FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SUNDAY 26TH NOVEMBER, 2006
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 3 (2) WIGAN ATHLETIC 1 (1)
Referee: - Mark Clattenburg
Attendance: - 35, 205
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, King (Capt.), Ekotto; Lennon, Zokora, Huddlestone, Malbranque; Defoe (sub Keane, 82), Berbatov
Subs not used: - Cerny; Lee; Murphy, Davids
Booked: - Zokora (Dissent), Dawson (foul on Heskey)
Wigan (4-4-2):- Kirkland; Wright (sub Hall, 66), Jackson, Boyce, Baines (Capt.); Teale (sub Heskey, 28), Scharner, Skoko, Kilbane (sub Cotterill, 77); McCulloch, Camara
Subs not used: - Pollitt; Landzaat
Booked: - Boyce (foul on Defoe), Baines (foul on Lennon), Heskey (foul on Dawson), Skoko (foul on Zokora)
Martin Jol declared himself quite pleased with the progress being made by his Spurs team. They have won two of the three games played in the last week, having drawn the other at Blackburn, and have lost just once in fourteen games. Spurs are in the last eight of the Carling Cup, and assured of reaching the knock out stages of the UEFA Cup. Finally, for the first time this season, Spurs managed 3 goals in a Premiership game, thanks to a performance of sheer class by Dimitar Berbatov who topped his match winning goal on Thursday night with his best, and Spurs best goal of the season to date, and assists for the other two goals scored by Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon.
The scoreline does not flatter Spurs, but they took until injury time to give us the two goal margin that could have been secured so much earlier. It had been no surprise when Wigan took a 25th minute lead, as Spurs faded after a really bright start. Spurs dramatically took the lead in a two goal frenzy in the minutes before half time, but then after the break had to defend so stoutly against the determined and physical Northerners. Whilst Paul Robinson was never truly stretched, we were kept on the edge of our seats until that last minute clincher from Lennon.
Martin Jol made just two changes to his starting line-up from the Leverkusen win. Teemu Tainio was rested and Tom Huddlestone started beside Zokora. Robbie Keane sat out the first 82 minutes, in deference to Jermain Defoe, who scored a typical individual goal, but really should have scored two more at least. Wigan welcomed back skipper Leighton Baines, but Heskey started on the bench, perhaps as a precaution to his recent injury situation. Paul Jewell started with Lee McCulloch alongside top scorer Henri Camara, but once Gary Teale went off with a head injury, and Heskey came on after 28 minutes, McCulloch fell back to a regular midfield role. In the second half especially, Heskey was quite a handful for both Michael Dawson and Ledley King, but then referee Mark Clattenburg did seem to licence Heskey to maim, as he remained on the pitch after elbowing Dawson in the second half. Clattenburg’s performance deteriorated towards the end of the game, to the point where his linesman was more reliable, and not enough protection was offered to the home side, subjected to a physical approach throughout. Wigan did still gain four bookings, all of which were for heavy or cynical fouls.
Spurs started so brightly, with a verve that made you think they had retained the European psyche. Huddlestone, Zokora and Malbranque were winning their challenges, and Lennon saw the ball in a couple of early attacks. Defoe had sent Lennon away down the right, and Aaron’s lobbed cross was cleverly controlled by Berbatov at the far post, where he turned and tested Chris Kirkland with a sharp shot. Kirkland was christened “England’s Number Four” by the Spurs wags (David James must have been promoted!), whilst the few hundred Wigan fans jeered and booed their former player Pascal Chimbonda at every opportunity. Such a measly away support was easily drowned out by the home support, and Chimbonda enjoyed a great moment of glory shared with the South Stand to wind up the away support even more. This was after he had chased a ball to the left side of the Spurs area, and won a foul for his efforts, in the midst of Spurs battling second half defence.
The game entered a lull though, and Wigan enjoyed a fair share of possession. Spurs lost concentration in the 25th minute, when Wright crossed deep from the right and McCulloch headed the ball back across the defence. Camara was in far too much space 15 yards out, and measured a fine volley past Paul Robinson.
Spurs tried to respond immediately, when Huddlestone sent Ekotto away on a strong run down the left. Ekotto’s pass reached Malbranque who tried to place a shot to the left of Kirkland, who saved, and also parried Defoe’s attempted follow-up. Malbranque could and should have scored after 33 minutes, when Lennon once again got inside the area near the bye-line, and sent a typically dangerous ball into the danger zone. Malbranque miscued his effort that went wide by a mile. That said, I thought Malbranque looked very good today. He wins a good percentage of his challenges, and is an intelligent passer. His team mates have yet to build the level of understanding that will bring more goals.
After 41 minutes, Jermain Defoe failed to make best use of a good ball in from Ekotto, but soon after Berbatov made the effort to collect a long ball, then passed back to Huddlestone who fired just over the bar from 25 yards out. Now Spurs had that two goal burst, as firstly Berbatov threaded a great pass inside the defence to Defoe, who rolled his defender on the left of the 6 yard area, and beat Kirkland from close range with a left footed shot. The cheers had hardly dissipated, when Berbatov collected a long ball down the line by Ekotto, and cut inside Jackson and Wright, before hitting a great shot above Kirkland into the far corner. It will be one of the great goals of the season, and is Berbatov’s sixth in all competitions so far.
Six minutes after the re-start. Chimbonda sent a lovely long ball down the right channel, and Berbatov’s cross was almost taken by Defoe, before Jackson stuck out an involuntary foot, bringing a good reaction save from Kirkland. This was correctly not deemed to be a back-pass. Three minutes later, Berbatov demonstrated more skill, this time cutting in from the left touch-line, laying the ball at the feet of Lennon and Defoe. Defoe fired over from the edge of the box.
Bear in mind that throughout the second half, Wigan were giving the Spurs defence plenty to think about, but the best effort they had was a McCulloch shot over the bar from a cross from the left. Zokora collected a pass inside his half from Huddlestone, and went on one of his runs, passing to Lennon, whose cross was received by Defoe, but from whom the ball was “stolen” just as he was about to pull the trigger. Defoe had another effort saved for a corner, from which Dawson’s glanced header went over the bar.
In the closing stages, Robbie Keane nearly scored with a great shot that curled round Kirkland and missed the post by a whisker, before Berbatov made way down the left and teed up Lennon unselfishly, for Aaron to beat the keeper with a low left-footed drive for his second goal of the season.
With this result, Spurs leap-frogged Wigan, and are now tenth in the table. Some teams (including our next opponents) are playing this mid-week, but our next game is at “Cashburton Grove” for what promises to be a North London Derby as hot as ever, next Saturday lunch-time.
· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
· Read the preview for this game.
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