CARLING CUP 4TH ROUND
WEDNESDAY 31ST OCTOBER, 2007
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (1) BLACKPOOL 0 (0)
Referee: - Chris Foy
Attendance: - 32,196
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, Kaboul (sub Tainio, 55), Lee; Lennon, Jenas, Zokora, Malbranque; Berbatov (sub Bent, 71), Keane (Capt.) (sub Defoe, 60)
(Armband to Robinson)
Subs not used: - Cerny; Boateng
Booked: - Kaboul, Tainio
Blackpool (4-4-2):- Rachubka; Barker, Jackson (Capt.) (sub Coid, 68), Gorkss, Crainey; Hoolahan, Fox, Flynn (sub Welsh, 77), Taylor-Fletcher; Parker, Vernon (sub Morrell, 68)
(Armband to Barker)
Subs not used: - Jorgensen, Bean
Spursí new coach got off to a satisfactory winning start tonight against a Blackpool side that gave a terrific account of themselves doing themselves and their terrific support proud. Ramos fielded the strongest team available and during the course of the game took the opportunity to take a look at his 14 best available players in advance of Saturdayís game at Middlesbrough. Even in this first game there was evidence to indicate he had already had an effect upon the players who sought to play at a faster pace, and in the case of Lennon especially, were given more licence to attack.
It was not all plain sailing though, as the visitors actually put Spurs under a little early pressure, hit the bar early in the second half, and caused Paul Robinson to make a terrific right handed save from close range to keep the score at 1-0. Blackpool must have brought 2,500 fans with them, a figure which shames the likes of Blackburn and Bolton, who have to travel similar distances.
Juande Ramos gave us a very astute substitution after 55 minutes, when he replaced Younes Kaboul with Tainio. Kaboul had looked handy as always when going forward, but had also been caught out by sudden attacks too often. Tainio took Chimbondaís place at right back, whilst the Frenchman took on central defensive duties and played very well in the role, helping Spurs to settle down somewhat. My other specific observations about Ramosís influence were that in the first half, Lee was moving more into the centre of the field, clearly being encouraged to make best use of his stronger right foot. This did lead to several threaded passes for the front runners. Lennon had his best game of the season to date, with plenty of pacy runs, and also some exciting diagonal runs into the centre taking the ball to the edge of the box and beyond, often combining with Berbatov, Keane and Malbranque. Malbranque too seemed to seek to release the ball quicker than normal, so three daysí work has already paid some dividends in my opinion.
Not that things went all Spurs way as I have indicated, and whilst they tried some quick close passes, many failed, and at the back they were susceptible to quick breaks with long balls over the top that left the central defenders floundering at times. It will also take a long time to get the midfield working to satisfaction, although Jenas had a decent enough game and Zokora got himself into threatening positions but would then abdicate responsibility to shoot.
Jenas conceded and early free kick and he and Robinson were grateful to the wall, which did its job. The Tangerines put us under a little early pressure before Lennon won the first Spurs corner after three minutes. Following one of those Lee moves into the middle, and an exchange of passes between Berbatov and Keane, Zokora did have a shot that passed just wide of the right hand post. After 8 minutes, Berbatov slipped the ball to Lennon whose low shot from an angle on the right was saved for a corner, from which Dawson headed across the area, and Chimbonda hit the ball high from the back post.
Zokora made an error in the midfield after 12 minutes, and Kaboul allowed Fox to get goalside, before hitting a shot into the side netting at the Paxton End. A Spurs move down the left flank, featuring Lee and Malbranque ended with Berbatovís cross/shot being held by goalkeeper Rachubka. Zokora abstained from one of those shot opportunities before passing to Malbranque, who fed the ball inside to Berbatov, whose effort was blocked. Zokora had had the best chance and had bottled it. It was the long ball that got Spurs their first goal, when Berbatov flicked on Robboís clearance, and Keane lifted the ball with his right foot over the keeper for his ninth goal in the last 10 games.
On the half-hour, after a throw on the left, Malbranque crossed and Berbatov tried to hook the ball into the net. The keeper was equal to the attempt which was going just wide anyway. Five minutes before half-time, Kaboul broke out of his half, carried the ball, and passed to Lennon, whose cross was met by Keane trying a scissor kick, which won a corner.
Almost immediately after the restart, Taylor-Fletcher beat Robinson with a header from a right side cross, but saw the ball rebound into the clear off the bar. Kaboul again broke clear and passed straight to Berbatov, who flicked to Keane, thanks to a defenderís helping touch. Robbie hit the ball wide across the goalmouth with his right foot. Paul Robinson had to make that terrific one-handed save (again from Taylor-Fletcher) after 51 minutes.
Almost immediately after Ramosís tactical switch of the defenders, Chimbonda scored from a corner, taken by Malbranque from the left, and headed powerfully from the back post by Chimbonda (who incidentally wore gloves on a very mild night). This reminds me to mention that Malbranque took the left side corners and Lennon those on the right, which again enabled the game to move along at a decent pace.
Robbie Keane was replaced by Defoe on the hour, and within a minute took advantage of Lennonís work (after a mis-kick by Robinson) to test Rachubka with a good shot. Rachubka made an even better save a few minutes before the end, when Tainio crossed after Jenasís pass, Defoe had a 1-2 with Darren Bent, and the keeper then dramatically tipped over Defoeís shot. There was time for one more scare for Paul Robinson, when he could not hold a long distance effort by Parker. The ball bounced away from his chest, but was retrieved, and Spurs third clean sheet in fifteen games was secured.
Thus Spurs proceed to the quarter-finals with seven other Premier League clubs. No doubt Juande Ramos has learnt a lot about his players in a decent competitive game. We certainly learnt a few things about him, but that learning curve is still quite steep for Saturdayís bottom of the table clash.
∑ Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
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