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Spurs v Bolton, 26.04.08

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 26TH APRIL, 2008
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0) BOLTON WANDERERS 1 (0)

Spurs scorer:-
Malbranque, 52

Bolton scorer:-
Stelios, 46

Attendance: - 36,176

Referee: - Mark Clattenburg

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Cerny; Hutton (sub Huddlestone, 46), Dawson (sub Bent, 52), Woodgate, Gilberto; Lennon, Jenas, Zokora, Malbranque (sub O’Hara, 76); Berbatov, Keane (Capt.)

Subs not used: - Robinson; Tainio

Booked: - Zokora (Simulation)

Bolton (4-1-4-1):- Al Habsi; Steinsson, Cahill, A. O’Brien, Samuel; Campo (sub Stelios, 46); J. O’Brien (sub Guthrie, 19), McCann, Nolan (Capt.), Taylor; Rasiak (sub Diouf, 46)

Subs not used: - Walker; Fojut

Booked: - Campo, Nolan, Samuel

Spurs blades sheathed again

The most exciting news of the day for Spurs fans was the reported signing of Croatian midfielder Luka Modric, who was in the stands to see his new team play. The result was predictable (except in my case!), as the Lilywhites rolled to their fourth consecutive 1-1 draw. This time, Spurs did not take the lead, but as confusion reigned after a late substitution just before the second half kicked off, Bolton took advantage and scored to take a precious lead in front of their subsidised fans. Spurs came back this time and should have won the game, but the point keeps Bolton’s hopes of Premier League survival very much alive.

Despite the return to fitness of Paul Robinson, Radek Cerny kept his place in goal for his eleventh Premier League start of the season. Chimbonda – also fit again – was nowhere to be seen, and seems likely to be further away in the summer. Jonathan Woodgate returned at the heart of defence, which released Zokora for his orthodox midfield duties behind Jenas. In the second half, Zokora extended his versatility by replacing Hutton at right back, and has now played all across the back four, as well as in midfield. He still hasn’t scored a goal of course, but I thought today, Zokora had an excellent game, leading a lot of Spurs second half attacks with good penetrative right wing runs.

Spurs were playing all the football in the first half and considering their predicament, it was a little surprising to see Bolton playing so defensively, with Rasiak the lone (and ineffective) front runner, and the rest of his team invariably behind the ball. Despite being camped in the opposition half for most of this half, Spurs had nothing to show for it, and in fact created few good chances. Robbie Keane got in a right footed shot after 6 minutes, at the end of a move which started with Cerny’s throw to Malbranque, a quick pass, and a shot across Al Habsi, which the Bolton goalie held.

Bolton’s Joey O’Brien made an unsuccessful attempt at return after injury and was replaced by Guthrie after just 19 minutes. At that point, following a Spurs free kick, Aaron Lennon tried a 25 yard shot that went over the bar. Lennon had another good game today, but once again his final shot or delivery was sometimes not quite good enough. Zokora created a chance for Spurs by closing down the ball in the Bolton half, and it ran to Keane whose shot went over the far corner. Malbranque had a good run down the right side and tried a shot that was also wide.

After 33 minutes, Jenas did well to stick a leg out and win the ball to send Lennon away. This attack broke down, but Spurs were soon back and Gilberto’s dipping shot gave Al Habsi more to think about. As first half added time approached, Hutton made a typical driving run, which was halted with a foul on the very edge of the box. Gilberto fired in a near post free kick which was deflected onto the post and out of play not by Keane but a defender for a corner.

Gary Megson made a clear decision to replace the ageing Campo and poor Rasiak with Stelios and Diouf, whilst Hutton was seen to hobble onto the field for Spurs. The amiable Mr Clattenburg was gracious enough to allow kick off to be delayed whilst Spurs rushed on Huddlestone for Hutton. Hudd moved into midfield and Zokora to right back, but Spurs were caught on the hop, as Bolton surged forward from the kick off. Confusion reigned in the Spurs box and Stelios got a touch on a cross from the right to prod beyond Cerny for a goal within 20 seconds of the kick-off. That move was an indication of Bolton’s fresh desire, probably fired by other half-time scores around the country – not least the fact that Birmingham were in the lead against Liverpool at the time.

Spurs responded within 7 minutes though. It was Jenas who put a good pass through the middle to Keane who fed Malbranque on the left side of goal. Steed fired home in front of the Paxton End, and put his hand to his ear as the crowd bayed “Steeeeeed!”

Juande Ramos was already committed to change though, as he immediately replaced Michael Dawson with Darren Bent, now moving Huddlestone to central defence, and Robbie Keane to the midfield behind Bent and Berbatov. Huddlestone saw a lot of the ball, and Spurs did then play some of their best football of the game, with his effective passing, and runs by Zokora and Lennon. The referee had been quite lenient on Bolton’s cynical fouls in the first half, but skipper Nolan got booked for bringing Lennon down as he broke away in his own half. The best quality move came as Malbranque made a run sailing through the right channel. Berbatov laid the ball back to Keane who made room for a shot on the left side of goal, but was closed down by the keeper. Al Habsi was never particularly stretched but was by far the busier keeper.

Lennon popped the ball up for himself with his right foot and hit a decent left foot shot from just outside the area, which was well held by Al Habsi. Keane retrieved the ball after a deep cross, and put Malbranque in play in a similar position from which he had scored. This time the shot went wide across the goal mouth. Lennon pulled a ball back for Berbatov, whose low drilled shot from the edge of the box was pushed round for a corner, and Bolton had an effort at the other end, that went wide.

Bent could have done better when receiving a long Huddlestone ball, but he was well closed down by the keeper. Keane had another shot, after Lennon’s ball, which was deflected out for another corner, taken by substitute Jamie O’Hara. Woodgate made the header which went just outside the post. Bolton were starting to drag things out, and Samuel was booked for time-wasting. Their fans now felt “We are staying up”, presumably because Liverpool had equalised at St. Andrews. Bent had a headed chance in added time from another Spurs corner, but the ball was just cleared off the line. Berbatov too had an added time header which landed on the net, after Lennon had been fouled and O’Hara swung in the free kick.

Bolton may well stay up as a result of this point, but their fight goes on – at home to Sunderland next week. Spurs play another contender for the drop next week – Reading. 1-1 draw anyone?

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