FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SUNDAY 1ST October, 2006
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (2) PORTSMOUTH 1 (1)
Defoe (pen), 35
Referee: - Mr. C. Foy
Attendance: - 36, 063
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda (sub Huddlestone, 46), Dawson (sub Davenport, 81), King (Capt.), Ekotto; Ghaly, Jenas, Zokora, Murphy; Berbatov (sub Keane, 73), Defoe
Subs not used: - Cerny; Mido
Portsmouth (4-4-2):- James; Johnson, Primus, Campbell, Stefanovic (Capt.) (sub Taylor, 64 – armband to Campbell); O’Neil, Davis (sub Mwaruwari, 64), Mendes, Kranjcar; Kanu (sub Cole, 71), LuaLua
Subs not used: - Kiely; Pamarot
I will admit to having felt really worried before this game. Spurs had slipped into the bottom three overnight, due to Sheffield United’s late win over Middlesbrough, and a defeat against form side Portsmouth would have consigned Spurs to the bottom three for two weeks, as another break for Internationals is upon us. I was imbibed with confidence by two factors before kick-off. Firstly, my very good friend Matt Carr, who had flown over from Boston, Massachusetts to be with us ensured me that there would be goals today, and goals for Spurs, who would win. Secondly, the team news was good, with the return of Dimitar Berbatov (absent for the whole of September) alongside Jermain Defoe, who had a point or two to prove to Portsmouth, and not least because Hossam Ghaly had won himself a start on the right flank, after his impressive cameo on Thursday night in the UEFA Cup tie against Slavia Prague. Perhaps most importantly, Ledley King would start the game. An early goal was called for to settle the nerves, and our hopes were to be met in the best possible way!
The welcome for Campbell was as hostile as ever, and he got booed with every touch, and cheered for every mistake, or errant pass to a Spurs man (and there were a few of those). At one stage during the match, Campbell’s signal for a drink heavily resembled a gesture that matched the opinions of many Spurs fans about his characteristics. Sean Davis received a positive welcome, but the biggest cheers were of course reserved for Pedro Mendes, who was to have reason to rue his return to White Hart lane before the first half was played out. With all the attention to Campbell, there was hardly time to give a boo to Nwankwo Kanu (there’s something about his name, I can’t quite think what it is), or dare I mention the gooner on the bench next to Harry Redknapp – assistant manager Tony “Ee-aw” Adams.
My desire for an early goal was met after just 42 seconds. Jermain Defoe hit a quite powerful cross from 10 yards inside the right hand touch line, and Dimitar Berbatov rose to head down. James fumbled and Danny Murphy was on hand to score his first Spurs goal. This was surely the fastest Spurs goal, since Ledley King’s record breaker at Bradford in December, 2000 and it was received with noisy and rapturous cheers of relief as much as celebration. Now we could get on and enjoy the game couldn’t we? Well, it didn’t quite work out like that, because Spurs then had to defend several corners, with a certain centre half wandering up the pitch to vociferous boos repeatedly. The hatred never wavered throughout, and never will, as long as he keeps playing, and as long as he walks the Earth, I suppose.
Having survived the corners, with little real threat, Spurs tried to increase their lead. Jenas and Ghaly took a short corner on the right, before Murphy hit a sweet left foot shot across James’ goal, only to see the Portsmouth keeper stretch to his right to make a good save, conceding another corner. Sean Davis was in too much space, at an angle on the left, and tested Robinson with a decent shot, held by the keeper with confidence. Jermain Defoe had a good attempt from about 25 yards, receiving the ball from Ghaly, beating 4 defenders giving attention (including Campbell), before hitting a hot that was on target, but which James also held easily.
He who ought not to be named seemed determined to get on the score sheet, and try to shut up the home fans, but he drew mostly laughter, as he managed to hit a diving header sideways for a throw, and even when presented with the ball from distance, hit it woefully wide.
Defoe and Berbatov were working hard together and Berbatov was impressing with his control of the ball under pressure, decent flicks and winning headers. The two of them, supported by Murphy (who had a good half) fed the ball to Zokora who hit a rising shot wide of James’ left upright. Zokora is now the subject of controversy, as TV replays apparently have shown there was no contact, when he went down in the area against Mendes challenge, winning a penalty from Chris Foy. It looked a pen to me, but I was at the other end of the pitch, and I must be honest and say that I thought Zokora won a free kick with a theatrical fall in the second half. Apparently, he will be thoroughly debriefed tomorrow by Martin Jol.
Jermain Defoe didn’t care about the rights or wrongs about the award, and neither did we, as he stepped up and hit his shot powerfully to James’ right. The keeper might have got a touch, but the ball hit the net, and we were two goals to the good, having scored for the first time in the Premiership since 22nd August, becoming the first team to put 2 past Redknapp’s men this season in the process.
Unfortunately, we gave a goal back, as Zokora was one of the midfielders that allowed too much space for a pass to O’Neil on the right. Ekotto gave him too much room for a cross that was met by Kanu and headed past Robinson’s right hand.
Spurs were forced to make a change at the break, with Chimbonda suffering a thigh strain. He was replaced by Tom Huddlestone, who hardly put a foot wrong, and Ghaly improvised as right back, supported by Jenas who moved out to the right flank. Portsmouth put us under pressure though, with the defence getting a little stretched by the likes of LuaLua and left winger Kranjcar. It was a while before the Portsmouth domination of possession turned into a real chance though, and after 56 minutes, Mendes picked out Kranjcar, who had the space to try a shot, headed wide for a corner by the ever-impressive Michael Dawson. In a rare foray for Spurs, Defoe nearly threaded a ball to Berbatov, but Pompey were determined to get something out of the game, replacing their skipper with Matthew Taylor, and Sean Davis with a striker – Benjani Mwaruwari. Kranjcar found himself in space again, but his shot drifted wider and wider as it neared the goalmouth.
Zokora made a few more of his trademark powerful runs from deep, and teed up Berbatov who was at an angle on the left, and saw his shot blocked for a corner, Zokora might not make the incisive passes that we got from his predecessor, Carrick, but these runs are very effective, bearing fruit in the shape of free kicks, or as today that disputed penalty.
Twenty minutes from the end, following a corner, Ekotto returned the ball to Murphy who was on the left. His cross reached King in the middle. Ledley battled to protect the ball then passed back to Jenas who hit a great shot from fully 25 yards, which “England’s Number Four” saved magnificently with a dive to his left. There was a bit of nervous ping-pong in the Spurs box, as Johnson’s shot bounced off Ekotto, was hit by a striker, and cleared by that man Dawson. Dawson and Huddlestone were then both injured in a clash of heads defending a corner (successfully). Huddlestone got away with a head bandage, but Dawson had to be shepherded off the pitch. One assumes he has a concussion, but at least he has two full weeks to recover.
Five minutes before the end, another Zokora run led to Defoe receiving the ball, turning and beating Campbell, only to see his shot well saved. This would have been a marvellous goal, but it was not to be. Jenas was to get two more chances, the first of which he screwed from a Murphy ball, and the second in injury time, which he managed to fire over the top, having been sent away by Defoe. Just before that, Robinson had to be alert to LuaLua’s header beyond the far post, making a good save, to preserve the lead.
Spurs have won themselves a bit of breathing space then, before their next challenge at Villa Park on 14th October. Having climbed to 14th place, morale will crucially have been lifted, to face the next challenge with heart. I know I feel better for this win!
· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
· Read the preview for this game.
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