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Spurs v Bolton, 25.02.07

FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SUNDAY 25TH FEBRUARY, 2007
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 4 (3) BOLTON WANDERERS 1 (1)

Spurs scorers:-
Keane, 11, 22
Jenas, 19
Lennon, 90

Bolton scorer:-
Speed (pen), 37

Referee: - Graham Poll

Attendance: - 35,747

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, Rocha, Lee; Tainio (sub Malbranque, 67), Jenas, Zokora (sub Stalteri, 90), Lennon; Keane (Capt.), Berbatov

Subs not used: - Cerny; Mido, Defoe

Sent off: - Keane (Deliberate handball to prevent a goal) (Captain’s armband given to Robinson)

Bolton (4-1-4-1):- Jaaskelainen; Hunt, Faye (sub Teimourian, 24), Meite, Gardner (sub Pedersen, 63); Campo; Stelios, Nolan (Capt.) (sub Vaz Te, 76), Speed, Diouf; Anelka

Subs not used: - Walker; Tal

Booked: - Diouf, Meite, Gardner, Campo

This was a mighty Spurs win. Today we saw the best team performance of the season, and some heroic individual performances. Not least amongst those was that of Dimitar Berbatov, who had to hold the line on his own after the 36th minute dismissal of skipper and strike partner Robbie Keane, who allegedly deliberately handled a goal-bound Campo header, when Bolton were already three goals down. Keane had everything to do with Spurs’ blazing start, with two fine goals. With Robbie gone, Spurs reverted to 4-4-1, and Berbatov was able to make hay against an inferior defence, consistently winning long balls, holding off his opponent, beating them with pure skill to either successfully lay off the ball, or to make a run on goal. Had Berbatov got the rest he deserved, he would have received one of the loudest ovations received by a Spurs player, such was his effort, skill and influence. Tired as hell, even in added time, Berbatov was running down the Bolton goalkeeper, and having made the opening goal, Dimitar had everything to do with Lennon’s final nail in the Bolton coffin.

There were other fine performances. Keane of course for his two goals, and link-up play with Berbatov; all of the midfield for their unstinting support of Berbatov and the defence; Chimbonda for some stylish defending, and great creative and attacking play; and indeed the rest of the defence for their defensive play. Well, that accounts for everyone then, doesn’t it? It was a great team performance, and the “Spursometer” has reached 89%, a score which even beats the 85% achieved in that momentous 5-1 Worthington Cup win in 2002.

What is the secret of Spurs new found form, after three wins in 8 days, and 10 goals in the process? According to Martin Jol’s programme notes, the team have been hurt by remarks to the effect that the side had not made progress this season, despite reaching a Carling Cup semi-final, an FA Cup quarter final, and are still in Europe in March. Well, all I can say is that whatever has stung the team into so much effort, skill and determination, then long may it reign!

Like Everton on Wednesday, Bolton had been resting in sunnier climes. Allegedly, Sam Allardyce said that his men had been asking for extra training whilst abroad. After this show, he will giving them more of the same, I’m sure, as they failed in a bid to overtake Arsenal to go into the top four. Allardyce was missing Ben Haim at the back, and it seems took a risk by playing Abdoulaye Faye, beside Meite in central defence. Faye didn’t last more than 24 minutes, and had to be replaced by Iranian midfielder Andranik Temourian, forcing Campo to help out at the back. Bolton’s other notable absentee was Kevin Davies, but Anelka has been doing fine between Diouf and Stelios in the usual Bolton formation. It seems that Spurs active week has given them the advantage over their rested rivals.

There were a few empty seats about the stadium, and Bolton had a sparse following, in a corner of the upper tier of the South stand. Maybe a few Spurs regulars had chosen to watch the Carling Cup Final, but I am sure they will be regretting that decision.

Perhaps one secret behind Jol’s success today was the presence of Aaron Lennon on the left, as Tainio tucked in on the right side next to Jenas and Zokora, allowing Chimbonda to play a more adventurous role than the norm. Bolton’s game-plan may thus have been upset, and they set upon up-ending Lennon by any means whatsoever as early as the fourth minute, when Lennon won a free kick just outside the box. Lennon then nearly put Berbatov in with a great chance to run at goal, as Campo had over-committed in the middle. However, on this occasion, Berbatov was deprived of the ball.

Spurs took the lead in the 11th minute, with what is becoming a trademark goal. Paul Robinson took a free kick from the Spurs half, and Berbatov headed down for Keane, who was at an angle on the left side of the area. Keane hit a great left footed shot that beat Jaaskelainen on the narrow side, and grazed the post on its way into the net! Bolton responded, and Robinson had to make a good reaction save from Stelios’s header as Hunt crossed from the right flank.

Spurs then had the ball in the net through an “own goal” by Faye, as Berbatov hit a low cross from the left, but he was flagged for offside. Diouf was the first in Mr Poll’s book for the first of many cynical fouls by the Bolton players. This one was on Lennon, near the half-way line. Spurs went two up in the 19th minute, with another win of the ball by Berbatov, and a pass to Keane, whose shot was parried by Jaaskelainen, but converted by the ever-present Jenas.

Berbatov was next in action down the line on the right, and his cross was headed on by Jenas for Lennon whose shot was blocked. Three minutes after going two up, Spurs scored a third, after good football by Lennon in his own half, a pass to Jenas, who found Chimbonda. Chimbonda took the ball to the bye-line, and crossed low to the near post, where Keane fired into the roof of the net, with the Bolton keeper already on the ground. Keane might have had a hat-trick, as Zokora’s high ball was controlled and touched back by that man Berbatov to Robbie, whose shot across the goal went just outside the far post.

It was looking like Spurs might run riot, but Bolton immediately tried to regain ground. Lee made a good defensive header to concede a corner, from which Campo’s header literally hit Keane as he stood next Robinson’s right post. My thought was “This really is our day” as it appeared that we had legitimately cleared a close-range effort. Poll made no immediate decision, but seemed to be affected by the Bolton players appeal, and then decided to give the penalty, and send off Keane for good measure. I have yet to see a replay, but surely, if the ball did hit the arm, it was ball to arm?

Speed made no mistake from the spot, and with a massive sense of injustice around the ground, Spurs needed to protect their lead for nearly an hour. The formation simply became 4-4-1, with Berbatov relying upon the athleticism of Lennon, Zokora and Jenas to hold the ball. Not only did Spurs hold out, but they also took the game to the visitors on plenty of occasions in the remainder of the game. Even before half-time, Spurs broke through a good ball from Jenas to Berbatov on the right. The ball was fed to Tainio who made a surging run, and might have done better with his effort, which was defected and went for a corner.

Three minutes into the second half, and not for the first or last time, Berbatov demonstrated typical skill in winning and holding a Robinson clearance, then turning and closing down on goal. His shot was parried and the ball just ran out at too much of an angle for Jenas to be able to score. Berbatov was inviting and receiving fouls from all quarters. Meite got booked for one, then Gardner conceded another free kick just outside the area on the right, where Jenas took the kick and Dimitar’s header was just over the bar.

Bolton were getting men forward in numbers, but Spurs persistently re-buffed their every attempt to find a shooting position. Anelka did manage a header on target after 64 minutes, but it was straight into Robbo’s arms. Malbranque replaced Tainio, and added more speed and counter-attacking ability to the Spurs game. Spurs defended valiantly as a team to clear the ball, after Robinson parried another Anelka effort.

After 73 minutes, Berbatov showed fantastic effort and skill in closing down the defence, challenging and winning the ball, taking the ball to the line, and pulling back for Jenas, whose shot was parried, leading to a follow-up from Malbranque which went for a corner. Berbatov and Malbranque battled for and won the ball about 30 yards out, before Steed’s shot was deflected out of play.

Allardyce was getting desperate and even replaced his Captain, Kevin Nola with striker Vaz Te, who did immediately have a headed attempt that went over the bar. Bolton’s misery, and Spurs’ joy was complete in added time, as Spurs broke clear, and Berbatov sent Malbranque chasing a ball down the right channel. Steed crossed low, and Lennon was there to poke the ball in at short range to cap a great victory.

It was, without a doubt, one of the best games of the season, and on this form, Spurs should flatten West Ham next Sunday. Once again, I am proud to say that, “It’s good to be a Spur!”

· Spurs Odyssey's "Resident Ref" comments about the laws on handball and red cards

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