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Spurs v Birmingham, 02.12.07

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 2ND DECEMBER, 2007
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (0) BIRMINGHAM CITY 3 (1)

Spurs scorer:-
Keane (1 pen), 50, 53

Birmingham scorers:-
McSheffrey (pen), 24
Jerome, 62
Larsson, 90

Referee: - Phil Dowd

Attendance: - 35, 635

Teams:-
Spurs (4-3-1-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, Kaboul (sub Huddlestone, 46), Bale (sub Lee, 74); Lennon, Zokora, Malbranque; Keane (Capt.); Bent (sub Defoe, 46), Berbatov

Subs not used: - Cerny; Boateng

No Bookings
Sent off: - Keane (alleged violent conduct)
(Armband to Robinson)

Birmingham (4-4-1-1):- Taylor; Kelly, Djourou, Ridgewell (Capt.), Schmitz (sub Parnaby, 62); De Ridder (sub Forssell, 65), Muamba, Nafti, McSheffrey (sub Kapo, 77); Larsson; Jerome

Subs not used: - Doyle; O’Connor

Booked: - Schmitz (foul on Lennon)

Flawed, flawed and floored

Spurs suffered their first defeat under the guidance of Juande Ramos, and their first Premier League home defeat to Birmingham (their first league win at The Lane since February 1984) for three primary reasons. Firstly there were the flawed officials who decided that Robbie Keane’s tackle on Muamba was worthy of a straight red card. Referee Phil Dowd had by this time awarded two soft penalties, and appeared to be influenced in his decision to send off Keane by a radio communication from the touchline – presumably from one of our other favourite officials Uriah Rennie. This red card turned out to be a match-changing decision. The score at the time was 2-2, but both teams were desperate for all three points and Spurs remained committed to trying to get a third goal, which left too much room to fill at the back too often.

Secondly, there was (in my opinion) the flawed decision of Juande Ramos (his first mistake in charge at Spurs) to seemingly try and appease as many of the strikers as possible and start with three on the pitch. I do not understand why Ramos did not start with Huddlestone beside Zokora, as he had been so effective in the second half on Thursday night. Instead, Hudd was left on the bench and Robbie Keane played “in the hole” behind Berbatov and Bent. Bent won a few high balls and had an excellent chance set up by Berbatov, but Spurs might have made hay with more midfield creativity. Huddlestone proved my point early in the second half, when he teed up Keane for his second goal to give Spurs a 2-1 lead after a first half deficit.

Thirdly, Spurs were floored by another one of those spectaculars, and another injury time goal. This one came from former gooner Sebastian Larsson, who took advantage of Berbatov’s lapse in his own half to hit a right foot shot beyond Robinson’s left arm for a winner that took The Brummies above us, and condemned us to 16th place and a prolonged battle in the wrong end of the division. It hurt even more to know of Larsson’s gooner history, and not many Spurs fans were aware that both Muamba and Djourou also share that notoriety.

For new Birmingham coach Alex McLeish it was of course a marvellous start to his career in England, and for Birmingham fans it was great to end the day in 12th place – where we thought we would be going after what should have been a comfortable home win. Indeed, part from Mr Dowd’s award of a penalty to McSheffrey in the first half, and one or two moments of danger from right winger de Ridder, Spurs had most of the possession, without creating enough in the way of direct chances.

De Ridder had an early left foot shot after being allowed to cut in from the flank that went wide, and then Chimbonda had to head out a Jerome cross to concede a corner. Finally, Bale led Spurs out of their own half after 6 minutes, and Keane had the first shot on goal for Spurs, chesting down a Robinson ball before firing well over the bar. Berbatov forced a save after a cross from the right, when he picked up the second ball. In the 10th minute Bent laid a ball off for Keane who should have scored but hit the ball over from quite close range. Spurs then enjoyed a good passage of play after an important Dawson tackle on the edge of the box, which ended in a Lennon cross, Berbatov header and Taylor save.

Darren Bent had the best chance of the half, when Berbatov threaded Bale’s pass through the middle. Taylor closed down Bent, and Ridgewell cleared the ball for a corner. See what I mean? Why weren’t we winning already?

Sadly, Mr Dowd came to the fore with a dubious penalty award in favour of McSheffrey, nudged by Kaboul (who paid for his discrepancy at half-time), hitting the kick beneath Robinson’s dive.

Berbatov had another chance – this one a powerful header over the target, after Keane and Lennon acted as providers on the right. Spurs had two corners around the 28 minute mark. One was headed by Chimbonda from beyond the back post and cleared for the second corner, which Dawson headed over. Goalkeeper Taylor was equal to Spurs only other first half attempt, which came from a Bale free kick, after a foul on Malbranque.

Once again, Ramos made important changes at half time, replacing Kaboul with Huddlestone, and Bent with Defoe. That put Zokora in between Chimbonda and Dawson at the back, and gave Bale and Lennon attacking responsibilities on the wings. Zokora in fact created the first goal, by making a run from his own half, feeding the ball to Berbatov who collapsed under a challenge to win a penalty off Mr Dowd. Chimbonda was in need of treatment before Robbie Keane included a little hesitation in his run up before planting the ball firmly to the right of Taylor. Three minutes later, Keane had scored again. Following a Spurs corner, Huddlestone spotted Bale making his way back from taking the corner and in an offside position. After a pause, Hudd released the ball to the middle and it fell for Keane to force the ball home from the 6 yard box.

It was all looking so good, and Spurs were dominant. Bale provided a cross from which Defoe passed to Berbatov who hit the bottom of the post with his shot. Spurs defensive flaws gave Jerome the time and space to leave both Dawson and Zokora struggling before hitting a belter of a shot that beat Robbo low to his left. Berbatov had another headed chance from a Bale corner, hitting a downward header that was cleared in front of goal.

It was following a failed Spurs attack when Keane was penalised. I saw nothing malicious and to be honest had not noticed the challenge upon Muamba, but after that radio consideration, referee Dowd showed red to Keane. Hopefully this can be appealed and reduced, but ultimately it has cost us this game, and may leave us without our top scorer against Man City, Portsmouth and the Carling Cup game at Man City.

Bale was also off the pitch injured now, and Spurs battled on with only 9 men for a while, before Bale was replaced by Lee. It was during this period that Defoe came so close to wriggling the ball between defenders and into a scoring position. Berbatov fell back to a midfield role, with Defoe the lone striker.

It was all Birmingham in the closing minutes though, as Forssell hit a powerful cross over from close range; Paul Robinson made a great save from substitute Kapo, and finally Larsson got the goal that made it a miserable end to another Sunday for Spurs fans.

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