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Spurs v Derby, 18.08.07

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 18TH AUGUST, 2007
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 4 (3) DERBY COUNTY 0 (0)

Scorers:-
Malbranque, 2, 6
Jenas, 14
Bent, 80

Referee: - Mr. C. Foy

Attendance: - 35,600

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda (sub Zokora, 81), Rocha, Gardner, Lee; Routledge (sub Taarabt, 70), Jenas, Huddlestone, Malbranque; Bent, Keane (Capt) (sub Defoe, 75)
(Armband to Robinson)
Subs not used: - Cerny; Stalteri

No bookings

Derby (4-4-2):- Bywater; Mears (sub Griffin, 32), Leacock, Moore, McEveley; Fagan, Oakley (Capt.), Todd (sub Teale, 46), Pearson; Howard, Earnshaw

Subs not used: - Price; Jones, Feilhaber

Booked: - Griffin, Howard, Moore, Fagan

Has Jol been saved by Steed?

The early season clouds of gloom hanging over White Hart Lane were lifted in the best possible fashion yesterday, when two-goal hero Steed Malbranque fired home after only one minute of kick-off. Within five minutes he had doubled the score, and when Jermaine Jenas capped a fine 40 yard run with his first of the season, we could relax, as Spurs inevitably eased up on the throttle, and Derby were despatched with ease.

The question remains whether Martin Jol can relax as much as the rest of us. Rumours still abound this morning, after betting on the issue of his potential sacking was closed on Friday, and word travels around some circles to the effect that Spurs have been courting Sevilla manager Juande Ramos to replace the popular Spurs manager. Have Steed Malbranque and the rest of the team done enough to secure Jol’s position? Was there any significance in Jol’s reserved countenance throughout the game? What about the fact that the team ran and celebrated the first goal not with the manager, but with Didier Zokora, who despite the catastrophic number of injuries in the Spurs squad, had been dropped to make way for Tom Huddlestone?

Whatever the answers, and however events pan out in the week to come, Martin Jol deserves credit for making adventurous tactical changes, in addition to those that were a necessity due to the 8-man injury list. He welcomed back Young-Pyo Lee to the left back slot, and whilst Spurs as a whole were hardly troubled by a Derby team surely destined to finish 20th this season, Lee added confidence and pace in the right places. Wayne Routledge got a start, as did Tom Huddlestone – playing against his old team of course. We didn’t get all we might have hoped for, as Adel Taarabt was left on the bench, but the crowd was pleased and entertained when he did replace Routledge with 20 minutes to go.

Apart from Malbranque’s stunning two-goal performance, the bristling energy of the whole Spurs midfield was evident from the start, with all four making the difference after Spurs first two lack-lustre games. Such praise has to be balanced against Derby’s poor efforts, but as they say, you can only beat what’s in front of you, and our boys did that in style!

The crowd’s support for Jol was fantastic from kick-off, and Spurs immediately won two quick free kicks. I understand that Jenas’s name was greeted with boos when the team was first announced during the warm up, but he soon silenced the boo boys when he shaped up to take a pop at goal with the free kick, but instead cannily slipped the ball to the unmarked Malbranque on his left, who hit a terrific drive outside the defence, squeezing just inside Bywater’s right hand post. As one, the team raced for the bench, and communed joyously with Zokora. Jol had time to give Jenas a deserved pat and a bit more feedback, and within five minutes, Spurs were two up. Chimbonda passed inside to Darren Bent on the right side of the area, Bent picked out Steed, who again picked his spot to leave Bywater flailing, and the players and the crowd pounding their chests with joy.

Whilst Spurs dominated, they scored with every early chance really, and went three up in the 14th minute. Jenas picked up the ball just inside the Derby half and raced down the middle, deciding he had a chance to score rather than pass. He evaded a tackle or two, and his finish was not powerful, but well directed going between the legs of a defender, and placed just inside the post. Significantly, Robbie Keane seemed to be reminding the crowd of the scorer’s qualities. At this point, none of Spurs strikers had contributed a goal to the campaign. Malbranque is the top scorer, and Jenas is guaranteed to provide more during the season ahead.

Wayne Routledge was unlucky to be denied a goal after 31 minutes. Bent had raced to a ball down the left channel and cut it back for Keane, whose shot lacked power and direction, but was flicked home by Routledge’s out-stretched boot, only denied by the offside flag.

Derby made an early substitution of Tyrone Mears with Andy Griffin, but it made no difference to the direction of traffic towards the Derby goalmouth at the Paxton End. Jenas, Malbranque and Keane combined before Jenas hit a shot just outside the left-hand post, then Keane went close with a curling shot after good work by Huddlestone. Spurs were denied a penalty after Huddlestone and Keane fed the ball to Bent inside the box, and whether the appeal was for a foul or handball by McEveley, Mr Foy happily denied it. Keane and Bent exchanged passed before Keane went close, and really Spurs should have had 5 or 6 goals by now. Keane was getting frustrated with the referee, complaining that he was being held as he tried to beat Bywater, who beat out his shot for a corner just before the break.

Andy Todd was replaced at half-time by former Wigan midfielder Gary Teale, who was to go closest to scoring for the visitors. Before that though Keane had a glorious chance after Bent’s pass from the right. Robbie was in the middle just outside the box, being given luxurious space, and seemingly time to pick his spot. He chose a path to the left of Bywater, who had to dive but made the save at a comfortable height. Keane should have scored. Teale’s effort came after 70 minutes, as Lee got slightly wrong-footed, and backed off a little too much, allowing Teale space to fire a shot that did test Paul Robinson, who made the save.

Taarabt came on, and Steed switched to the right flank. Taarabt drew hearty cheers with his first touch, and just about everything he did afterwards, without actually producing much end product. He’s a great player to bring on late in the game, and it remains to be seen whether he can have an impact against more testing opposition. I am so glad that he and Routledge were involved though, as Spurs had more pace and penetration where it counted.

A striker finally got on the score-sheet for Spurs in the 80th minute, as Huddlestone’s high ball was headed to the 6 yard box, and Defoe and Bent battled for the touch to carry the ball over the line. Even the announcer took time and two replays to decide that it was Bent’s goal.

Thus Spurs lifted themselves into the top half of the embryonic league table. Of course they face a big test at Old Trafford next week. We must hope for more players to be available, especially Michael Dawson. We now have a series of games which will give us a true illustration of the potential of Martin Jol’s team. Personally, I hope that yesterday’s result was enough to secure his job, but a week is a long time in politics – and football!

· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
· Read the preview for this game.

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