BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 26TH OCTOBER, 2008
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (1) BOLTON WANDERERS 0 (0)
Bent (pen), 76
Referee: - Mr. A. Marriner
Attendance: - 35,507
Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Gomes; Hutton, Corluka, King (Capt.), Ekotto; Bentley, Huddlestone, Jenas, O’Hara (sub Lennon, 70); Modric; Pavlyuchenko (sub Bent, 66)
Subs not used: - Cesar; Gunter; Zokora, Giovani; Campbell
Bolton (4-5-1):- Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Cahill, O’Brien, Samuel; Davies, Nolan (Capt.), McCann, Muamba (sub Gardner, 84), Taylor; Elmander (sub Riga, 84)
Subs not used: - Al Habsi; Hunt, Shittu; Smolarek; Helguson
Booked: - Nolan, McCann, Jaaskelainen
Sent off: - McCann – 55 – second bookable offence
Just wild about Harry!
Spurs had a victorious finish to a dramatic week-end which had seen the sacking for Comolli, Ramos, Poyet and Alvarez, and the appointment of Harry Redknapp. Redknapp’s appointment was not formally confirmed until the morning of the game, but when interviewed around midnight on Sky Sports News, he was using the “we” word about he and Spurs, and was clearly already relishing the task ahead. It was, he said, a job he could not turn down.
Clive Allen had picked the team, but Harry met them in the morning and his pre-match and half-time team talk obviously had everything to do with the subtly different Spurs side playing with more confidence and desire throughout the 90 minutes of this must-win game.
Ledley King played his second game in four days – and, along with the rest of the back four, had a good game. Zokora was left on the bench and Tom Huddlestone played at the back of midfield with Jermaine Jenas, whilst David Bentley was recalled to play on the right. Harry described Bentley’s 17th minute cross for Pavlyuchenko’s goal as “Beckhamesque”, which it was, but I have to say I did not see a great deal else from Bentley, although he did play with more joy on his face. O’Hara played on the left of midfield, and perhaps the real key to Spurs success was the fact that Modric was played where he is best – in a free role behind the striker. Modric was my man of the match and had everything to do with a rousing second half team performance, and the pressure that led to the second and conclusive goal for Spurs.
Redknapp had been given a great reception by the crowd, and in no time at all was getting lauded with the “Harry Redknapp’s Blue and White Army” chant, and “Harry, Harry, give us a wave” – which was reciprocated.
Gary Megson’s Bolton had not come to play second fiddle, but did not offer stiff resistance, despite their 4-5-1 formation. In Megson’s team, Kevin Davies is played out on the right, where he was pretty ineffective today, whilst Swedish striker Johan Elmander offered a little threat in the middle. It says something about Davies really to say that right back Steinsson threatened the Spurs left flank more. Maybe Davies’ performance enabled Benoit Assou’ Ekotto’s exciting performance. Ekotto had one of his best games for Spurs, with stout defending, but some exciting excursions into the opponents’ half, which included excellent balls into the danger zone in the Bolton defence.
The game was played at a high tempo, and Gomes was being given options by runners for his thrown clearances. Huddlestone and Jenas seemed to alternate with forward runs, but both were concentrating on the back of midfield. Both full backs were getting forward and it was a lay-off by Hutton that gave O’Hara an early shot with his right foot, which was deflected over the bar. After 14 minutes, Jenas shared some good inter-play with Pavlyuchenko, allowing Jenas to get into a shooting position. Jenas’s effort was blocked but Modric was on hand too to support the move.
Spurs got the crucial early goal when Bentley sent in an excellent cross, and Pavlyuchenko was un-marked when he rose to meet the ball and head it into the corner right of Jaaskelainen. The goal was scored at the Paxton Road End, and I admit to being moved a little at the thought of being in the lead, shedding a little tear at the thought that my beloved Spurs were on their way back. There was plenty left to in the game of course, and plenty in the future, but it was a significant start.
Spurs were not immune to mix ups at the back though, and Gomes rarely managed to catch the ball, choosing to punch and flap inconsistently to say the least. After one such event mid-way through the half, Elmander hit a shot across the bows Former Pompey star Matty Taylor had a half chance too, with a driven shot that also passed wide. Gomes and Corluka provided a double save when Gomes saved a Bolton free kick, and then Corluka blocked Elmander’s follow-up.
At the other end, after a foul on Pavlyuchenko, Bentley took the free kick from the left side, and Jaaskelainen uncharacteristically fumbled, with Huddlestone close at hand unable to control his shot which went over. Modric, O’Hara and Huddlestone combined in a good move which ended with Hudd’s left foot shot going outside the keeper’s left post.
Bolton skipper Kevin Nolan got booked for a cynical foul on Jenas who was breaking well. Nolan was lucky not to get the O’Hara “second booking” treatment minutes later for another foul, but McCann got his first booking soon after.
After the break Steinsson made a powerful run to the edge of the Spurs area. His shot was blocked and Nolan’s follow-up ran wide. Then McCann got his second yellow and wave goodbye for a foul on Huddlestone, who seemed to be in considerable pain but was able to carry on. Huddlestone featured in an exchange of passes with Modric, who by this time was increasingly influential. Modric hit a shot from an angle which was held. Ekotto cut in and fed the ball to O’Hara, who spent time getting the ball onto his preferred left foot, but still fired over.
After a throw-in by Steinsson, Gomes patted the ball down poorly, and Nolan drove over from outside the box. Another weak Gomes pat down led to another Bolton effort going over – this one from former gooner Fabrice Muamba, whose antecedents had been unnoticed by the crowd. Pavlyuchenko, who had been hobbling, was replaced by Darren Bent, who just failed to reach an excellent centre by Ekotto. Then Bent received a great ball from Modric and hit a left foot shot that was tipped over the bar by the keeper. Bentley took a short corner and Modric hit the side netting with another shot.
Aaron Lennon replaced O’Hara, and played down the left. Lennon’s 20 minute session was very exciting, and brought more pressure to bear upon Bolton. With almost his first touch on the ball, Lennon got the ball from Huddlestone, jinked inside and out, then fired into the side netting.
Modric hit a powerful left foot shot which Jaaskelainen could only parry. Bent chased the ball to the bye-line, where the keeper tried to retrieve the ball with a foul. Referee Mr. Marriner awarded a penalty and showed yellow to Jaaskelainen. Darren Bent planted a powerful spot kick to the right of the keeper and Spurs were on their way to that much-awaited first league win of the season. Modric had another shot after an Ekotto cross, and Jenas had a powerful effort parried too.
The cheers resounded around The Lane as the final whistle was blown, and the mood had been lifted. Spurs are still bottom, but now have hope of recovery, despite facing Arsenal and Liverpool this week.
· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
· Read the preview for this game.
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