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Match Reports
Spurs v Cardiff, 17.01.07


Lennon, 27
Keane, 30
Malbranque, 42
Defoe, 81

Referee: - Mike Riley

Attendance: - 27,641

Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, Gardner, Ekotto; Lennon, Zokora (sub Tainio, 75), Huddlestone, Malbranque (sub Ghaly, 64); Berbatov (sub Defoe, 69), Keane (Capt.)

Subs not used: - Cerny; Lee

No Bookings

Cardiff (4-4-2):- Alexander; Gilbert, Purse (Capt.), Loovens, McNaughton; Flood (sub Cooper, 55), Scimeca, McPhail, Ledley; Thompson, Chopra (sub Ferretti, 75)

Subs not used: - Forde; Johnson; Campbell

Booked: - Thompson (Foul on Dawson)

It took Spurs nearly half an hour to open the scoring at White Hart Lane tonight, but once they did, the floodgates opened, and Cardiff were dismissed from this year’s FA Cup by some good, zippy football, with goals scored by four different scorers. The best of the goals came 4 minutes before the break from Steed Malbranque, who was the first to be substituted after 64 minutes, and can be sure of starting against his old team at Craven Cottage on Saturday. Zokora made an impressive return to the side, and was also rested early, along with Berbatov, who will also be needed in Saturday’s game, no doubt.

Martin Jol made several changes, all of which were unforced, as far as we know. I have heard rumours tonight that Calum Davenport may be on his way, but whatever the case, Anthony Gardner came in and gave an assured performance in only his second start of the season. Benoit Assou-Ekotto replaced Lee at left back, and was a more effective weapon in attack, whilst reliable against right winger Willo Flood, who was replaced after 55 minutes. Didier Zokora gave energy to the midfield, and was involved in more than one of the goals. Robbie Keane returned and skippered the side, and his displaced colleague, Jermain Defoe made a late scoring appearance.

In truth, Cardiff looked nothing like the threat that they had offered at Ninian Park, much as they were encouraged by a strong and vocal support. There was no trouble in the ground, that I am aware of, but many blue lights after the game. Cardiff’s fans have been banned from attending their club’s next fixture this Saturday at Molineux.

Tonight, Spurs fans did identify the pedigree of Arsenal loanee full back, Kerrea Gilbert, and he was abused by the lower tier of the Park lane end whenever the opportunity arose. The Cardiff starting line up was the same as had held Spurs at Ninian Park, but once again, they offered little threat to Paul Robinson all night. Some of the gaps in the crowd can be explained by the security measures in place to ensure a large area between the opposing fans, but also the fact that no tickets were being sold after 1 o’clock today, and none at all to anyone not on the Spurs database. (Home seats)

There were plenty of good performances from Spurs tonight, but that statement must be weighed against the quality of opposition offered. Lennon and Malbranque were busy on the wings, but both also came inside and behind the front two on many occasions to good effect. It was a break by Lennon after 5 minutes that should have led to more, but after he showed a little too much ball, it ran for Berbatov who spread the play left to Malbranque, whose cross fell to nobody. Malbranque then hit another low cross, which Keane tried to hit with a fancy flick, failing to make good contact.

After 10 minutes, Lennon did well to win a 50-50 ball at the half way line, and the ball was switched to Malbranque through Zokora. Berbatov received Malbranque’s cross and would have scored a lovely goal, except his right foot shot passed just the wrong side of the post from just over 20 yards. Spurs’ next chance fell to Michael Dawson, who managed to head off target at the near post, when meeting a Huddlestone free kick. Huddlestone then limped for a while, but ran off whatever knock he had sustained. Mid-way through the half, Ekotto crossed low for Malbranque, whose shot was saved, but only parried by Alexander. Keane tried to finish off the rebound, but his effort was blocked and cleared.

At last the goal that Spurs had threatened all night came in the 27th minute. It came from a good break from defence, started by an intelligent cleared header by Gardner, which was picked up deep by Berbatov, who picked out Lennon’s run just inside the Cardiff half. Lennon in fact had a 1-2 exchange with Zokora, but as the ball from Zokora was threaded through Robbie Keane was rooted, as the ball passed him by and Lennon raced around the back of the defence to dink the ball past the keeper. Robbie might have been in an offside position, but seemed to make clear he was passive.

The lead was doubled within three minutes, and Keane was the scorer, as Berbatov battled with the defence and ran the ball to the bye-line, before passing back to Keane who (with the goalkeeper beaten by the pass) had an easy job to fire the ball high into the net for his first goal since 5th December.

Cardiff’s Steve Thompson got the only yellow card of the night from Mike Riley, when he went in too heavily on Dawson. Spurs gave Cardiff another scare in the box, from a corner, when Malbranque hit a shot that would otherwise have gone wide, but with a heavy deflection, forced a desperate diving save from Alexander. Spurs went the dreaded three up before half time (we all still talk about Man City!), thanks to some zippy passing play, with Zokora heavily involved in the middle. Ekotto hit the ball inside to Malbranque, who controlled and turned in one swift movement before hitting a powerful shot just inside Alexander’s right post. It was clearly the best goal of the night, and Malbranque’s third for Spurs in 14 games since his debut on 8th November.

Spurs were understandably less enthusiastic after the break, but kept things tight at the back. Chimbonda might have increased the lead when ghosting in at the back post to a free kick that he put wide, but then Spurs started to let Cardiff have too much of the ball, taking the game into Spurs half for too much of the time. Spurs also gave away two or three free kicks on the edge of the area, but thankfully, Cardiff made a hash of their opportunities, and just hit the ball into the wall.

Once Ghaly and Defoe came on, Spurs livened proceedings again, with Ghaly working down the right, and Lennon on the left. Defoe showed lovely skill to beat a defender on the left of the area, and could have hit a shot, but passed to Keane, who could not hit the ball hard enough to test the keeper. Defoe got his reward with 9 minutes to go, after good work by Ghaly, letting the ball do the work as he left three defenders in his wake, hitting a powerful shot that Alexander could not hold. Defoe followed up, and got the ball in the net with his second or third touch.

Keane hit a strong shot from the left, after a Huddlestone ball, and this time Alexander was able to push the ball with some strength way outside the danger zone. Cardiff tried for a consolation and it was substitute Ferretti who shook off the Spurs defence with a shimmy to the left and right, before hitting a low shot that Robinson held.

Spurs fans left in better spirits than they had on Sunday, when beaten by Newcastle. The Spurs crowd out-numbered those at St. James Park tonight, where the Toon were humbled by Birmingham, who showed what a Championship side can do. Our next opponents Fulham made a comeback against Leicester to win an exciting tie 4-3, and will also be in good spirits for Saturday’s Premiership Derby. Spurs’ Fourth Round game against Southend will be on Saturday 27th January.

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

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