.
Referee Mr. Dowd had no hesitation in producing a straight red card for Quedrue who recklessly tackled Pamarot in the Spurs half. It wasn't exactly a sensible challenge, especially in that part of the field, was it? There was some dissent after the decision, and Boateng got his name in the book, and the Middlesbrough bench were naturally less than pleased. Spurs failed to take advantage of the period before the break, when Steve McLaren had not re-arranged his line-up.
After the break, Zenden took up defensive duties, but within minutes Spurs had taken the lead with a quite glorious goal. Pamarot had Ricketts available on the right but sent a good ball down the inside-right channel, which Mendes did really well to chase and collect. In a sharp movement, he hit a low cross to the near post, where, just as sharply, Defoe turned and finished first time with a low right-footed shot just inside the post. It was a great goal! Jermain took off his shirt, and was shown a yellow card for that sin. By my reckoning that is his fifth booking of the season, so he will have to sit out one of the forthcoming games.
Atouba was playing a much more attacking role now, and Ziegler moved inside him, with either covering at the back when required. After 59 minutes, Ledley King found Defoe on the left, and Jermain got behind the defence, then nearly found Robbie Keane with a delicate chipped cross that was headed out. Ziegler picked up, and hit a good shot from 25 yards, that was held at the second attempt by Schwarzer. Minutes later, Atouba passed inside to Mendes, who fed Defoe, getting round the rear-most defender, before firing way over the bar. Robbie Keane looked very disappointed to be replaced and disappeared down the tunnel, but had he stayed to watch the end of the game, he would have seen nine minutes later a somewhat comical second goal for his team. Atouba had headed inside, and Reto Ziegler was always losing out in the battle for the ball,but he kept battling and his pressure led to the back pass to Schwarzer, whose rushed kick was charged down by Fredi, who looked as bemused as anybody else in the stadium to see the ball hit the back of the net! Then Kanoute had a great run, and made a chance to set up either Ricketts or Defoe, but failed with his pass.
It was now almost one-way traffic, and Defoe was brought down right on the edge of the area. Carrick was over the ball but left it for Fredi who curled a right footer to the keeper. Now Robinson did have a save to make, as Downing hit a curling free kick towards Robinson's bottom left corner. There was a little worry for Spurs, as Naybet gave away a silly free kick just outside the box, but good fun, when Hasselbaink stepped up and hit a wayward shot.
Schwarzer struggled with another hard back-pass, which gave Carrick a good opportunity. He did well to get through two defenders, but failed with a shot wide across the goal. Just as a cheer went up for Liverpool going 1-0 up against the Gooners, Spurs broke clear, and Defoe put Kanoute in space. Fredi's cross for Ricketts was too far in front of the midfielder. In injury time a good break by Ziegler gave Spurs a similar chance, with Kanoute the intended recipient of the low pass, which could only have been inches in front of the Spurs striker.
Spurs are now back up to 13th, and valuable points clear of the danger zone in the league. The win does augur well for our League Cup Quarter-Final on Wednesday night against Liverpool, although they were victors today by 2-1 against Arsenal. The last Premiership week-end that Spurs won and Arsenal lost was December 7th and 8th 2002, and the last time it happened on the same day was 25th November, 2002. Whilst we have to focus on our own predicament, it's a nice feeling, isn't it?
· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
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