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Match Reports

Spurs v Arsenal, 29.10.05


Spurs scorer:-
King, 18

Arsenal scorer:-
Pires, 77

Attendance: - 36,154

Referee: - Steve Bennett

Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Stalteri, Dawson, King (Capt.), Lee; Lennon (sub Reid, 72), Jenas, Carrick, Tainio (sub Mendes, 78); Mido, Defoe (sub Keane, 81)

Subs not used: - Cerny; Naybet

Booked: - Defoe, Dawson, Lee, Tainio

Arsenal (4-4-2):- Lehmann; Lauren, Toure, Campbell (Capt.), Clichy; Flamini (sub Pires, 46), Fabregas, Gilberto, Ljungberg (sub Van Persie, 64); Bergkamp, Reyes (sub Cygan, 90)

Subs not used: - Almunia; Eboue

Booked: - Gilberto, Flamini

It is saying something for the progress and new-found confidence at Spurs, that everyone connected with the club were left with a feeling of great disappointment today, as the proverbial “game of two halves” meant that honours and points were shared at the end. Spurs had played out of their skins in the first half, with skills to match their efforts, and a deserved lead that could have been more. We all knew it needed to be more than one, didn’t we, as there was no way that Arsenal could play as badly in the second half as they had in the first 45 minutes.

And so it was to prove. Despite missing Henry, Arsene Wenger left fellow penalty comedian Pires on the bench, but his insertion at the start of the second half led to Bergkamp playing deeper, Ljungberg switching to the right, and Arsenal starting to play with their usual style of movement, and defence-splitting passes.

The atmosphere was hot as you would expect, and the “welcome” for a certain ex-Spurs centre half as hot as usual. Surely on the poor passing form he displayed today, he will soon be an ex-England centre-back? Some of his distribution was woeful. (There was also a highly suspicious elbowing upon Teemu Tainio in the second half, which went totally un-punished)

Enough about the guests. Let us extol the virtuosity of Spurs first half display. Despite missing the suspended Davids, Spurs mastered the midfield, with Carrick and Jenas intercepting, tackling, winning and passing not just effectively, but with a little bit of style too! I’m beginning to think that new skills trainer Ricardo Moniz is having an effect. Several times, I saw Carrick and Jenas receive, play a short touch to take the ball past their opponent, before sending a blazing pass down the line or elsewhere. I haven’t noticed such confidence against formidable opposition for a long time.

There was plenty to admire in all the Spurs team. Dawson and King were masterful for 99% of the time. Lee and Stalteri played with discipline, and got forward as much as you would expect. Defoe and Mido ran their hearts out, and Mido was winning a lot of ball, but little favour from the referee, who booked six players in all. Reyes, who had been a slight doubt in the run-up to this game, did not enjoy the close attention he got, particularly from two challenges from Dawson and Jenas, both seen as fair by the referee, who seemed to let more go in the first half than the second. Ljungberg was finding a little too much space for my liking in the early stages, and had a couple of shots well blocked by the Spurs defence, who protected Paul Robinson very well n the first half.

The Arsenal Captain was caught out by Bennett for tugging back Mido, but this kick was wasted by Carrick, trying a low variation that was cleared. Gilberto and Flamini had been shown yellow before the quarter hour was up, such was the pressure that Spurs were giving their opponents, whose fans had amazingly failed to fill a few seats in their allocation. Spurs pressure was rewarded soon after, but it looked as if their best chance would be denied by the referee. Lennon had been fouled but had managed to feed the ball to Stalteri who was in the area with a clear run on goal. Mr Bennett awarded the free kick and called the play back, and seemed to be apologising for not allowing the advantage. All was more than well in a minute though, as Carrick floated in a free kick and Ledley King advanced to 8 yards out – unmarked – planting a strong header that left Lehmann well beaten (and that ex-centre half, I should add). Cue roars of prolonged delight, as the team celebrated in the North-East corner.

More chances came Spurs way, as Mido headed on to Defoe who got to the left of the area, crossed for Jenas, who passed back to Carrick, whose cracking left foot shot went just outside Lehmann’s left post. Carrick’s next offering after 27 minutes, was to hit a great ball (after a display of the sort of skill I have described) to Defoe, who crossed again for Jenas, hitting a great shot that Lehmann had to tip over for a corner.

The man whose name I won’t mention nearly scored the sort of dream own goal that would have given us raptures after 37 minutes. This came at the end of a superb move. Lennon, in his own half, passed back to Carrick, spotting Stalteri’s run, whose shot was turned into the side netting with that defensive header. Defoe then got booked in the build up to a corner, for something that Lehmann brought to the referee’s attention. Lehmann was apparently struck by a conker in the second half, and incited the home support with other theatrics, including making a meal of Dawson’s challenge as he tried to clear, getting the Spurs man booked again. In first-half stoppage time, Defoe hit a great low cross from the left again, which Jenas tried, but failed to reach.

The second half saw Arsenal dominating possession, with Pires on the left and Ljungberg making the switch that suited him. Within a minute, Spurs had a scare, as the officials made a very late award of a throw in, but not before Bergkamp had sent Ljungberg away, whose shot brought a great left-handed save by Paul Robinson. Lee got booked after 56 minutes for a foul on Fabregas just outside the box. Pires stepped up, but hit a wild shot that never troubled Robinson.

Spurs best chance in the second half came two minutes later, as Tainio sent Defoe away with a quick throw down the left. Defoe won a hard battle against Lauren to get into the box, and faced another tough challenge from Toure. He might have gone down and won a free kick at least, but he got in a shot that Lehmann just managed to save with his foot.

Ljungberg was replaced by Van Persie, and now Pires switched to the right, and Reyes played down the left. Pires fed Van Persie within minutes, and this time Paul Robinson’s outstretched left hand was required to prevent a lawful attempt on goal. Van Persie got goal-side in the 68th minute, but fired wide. Spurs were running out of steam, and were struggling now to string two or more passes together, surrendering their former domination of the midfield, with Bergkamp pulling the strings for much of the second half.

Andy Reid came on for Lennon, and sadly (in my view) is now being targeted by a great number of Spurs supporters, as their fall guy. In fairness, neither he, nor fellow substitute Pedro Mendes got into the rhythm of the game, and Robbie Keane had no impact either, when he replaced Defoe with ten minutes left. By this time The Gooners were level. Stalteri had been penalised for an alleged foul on Reyes (the merit of which I doubt). Bergkamp took the kick, and for the second week running Paul Robinson made a mistake which led to an unwelcome goal. He patted rather than punched the ball away. (He might even have caught it). The ball fell to Pires, who swept home a low shot.

If anything, it was Spurs having to defend quite desperately in the closing stages, in particular when Bergkamp and Van Persie were blocked in scoring positions. It did seem that in the second half, Steve Bennett gave everything against us, and I felt he was duped quite often by the clever, but scheming Arsenal tactics, such as the unseen push in the back.

Spurs have another difficult task at The Reebock Stadium on November 7th, but the other results have gone for us today, and we remain in third place. Let us take heart from that fact, along with the preservation of three point superiority over Arsenal, and a programme of eminently winnable matches in the next two months that could keep us above our close neighbours this season. Oh, and Mr Wenger brought on a third central defender for stoppage time to secure the draw!

· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
· Read the preview for this game.

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