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Middlesbrough v Spurs, 28.04.07


Middlesbrough scorers:-
Viduka, 66
Pogatetz, 89

Spurs scorers:-
Keane, 12, 83
Berbatov, 47

Attendance: - 27,861

Referee: - Mr. L. Mason

Middlesbrough (4-4-2):- Schwarzer; Davies (sub Arca, 63), Woodgate, Pogatetz, Taylor; Cattermole (sub Johnson, 39), Boateng (Capt.), Rochemback, Downing; Viduka, Yakubu (sub Lee, 70)

Subs not used: - Jones; McMahon

Booked: - Yakubu

Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, King (Capt.), Rocha; Ghaly (sub Lennon, 71), Jenas, Zokora, Malbranque; Berbatov, Keane

Subs not used: - Cerny; Ifil; Huddlestone; Defoe

Booked: - Malbranque

Middlesbrough must have been the only part of England under a cloud today, but it bore a silver lining for Spurs, as they won at The Riverside for the first time in eleven years, with fine goals by Keane (2), and Berbatov to keep them very much in the hunt for a return to Europe next season. In fact, with Everton losing and Bolton only drawing, Spurs could leap above their rivals, if they keep winning their games, including of course their game in hand at home to Blackburn on May 10th.

Martin Jol made two changes, one of which was enforced, with the absence of Tainio, who was replaced by Malbranque, playing on the left. Hossam Ghaly replaced Lennon, and made several significant contributions, before Lennon took the field and had the final touch in a fine move for goal number three. Typically of Spurs, that third goal was vital, as they allowed first Viduka and finally Pogatetz to score from Downing crosses. Paul Robinson had to make a couple of fine close range saves, and Spurs needed Ledley King’s assured style in the centre of defence to help keep Viduka and Yakubu at bay.

In fact, after 5 minutes, a poor ball by Zokora gave the Boro strikers a chance, with Viduka supplying his partner, whose soft shot was held by Robinson in front of a near 3,000 contingent of Spurs fans, to match the support of only Arsenal and Everton in Premiership games at The Riverside this season. Ghaly sent Berbatov away with a good long ball lifted over the defence, but the impact of Berby’s effort was diminished as he gad to carry the ball away from goal, before trying a shot. A minute later, Malbranque passed to Berbatov from his right, and the Bulgarian pulled his shot just outside the post with a right foot shot.

Spurs went one up in the 12th minute, thanks to a forward pass by Malbranque to Berbatov, this time on the left of the area. Berbatov made space and passed to Keane who was more central, and also with a bit of room, beating Schwarzer in his left corner. It was goal number 20 for Keane, to put him level with Berbatov in all competitions, and also level (on nine) in the Premiership. Mid-way through the half, Jenas won the ball off Viduka in a midfield tussle, before sending the ball to Berbatov who fired from an angle, but over the goal. (I maintained a Jenas watch for this game, which you can see here.)

Spurs were in control at this stage, but of course we were looking for that second goal. At least this week, they were clearly going for it, with Keane not quite reaching a Berbatov ball into the middle after 34 minutes, and Zokora firing way over after receiving from Ghaly, who had made a run down the right. As half time drew nearer though, there were a couple of chances for the home side, as a corner ran to Davies, who fired over, and a Viduka shot scraped the outside of the Spurs post, after pressure by Yakubu.

The warning signs had been given, but thankfully, Spurs took a two goal lead within minutes of the re-start with the best goal of the game. Jenas was in control in a pivotal position outside the area, fed the ball to Ghaly on the right channel. Ghaly delayed his pass to Berbatov who beat Schwarzer with a sweet right foot volley beyond the goalkeeper’s left hand. This goal was scored in front of the gleeful Spurs fans, who danced up and down with delight, sniffing another European tour.

After 55 minutes, Malbranque found Keane with a good ball in the middle, and Keano was one on one against Schwarzer, who did just enough to put Robbie off his final touch which went wide.

Viduka had had one shot go over the bar, before he got his team back on terms, with a powerful header just under the bar, from Downing’s cross. Downing was on the right after a free kick conceded by Ghaly. Robbo made a great close range save a minute later from Viduka, trying to convert Boateng’s cross. Robinson had to save again from Viduka after 77 minutes, but this one was from further out.

Spurs regained their two goal lead in the 83rd minute, and Jenas was involved three times in the fine passing move that built up to the goal. His final pass was to substitute Lennon, who took the ball to the bye-line and cut back for Keane whose shot could only be deflected in off Woodgate, putting Keano on level terms with Berbatov again! Berbatov found Malbranque with a great pass from right to left of the pitch. Malbranque put a right footed shot just outside the post, before Pogatetz was allowed a free header from a corner to ensure that Spurs had a nervy four minutes of added time (not sure where they came from!)

Spurs secured only their fourth away win of the season, and by the time they play their next game at The Valley on May 7th, they will have a little more idea about the size of the task before them. That game will also be a do or die for Charlton, who lost today to fall below West Ham, deep in trouble.

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

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