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Spurs v Reading, 01.04.07

FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SUNDAY 1ST APRIL, 2007
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1) READING 0 (0)

Scorer:-
Keane (pen), 41

Attendance: - 36,067

Referee: - Alan Wiley

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, Rocha, Lee; Lennon, Jenas, Zokora, Malbranque (sub Huddlestone, 80); Berbatov, Keane (Capt) (sub Defoe, 75) (Captain’s armband was handed to Michael Dawson)

Subs not used: - Cerny; Stalteri; Taarabt

Booked: - Rocha

Reading (4-4-2):- Hahnemann (sub Federici, 46):- Halford, Duberry, Ingimarsson (Capt.), Shorey; Little (sub Oster, 74), Sidwell, Harper, Hunt (sub Doyle, 65); Kitson, Lita

Subs not used: - Bikey; Gunnarsson

No bookings

You have to hand it to Spurs! They most certainly deserved the three points obtained from their fifth consecutive Premiership win that took them 4 points clear of today’s opponents, who still harbour thoughts of qualifying for Europe in their first Premiership season. The stats will show that Spurs had masses of chances throughout the 90 minutes, as early as the third, and as late as the 4 minutes of added time. In the end it took Robbie Keane’s emphatic conversion of a 41st minute penalty kick, won after Greg Halford needlessly handled the ball just inside his area, after a Spurs throw from their left flank to secure this game.

Spurs could, and should have had a hatful of goals, with Malbranque hitting the post early on, Keane hitting the goalkeeper, when to score looked easier, Jenas and Defoe having “goals” disallowed, and Defoe finally hitting a rocket of a shot well over the bar in the closing stages. Reading had their chances too, particularly in the first half. Steve Coppell’s side were well organised, and quick to get men behind the ball, and also in threatening positions. Mind you, Spurs helped at times by taking just too long in the build up, and (might I say?) on occasions wanting to play the ball all the way to goal, like a certain team down the road in the not so distant past.

I understand that Jermaine Jenas got the Sky man of the match award, which I find more than a little mysterious. I am not a Jenas critic, as many know, but there were a couple of errors from him today that will be re-opening the regular Jenas threads on message boards this evening. That said, he certainly was prepared to go the extra mile, and stretch the extra yard to win a tackle, or reach a ball. There were several outstanding performances from Spurs players today. I thought that defensively Young-Pyo Lee had one of his best games (but still failed to deliver at the opponents end of the field); that Steed Malbranque worked tirelessly, and contributed so much to the attacking threat provided by the likes of Keane, Berbatov and Lennon, with Zokora also to the fore in the opposition half. Lee’s colleagues in the back four are also all worthy of a mention, to such a degree that we didn’t really worry too much about Reading in the second half, did we? Well, alright, the truth is we were biting our nails more than a little, because so often in the past we have seen Spurs squander a fragile lead, and of course this WAS our first Premiership clean sheet since October!

It was pleasing to see Aaron Lennon lining up on the right, but once again, he did have plenty of licence to roam, and spent a good deal of time on the left in the second half especially. After just two minutes, Lennon was involved in the move that started with Dawson’s ball, headed down to Lennon by Berbatov, and then finished with Malbranque’s shot that scraped the back of the post on the outside, hitting the side netting. When Berbatov chested down a cross for Keane just a minute later, we all thought Keane would score and that it was to be a hey day for Spurs, but Robbie fired directly at Hahnemann, who made the save for a corner.

It took a while for Spurs to make their next meaningful assault on goal, and it started with a throw from Robinson after 11 minutes to Malbranque, who sent Lennon away on a run. Lennon got to the centre just outside the area, but missed his kick with an attempted left footed shot. Next up was Berbatov, receiving another great ball, but his shot was also blocked by the impressive goalkeeper.

Spurs then had a fright, when Lita met a cross from the right and headed the ball into the post, beyond Robinson’s left hand. Luckily the ball rebounded to a Spurs man for a clearance. After another beauty from Malbranque, Lennon tried to chip Hahnemann, but failed quite dismally really. Aaron had a number of chances today, but his lack of fire power was all too evident. Ricardo Rocha got booked for a foul on Lita, who might otherwise have broken the advanced Spurs defence, but the crowd were angered a few minutes later, when Lee was cynically up-ended and the referee settled for “words” with the Reading offender. In fact, Mr Wiley had severely upset the home crowd throughout the half, until the award of the penalty.

Reading’s second close call came after it looked like Hunt had handled in the build-up, just outside the Spurs area, before Kitson’s shot was very well saved by Robbo from short range. Just before the penalty, Berbatov and Lennon combined well, and got the ball to Keane, who seemed to have his shot taken off his toes. The penalty was awarded, and Robbie whacked the ball deep beyond Hahnemann’s right hands for a convincing penalty and Robbie’s fifth Premiership goal and fifteenth goal of the season in all competitions.

During the half-time interval, we were treated to the presence of three Spurs Double-winning legends, Bobby Smith, Les Allen and Peter Baker.

Hahnemann did not return after the break, due to a hip injury, and unfortunately for Spurs, his reserve – Adam Federici – proved just as efficient at keeping Spurs at bay. Spurs started the second half keeping possession for a good period of time, but it took a while for them to threaten Federici’s goal. Sadly, when they came, most of the efforts missed the target. After 51 minutes, Dawson’s defensive header went to the right man, as Lennon was able to make a long run from his own half, working his way to the right hand side of the box, where his final shot was wide.

Spurs were generally taking far too long in their delivery of a telling ball, allowing Reading too much time to organise – which they did all too efficiently, usually having three men around Lennon whenever he was on the ball. A Chimbonda chipped cross went to Berbatov at the back of the box. Berbatov showed skill in returning the ball over the defence, where Jenas converted but was adjudged offside. I would love to run through a 90 minute recording of the game to see just how many of the numerous offside decisions against Tottenham were correct.

Lennon fed Berbatov, and he fired wide from the right channel, before Robbie Keane was onto a Robinson free kick, passing back to Berbatov, who teed up Malbranque. Malbranque’s shot just curled away the wrong side of the goal.

After 76 minutes, Malbranque took the ball from the half way line, thanks to typical determination, and after a return pass from substitute Jermain Defoe, Malbranque’s ball to Berbatov was struck well to the left of the keeper, who flew to pluck the ball out of the air – possibly making the save look a little harder than it really was. Malbranque received a great long pass from Dawson and then Defoe away on a good run from the left channel, before his shot was also saved by Federici.

Reading’s one meaningful chance in the second half fell to Lita, who met a ball from the left at the near post, but headed outside the target area. Defoe hit the side netting with another effort, and after sending Lennon away in the first place, Tom Huddlestone might have scored, when receiving the ball back from Lennon. Big Hudd placed his shot, but missed the post by a foot. By now, even Lee was getting in on the act to try and increase the scoreline, as he chased a long ball out of defence, took too long at the business end of the pitch, and when he did set the ball up for Defoe, Jermain hit his shot well over the bar. At last Spurs were content to play out time.

The team certainly look in good form, and in good spirits, with pace, penetration and determination on offer. Martin Jol recently said he wanted the side to be more cynical (not clinical), and such characteristics were needed today, as they will be on Thursday night in Seville. See you there!

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

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