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Spurs v Middlesbrough, 26.09.07
Carling Cup, Rd 3

CARLING CUP ROUND THREE
WEDNESDAY 26TH SEPTEMBER, 2007
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (0) MIDDLESBROUGH 0 (0)

Scorers:-
Bale, 72
Huddlestone, 75

Attendance: - 32,280

Referee: - Mr. K. Stroud

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson (Capt.); Chimbonda, Dawson, Kaboul, Bale; Lennon, Huddlestone, Jenas (sub Zokora, 69), Tainio; Defoe (sub Keane, 69), Berbatov

Subs not used: - Cerny; Rocha; Bent

Booked: - Dawson, Tainio

Middlesbrough (4-5-1):- Jones; Young (sub Davies, 79), Riggott, Wheater, Taylor; Boateng (Capt.), Cattermole, Shawky (sub Craddock, 46), Rochemback (sub Owens, 75), Downing; Dong-Gook Lee

Subs not used: - Schwarzer; Hutchinson

Booked: - Rochemback, Cattermole

Despite fielding a team which included three players most of us would have liked to have seen at Bolton (Defoe, Lennon, Bale), Martin Jol had to wait until 20 minutes before the end before the crucial breakthrough against a young and inexperienced Boro side came. The current darling of the home crowd, Jermain Defoe had been withdrawn in favour of Robbie Keane, to the sound of boos ringing in Jol’s ears. Jol was to have the last laugh though, as within minutes, Keane’s excellent work near the touchline in his own half led to the move where he found the advancing Bale, who rounded goalkeeper Brad Jones to put Spurs in the lead. Thus Bale, playing his first official game for Spurs at left back, became the club’s top goal-scorer so far, with three in just five appearances.

Boro were missing some big names. Some were out through injury such as Mido, Aliadiere, Huth and Woodgate, but others were rested anyway, such as first choice keeper Mark Schwarzer. There were a few familiar names such as our former right back, Luke Young, greeted with good cheers, Chris Riggott, Stewart Downing and Fabio Rochemback, who became a target of the Spurs fans after his booking for a bit of “afters” on Tom Huddlestone late in the first half, after a Huddlestone challenge. George Boateng skippered the visitors, but there was no sign of our own Kevin-Prince Boateng in the Spurs 16.

Spurs got off to a bright start, with Boro packing the midfield, leaving striker Dong-Gook Lee to try his luck alone against the likes of Dawson and the sharp Kaboul. Despite all their possession, they often failed to make best use of the ball, but it was Brad Jones who had to make several key saves, as he defended the Paxton Road goal in the first half. Bale took an early free kick after a foul on Defoe, and when the ball rebounded off the wall, the left back tried again, seeing his shot deflected outside for a corner. During this early pressure, Boro had to defend two quick corners, and first Tainio (blocked) then Kaboul (over) had efforts on goal.

Robinson had to make a save from Rochemback’s shot from outside the area, but as happens all too often, could not hold the ball, conceding a corner from which Cattermole’s effort was blocked. Jenas had a golden chance after 8 minutes, when Defoe received the ball from the left, and put the midfielder in with a great chance with his clever ball. Jenas, with the goal beckoning mis-kicked wide.

Jones saved well from Defoe three minutes later, after Berbatov and Tainio combined, then Lennon won a corner which was cleared. Lennon was playing on the right, but was to be found down the right channel a lot of the time, rather than on the flank. After 14 minutes, Berbatov was fouled on the left, and Huddlestone floated the kick which was back headed by Dawson just outside the post. Bale was impressing as a left back, making good attacking runs. From one of these, when he left Boateng trailing, Gareth got into a shooting position, but could only use his right foot, hitting the ball across the goal-mouth.

Mid-way through the half, Bale took the free kick for a foul on Jenas, and Kaboul got up to head it, which was cleared. A Berbatov header released Defoe whose effort was cleared for a corner, taken by Jenas, from which, with his second touch Berbatov hit a good shot just outside the post. It seemed a matter of time before Spurs would score, but of course it took too long in the end.

Berbatov flicked the ball to Defoe on the right side, before Jermain chipped a short cross which fell to the wrong man really, as Tainio’s attempted header was easy for Jones to hold. After 36 minutes, Spurs had their best effort to date. Huddlestone found Lennon, whose cross was met by the head of Defoe, only to see Jones get a touch to push the ball onto the bar. As half-time approached Boro came close to scoring following a free kick conceded by Dawson (for which he was booked) Riggott had a great chance at the back post, but fired over.

Gareth Southgate made a half-time change, switching Craddock for Shawky, and to their credit, the visitors started the half as if they meant business and sensed they could get something out of the game. Craddock had an attempt over the bar as Spurs failed to clear a corner five minutes into the half. After 55 minutes, Jenas was fouled and Bale stepped up to the now regular chants of “Bale, Bale!” Jones saved the kick, and Defoe was on hand to sweep up, but the flag had already been raised against him.

Spurs were denied a penalty appeal when Wheater appeared to bring down Lennon as he ran onto Tainio’s pass, and after 65 minutes, Jones was in the right place again to save Defoe’s header from Chimbonda’s deep cross. Berbatov had a similar chance which was put wide. It was time for Jol to make his changes, which proved unpopular for the crowd in the case of Defoe’s withdrawal (and Defoe had trouble controlling his anger), but after just three minutes on the field, Keane collected a clearance from the left side near the touchline, left Young standing, then found Bale who was haring into the Middlesbrough half with Lennon just in front of him. Either the linesman didn’t spot it, or he just did not consider that Lennon interfered with play, as it was Bale who received Keane’s ball, rounded Jones, and finished off from a sharp angle. Southgate wasn’t happy, but Jol was, and within another three minutes, he was even happier, as now Lennon became the provider for Tom Huddlestone, as Hudd headed home Aaron’s cross from the right. Lennon had collected the ball from a Robinson clearance too.

The game was won then, and in additional time, Zokora missed a chance with virtually an open goal in front of him, and Middlesbrough’s Wheater headed wide, missing the chance of a consolation.

I know that this was the second and last season ticket voucher game, but it was refreshing to see White Hart Lane so full (only 400 Boro fans made the trip), compared to some of the empty stands seen at Ewood Park, and Craven Cottage to name just two other venues on this night. The draw for the next round will be made on Saturday lunch-time.

· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
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