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Blackburn v Spurs, 05.04.08

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 5TH APRIL, 2008
BLACKBURN ROVERS 1 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1)

Blackburn scorer:-
Pedersen, 30

Spurs scorer:-
Berbatov, 7

Referee: - Mr. P. Walton

Attendance: - 24,592

Teams:-
Blackburn (4-4-2):- Friedel; Ooijer (sub Emerton, 46), Samba, Nelsen (Capt.), Warnock; Bentley, Reid (sub Mokoena, 85), Vogel, Pedersen (sub McCarthy, 72); Santa Cruz, Roberts

Subs not used: - Brown; Derbyshire

Booked: - Santa Cruz, Warnock, Samba

Spurs (4-4-2):- Cerny; Hutton, Dawson, Woodgate, Chimbonda (sub Gilberto, 71); Lennon, Jenas, Zokora, Malbranque (sub Huddlestone, 71); Berbatov, Keane (Capt.) (sub Bent, 77)
(Armband to Jenas)
Subs not used: - Forecast; Tainio

Booked: - Zokora

In praise of Zokora

The Blackburn – Spurs game was predictably relegated to being the final item on last night’s Match of the Day, and whilst Blackburn might still hold hopes of finding one route or another to Europe (The Inter-Toto might even be beyond them now), it is a fact that most other games did have more riding on them. However, Rovers’ manager Mark Hughes tried to fire up his home support in his programme notes and when Morten Ganst Pedersen equalised Berbatov’s early goal, the silver-haired manager again tried to whip up the home support. It was a healthy crowd for Ewood Park; much boosted by the ever-loyal presence of 3000 Spurs fans, who saw a sometimes skilful and always respectable performance by their team, who recovered some pride after last week’s home defeat by Newcastle.

I wanted to take the opportunity of picking out Spurs defensive midfielder Didier Zokora, who I made my Spurs man of the match yesterday. I include myself in the many critics of Zokora, who so often disappoints us when he gets into attacking positions, and fluffs shooting chances. If we focus upon what Zokora does best, he simply excelled yesterday, commanding the midfield play in his own half, winning virtually all his tackles, and as far as the half way line also opening up the opposition with probing passes of varying range. The return of Jermaine Jenas also gave Spurs more penetration and pace through the middle, and Jenas was the final cog in an excellent move to lay on the opening goal.

Ramos was forced to leave out Paul Robinson, due to an ankle injury, and Cerny stepped up to the plate admirably, with almost impeccable handling and composure throughout proceedings. Spurs reverted to a 4-4-2, and Darren Bent was left on the bench. The focus of the pundits was upon the contest between Bentley and Aaron Lennon for Beckham’s right wing berth in the England side. Bentley was probably the more prominent of the two, testing Cerny two or three times, and getting upset over a failed penalty appeal in the second half when he ran into Spurs substitute Gilberto.

Spurs opened up really well, dominating possession and chances. Dawson flicked on an early Jenas free kick, but Friedel picked it out to his left. Spurs were rewarded for their early play after just 6 minutes. Chimbonda had started the move on the left flank, and passed the ball inside to Malbranque, who in turn fed Jenas. Jenas got into an advanced position with Berbatov at the back post and level with the midfielder, who duly delivered the cross beyond Friedel for Berbatov to touch home from close range, needing two touches to complete the goal. The goal puts Dimitar level with Robbie Keane on league goals (14) and total (22).

Spurs continued to hog possession, without enough edge in their creativity to increase the lead, as we all knew would be required. Malbranque put in Berbatov who was on the left side and hit an early shot which Friedel parried at first, then picked up. Blackburn’s first effort on target came from Pedersen, receiving the ball from the right. Cerny was equal to the shot with safe handling. It wasn’t Cerny’s fault when he was beaten. Spurs had failed to clear properly from the right, as a result of an uncharacteristic weak clearance by Hutton. Chimbonda was wrong-footed by Bentley on the right, and Pedersen touched home the equaliser to Cerny’s right corner. Cerny soon had to save from Santa Cruz, as Roberts set him up for a left footed shot. Just before the break, Rovers were awarded a free kick in a central position. It was taken by Bentley who curled his shot towards Cerny’s right post. The keeper comfortable reached and held the ball before clearing.

Mark Hughes replaced right back Ooijer with the more attacking Brett Emerton at the start of the second half, with clear intentions to try and take the game to Spurs. The second half was certainly more even, and rarely exciting, as the sides were quite well matched and equally committed. Robbie Keane challenged for a Dawson long ball, and the ball went back to Berbatov whose powerful long range shot was not held at first by Friedel, who did manage to pick up before Keane could follow up. Cerny got down well to a decent effort by Roberts and after 53 minutes it was Zokora who fired up a Spurs attack, with a good ball to Lennon, whose cross from the right was met by Malbranque. Steed could have done so much better with his shot, which still gave Friedel a stern test as he dived to his left to a curler.

Keane had an effort cleared after receiving a tricky flick from Berbatov, but Spurs seemed to lose a bit of the initiative after Malbranque was replaced by Huddlestone. Gilberto took over at left back, and Hudd went into central midfield, pushing Jenas out to the right. Lennon switched to the left side. Bent replaced Robbie Keane with 13 minutes to go, but after a foul by Woodgate, Bentley again tested Cerny with his free kick, which was well held by Radek Cerny. Bent had one chance with a decent flick from a good ball by Hutton, but that one was held by Friedel, who also cleanly held a Jenas free kick. In added time, Cerny was alert to Roberts’ effort from the right bye-line and Spurs successfully defended the corner for a deserved draw.

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