BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 4TH APRIL, 2009
BLACKBURN ROVERS 2 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1)
Keane (pen), 30
Referee: - Mr. P. Walton
Attendance: - 21,891
Blackburn (4-4-2):- Robinson; Andrews, Samba, Nelsen (Capt.), Givet; Diouf, Mokoena (sub Tugay, 63), Warnock, Pedersen (sub Dunn, 26); McCarthy, Roberts (sub Ooijer, 46)
Subs not used: - Brown; Villanueva, Treacy, Olsson
Booked: - Samba
Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Gomes; Corluka, Woodgate, King, Ekotto; Lennon (sub Zokora, 83), Palacios, Jenas, Modric; Keane (Capt.); Bent
Subs not used: - Cudicini; Chimbonda, Dawson; Huddlestone, Bentley; Pavlyuchenko
Booked: - Palacios
Sent off: - Palacios, 80 (Second yellow)
Giving it all away
After following up their superb recent six-match form with a first half controlling performance and a deserved lead, Spurs contrived to live up to the old expectations of giving the game away. It all went wrong after Spurs best player Wilson Palacios was sent off for a second bookable offence. Within minutes, Rovers took advantage of the shortage when Benny McCarthy scored from close range after Samba’s head down. Then, with little over a minute to go, Spurs were in total disarray, as they failed to defend a corner and the ball landed at the feet of Andre Ooijer, who could not miss from a yard out, with no Spurs man near him. Aspirations of making that seventh place look ultra-optimistic now.
Harry Redknapp was able to field an unchanged team from that which had conquered Chelsea two weeks ago. The only subtle change was that Palacios played on the right of Jenas in the centre of midfield. Skipper Robbie Keane played in support of Darren Bent. Blackburn had one or two key players missing, such as striker Roque Santa Cruz, and Sam Allardyce played midfielder Keith Andrews at right back, with full back Warnock playing in the middle next to Mokoena. I usually feel that Spurs have a chance against Rovers when Mokoena plays, but as he went off during the second half, that theory went to pot. Ultimately, Allardyce’s half-time insertion of defender Ooijer for Roberts at the break, pushing Samba up front was to prove very successful. With the bottom three losing, this was a very big result for Blackburn, who are five points clear of Newcastle.
The game was rarely exciting, and with Spurs playing a holding game initially, finding the feel of their opponents, it took a while before there was any decent chance on either goal. Incidentally, Paul Robinson in the Blackburn goal played in front of the Spurs fans in the first half and received an astounding ovation. The first chance fell to “Gobber” Diouf, recently bought from Sunderland, who met a long ball from the left, but headed it outside the back post, with Gomes not convincing.
Spurs got going two minutes later, and Darren Bent won a header, sending Keano away down the left channel, winning corner. This was taken by Modric, and glanced wide of the back post by Ledley King. Lennon was fiercely fouled after 17 minutes, and the referee fairly allowed play to continue, as Spurs did have an advantage. It was Palacios’s ball that found Bent who brought out a terrific save from Robbo, palming the ball wide for a corner. A feature of Palacios’s play today was not only his Keane and effective tackling and defending, but clever and skilful distribution of the ball. In fact, Spurs football and passing was quite exquisite at times in the first half, but as usual they failed to go for the throat when they could.
After 21 minutes, Blackburn had another effort on goal, after a throw down the left. It was Jenas who blocked a goal-bound effort. Pedersen got an early injury and was replaced by David Dunn. From a goal kick in the 28th minute, Spurs played skilfully from back to front, through Palacios and Keane. Keane sent the ball to the advancing Corluka, who had got ahead of Lennon. Corluka chose to shoot with people available in the middle, but hit the side netting. Lennon was not getting too much service, and as a result did not have his usual influence on Spurs game. Modric was being closely marked too.
Much to the distain of the home crowd, Spurs were awarded a penalty when left Givet handled a Lennon cross inside the area. Lennon was some 8 yards away, and to suggest it was ball to hand was surely hopeful on the part of the home fans and management. After some delay, Robbie Keane fired home a superb penalty right into Robinson’s right corner. The keeper went the right way, but no-one could stop this well placed shot. Thus Robbie Keane drew level with Glenn Hoddle in the list of all-time Spurs scorers in all competitions on 110 goals.
Andrews did well to keep Modric at bay as he threatened to shoot from 6 yards, after good work by Darren Bent. Bent had an on-target shot blocked after a Modric corner just before the break, and Woodgate also headed wide from another corner. Spurs looked comfortable at the break, but one goal is never enough, is it?
Samba had an influence from the start of the second half when he headed down to Diouf, who fired over. Spurs had a couple of threatening crosses, but had little to show for their brief glimpses of second half skill. Paul Robinson was not tested in this spell. Diouf crossed from the right and McCarthy managed to fire wide from a good position. Then Palacios got two yellow cards in quick succession for similar fouls. On the second occasion, he appeared to try and withdraw from his full-body challenge. In some circumstances, I have seen referees have words when such an incident occurs so soon after a booking. Mr Walton got his yellow and red cards out without hesitation. On the other hand, Harry Redknapp hesitated to deal with the loss of Palacios. Initially, he asked Keane to fall back to the midfield, but after Rovers equalised, Harry finally brought on Zokora to try and plug the gap in the middle, sacrificing Lennon.
However, Blackburn had already levelled after a corner, when Samba touched the ball to McCarthy who finished from close range. From hereon in, Spurs were on the rack, as Rovers showed the extra desire, and of course took advantage of their one-man supremacy. McCarthy returned the compliment to Samba, whose shot was excellently saved by Gomes, but then Jenas missed an attempted clearance as the ball came in from the right, and Warnock’s shot was also saved. Spurs failed to defend this corner, as the defence seemed to be sucked to the near post, and the ball plopped at the feet of Ooijer, who almost had time to repair divots before scoring from a whole yard out.
So it was unexpected ecstasy for the home fans, while the Spurs contingent reminded themselves how to trudge off in dismay and bewilderment.
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