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Spurs v Reading, 29.12.07

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 29TH DECEMBER, 2007
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 6 (1) READING 4 (1)

Spurs scorers:-
Berbatov, 7,63, 72. 83
Malbranque, 75
Defoe, 78

Reading scorers:-
Cisse, 16
Ingimarsson, 53
Kitson, 69, 74

Referee: - Mr. K. Stroud

Attendance: - 36,178

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda, Kaboul, King (Capt) (sub Defoe, 60), Lee; Lennon (sub Boateng, 67), Jenas, Huddlestone, Malbranque; Berbatov, Keane (sub Tainio, 79)
(Armband to Keane, then Robinson)

Subs not used: - Cerny; Taarabt

No Bookings

Reading (4-4-2):- Hahnemann; Murty (Capt.) (sub de la Cruz, 70), Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey; Hunt, Harper, Cisse, Convey (sub Long, 83); Doyle, Kitson

Subs not used: - Federici; Bikey; Lita

Booked: - Cisse, Shorey, Long

Berba King of Goal Feast!

Where do you begin to give an account of one of the most incredible games of football ever seen at White Hart Lane? When it was 1-1 after a relatively quiet first half there was no inkling whatsoever of what was to follow. Four-goal man of the match Dimitar Berbatov had given Spurs an early lead, but then had to score three more goals, as Spurs fell behind three times, finally committing Reading to a 6-4 defeat. Thus Reading scored four goals away from home for the second time this season, and lost both games! The other occasion was their 7-4 defeat in September at Portsmouth. Reading remain the last team to concede a league goal at Fratton Park.

There are several potential stores of the day. Firstly, I believe it is the first ten-goal game that Spurs have had at White Hart Lane since the famous 5-5 draw in 1966 against Aston Villa. (The last 10 goal game was the horrible 2-8 defeat at Derby in 1976)Secondly, it is the first time a Spurs player has scored 4 in a game since Jurgen Klinsmann’s 4 goals in the 6-2 win away to Wimbledon in 1998. Thirdly, the Kitson family will be happy, because they are Spurs fans, and Reading striker Dave scored two of Reading’s goals. He, of course will have mixed feelings!

Finally, and not least of all, was the decision by Juande Ramos to replace skipper Ledley King after 60 minutes with striker Jermain Defoe. Spurs had gone 2-1 down at this stage, and the aim was obviously to take the game by storm. The change was a big gamble, because it left us with a frail back three of Chimbonda, Kaboul, and Lee. After Defoe created Berbatov’s 63rd minute equaliser, there was a ten minute period between the 69th and 78th minutes, where each team seemed to score at will and five goals were added to the tally. Only when Spurs did go 5-4 up did Ramos shore up his defence with Tainio replacing Keane, and once again utilising a back four.

With these words alone, I can never hope to convey to you the events of this extraordinary game, and I can only hope that you have seen, or will manage to see some highlights of the game.

The only change for Spurs after Wednesday’s 6 goal bonanza was the return of Jermaine Jenas for Jamie O’Hara, who got a well-deserved rest today. Spurs started off brightly with Lee actually testing Hahnemann after two minutes with a low shot to the right hand post, after an exchange with Keane. Keane, Malbranque and Berbatov were to the fore in the Spurs creativity stakes, and the lead was taken as early as the 7th minute, when Malbranque threaded the ball down the inside right channel to Keane, who crossed inside for Berbatov to make an easy finish for just his fifth league goal of the season. Three more were to be added during the afternoon!

Spurs games this season have featured more goals than any other Premier League team, and that trend was certainly not going to change today. Once again, Spurs showed their defensive frailty, even with King in the team, as they surrendered their lead within ten minutes. Paul Robinson (unusually) committed himself to come well off his line to attempt to take a Shorey free kick. Failing to catch the ball, Robbo punched the ball down quite weakly to the feet of Kalifa Cisse, who gratefully accepted the offering and fired low into the net from mid-range. Soon after this Robbo resorted to pushing out a Stephen Hunt cross for a corner.

After 33 minutes, Aaron Lennon was penalised on the edge of the box and Shorey’s free kick went just over the bar, landing on top of the net. The Spurs goal looked fragile, but Robbie Keane missed a great chance to get a lead back in the last minute of the first half. Kaboul sent the ball down the line and Ingimarsson failed to clear, with the ball slipping through his feet to Berbatov on the right side. Berbatov beat the defence with a low cross that Keane should have touched in, but instead he saw the ball pass safely past the goalmouth.

Four minutes after the break, Chimbonda showed strength to win a header from a Huddlestone free kick, sending the ball towards Keane, who could not quite get a shot on the turn. Chimbonda then combined with Lennon, who tried a shot from 20 yards that was well held by Hahnemann. Chimbonda got a foot in the way of Kitson’s shot at the other end to concede a corner, but sadly from the corner Ingimarsson was able to head home to give the visitors the lead. I noticed that Reading tended to pack players within the Spurs six-yard area, and that Spurs struggled to deal with the intensity of this presence.

There was some quite desperate defending needed by Spurs in no time, as Robbo came out to smother a shot following a deflected shot from close range. Now came the bold replacement of King with Defoe, but again it was Spurs doing the defending first, as Robinson managed to pat away Hunt’s shot.

Defoe soon had an effect, as he raced onto Robinson’s long clearance in the 63rd minute. Defoe’s cross from the right was only half cleared and Berbatov was there to fire home from 8 yards. 2-2! Defoe next teed up Huddlestone, but his shot was held. Lennon was replaced by Boateng and Spurs fell behind – not for the first and not for the last time – as Spurs fan Kitson met a corner at the near post with a good glancing header.

Back came Spurs, winning two corners in succession. Jenas took both. The first was short, but the second went deep over the defence. Chimbonda headed the ball back and Berbatov used strength and guile to hold off his defender, and a cheeky delicate touch to hit the net with a low shot – again from quite short range. 3-3!

Now it truly was ping-pong football, as Reading broke down the right channel through Hunt, who pierced the Spurs defence with a good ball to the left for Kitson to beat Robinson for his second and a 4-3 lead. Back came Spurs, as Malbranque picked up a Huddlestone pass, cut inside to the right and hit a terrific shot across Hahnemann for 4-4. Within three minutes, Spurs had taken the lead, thanks to another good ball by Huddlestone into the box, where Keane was blatantly brought down as he was about to shoot, and whilst there was no punishing card from the referee for the offender, the penalty was awarded.

For the second time in a week, Keane stepped up to the mark, but saw his penalty saved. This time, Defoe was on hand to dive at full stretch and head the ball home for an amazing 5-4 lead. Five minutes later it really was all over as Berbatov latched onto Kaboul’s long ball and hit a great shot from about 15 yards. There was still time for Defoe to have a cracking shot well saved by Hahnemann, but Spurs preserved their lead this time, and leap-frogged Reading into 12th place.

Quite naturally, Berbatov was quick to stuff the match ball up his shirt. In one stroke the Spurs star has lifted himself up the Premier League score ratings, and is now only two behind 2007 top scorer Robbie Keane.

Remembering our historic 1st October 4-4 draw at The Lane, our New Year’s Day match at Villa Park looks very interesting indeed! I’ll be there, but first I wish you all a Happy, healthy and prosperous new year. May Spurs be great in 2008!

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

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