BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 3RD MAY, 2008
READING 0 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1)
Referee: - Howard Webb
Attendance: - 24,125
Reading (4-4-2):- Hahnemann; Rosenior (sub Oster, 87), Duberry, Ingimarsson (Capt.), Shorey; Doyle (sub Long, 79), Harper, Bikey (sub Matejovsky, 64), Hunt; Kitson, Lita
Subs not used: - Federici; Cisse
Spurs (4-3-1-2):- Cerny; Hutton, Dawson, Woodgate, Gilberto; Huddlestone (sub O’Hara, 60), Zokora, Malbranque; Jenas; Bent, Keane (Capt.) (sub Boateng, 76)
(Armband to Jenas)
Subs not used: - Robinson; Chimbonda; Taarabt
Keane puts Reading in the mire
Spurs won only their third away league game of the season with a 16th minute Robbie Keane goal that put Reading in the mire for the final week of the Premier League season. Keane’s goal brought an end to his own 6-match barren run, and also to Spurs’ 4-match draw sequence. Spurs were playing in their all yellow third strip for the third consecutive away match, and this was their first league win in those colours this season.
Forced somewhat by circumstance with Lennon absent through a knee injury, Juande Ramos changed the style and personnel. Berbatov was also absent with a groin strain, so Darren Bent got a rare start beside skipper Robbie Keane. Ramos started with a three man midfield of Huddlestone, Zokora and Malbranque behind Jenas, and later in the game, Keane also fell back to assist Jenas behind Bent.
Steve Coppell tried to stem Spurs creativity by playing Bikey at the back of his midfield, pushing Harper further forward with Doyle probing down the right wing to try and supply Kitson and Lita. Unfortunately for Reading and Doyle, they found Spurs left back Gilberto in excellent form, playing clearly his best game of the season, and in my view just about winning Spurs man of the match acclaim, although of course the scorer will take most plaudits.
It has been hard to assess just what has led to Reading’s demise this season, but local fans would tell you they have been missing the guile and creativity of former Burnley star Glen Little who has only managed two 20-minute appearances in recent weeks and all this season. Of course, the Royals have also missed midfielder Steve Sidwell, drawn by the filthy lucre to Chelsea, where he has hardly figured all season.
Spurs dominated early possession and chances, with Darren Bent heading over an early Keane cross, and then receiving a good ball from Keane as he got into the box on the left side. Bent’s shot was blocked. Keane then had a skilful exchange with Huddlestone, who got to the bye line to pull the ball back for Keane who also had a shot blocked. The lead was no surprise and also deserved. Jenas passed to Keane who flicked the ball in Bent’s direction as he fell under a challenge. The referee played on and Bent returned the ball to the advancing Keane who had entered the area before hitting a right footed shot across Hahnemann into the far corner.
Lita nearly got the home side on level terms immediately, receiving Kitson’s ball just outside the far post, but thankfully for Spurs putting his effort wide. Malbranque was then fouled outside the Reading area, and Robbie Keane took the free kick. Hahnemann made a great diving save to his left to push the ball away for a throw. Only 22 minutes had gone, and Spurs were still playing most of the football. Keane dazzled with a run through the middle jinking left and right, passed to Malbranque who put the ball in the net but was ruled offside. Replays have shown the goal should have stood.
Keane had another shot blocked four minutes before the break, with Bent and Malbranque involved in Robbie’s advance into a shooting position. After the break, Keane teed up Malbranque who was beyond the far post but still should have scored in front of the away stand. Spurs demonstrated great skill with some intricate football started by Bent who won a challenge against Ingimarsson. The move then involved Malbranque, Keane and Jenas before Huddlestone’s shot was blocked.
A poor Cerny throw led to the ball coming straight back to him through a shot by Bikey of all people. A corner resulted but this chance was wasted by Reading. Huddlestone was replaced by Jamie O’Hara, who took up the left midfield position. The Reading number 22 (Bikey) was replaced by the more skilful Matejovsky, who almost immediately had a chance that went just outside the post.
All of the Spurs defence were on top of their game, but Gilberto was coming to the fore not just with his ball-winning, but with the confidence to play a bit and pass accurately. One such moment came after 74 minutes, when he sent Bent away down the left channel. Bent hit a good shot that beat the keeper, but hit the inside of the post and rolled across the goalmouth at speed. Keane was replaced by Boateng, to great acclaim, and it looked like Spurs were intent to shore things up and resist the anticipated tide of desperate Reading attacks. It wasn’t quite like that, but the home side did give Cerny a bit of work in the closing stages. Ingimarsson hit a shot that was held, and then Cerny made a good save from Kitson, before making the best save of the match with a dive to the left to deprive Rosenior.
Spurs might have wrapped it up in added time when Bent headed to Jenas, who wasted his chance.
It was a richly deserved win for Spurs, who managed to surpass their worst ever Premiership points tally in the process. There is still a chance they could extend that total AND yet overtake West ham next week. Now that would be a good end to the season! As for Reading, their saving grace could be the fact they play at Derby next Sunday, but having dropped into the bottom three at the wrong time, they are no longer in control of their destiny.
· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
· Read the preview for this game.
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