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Spurs v Celtic - 01.08.08

(at Feyenoord stadium)

Bent, 25
Bentley, 80

Referee and crowd details not known

Spurs (4-3-1-2):- Gomes; Zokora (sub Gunter, 82), Dawson, Woodgate (sub Bale, 46), Ekotto; Lennon (sub Bentley, 46), Huddlestone (sub King, 62), Jenas (Capt.); Modric (sub O’Hara, 83); Bent, Berbatov
Note, when Ledley King replaced Tom Huddlestone, Jermaine Jenas did not surrender the armband.

Subs not used: - Jansson; Gilberto

No Bookings

Celtic (4-4-2):- Boruc; Hinkel, Caldwell, Mcmanus (sub O’Dea, 46), Wilson (sub Naylor, 61); Robson (sub Caddis, 56), S. Brown, Hartley (sub Donati, 73), McGeady; Jan Vennegor of Hesselink (Capt.) (sub Samaras, 61), McDonald
Armband to Hartley

Subs not used: - M. Brown; Balde

B-men star, but this is no “B” Team!

The significant stories in the first game of the Feyenoord Tournament were of Spurs B-men. Firstly, Dimitar Berbatov made a surprising appearance in view of all the transfer speculation surrounding him, and of course his attitude displayed at Leyton Orient this week, and in Spain, when he has well and truly lived up to his sulking reputation. Berbatov played next to sharp-shooter Darren Bent, scorer of 7 goals already this week, and tonight getting his eighth, not only because of a gifted back-pass, but also some great finishing. Then there were the second half appearances and performances of Gareth Bale and debut boy David Bentley, whose “dream transfer” was enhanced by a debut goal, following which the travelling fans were treated to a “kissing the badge” routine, which actually did look sincere.

Despite the tailoring of this tournament which also features the hosts and Borussia Dortmund, who Spurs play on Sunday, this was a low-key friendly, with very few first half incidents of note. It was however Spurs who were playing all the football, with Celtic (more advanced in their pre-season) looking un-compromising at times through the close attention given to Spurs’ ball players, and some tough tackles from the likes of Robson, Scott Brown and Mcmanus. Gordon Strachan has had a busy week, and only has 17 men to pick from, so he says. Well, Mcmanus didn’t come out for the second half, due to injury, and could be missed when the SPL starts in 8 days time.

It was Spurs, not Celtic who looked more like a Champions League team. Juande Ramos improvised a bit, with Didier Zokora playing at right back (mistaken once for Ekotto by the Sky commentator), and doing a good job, as he did across the back four last season, when called upon. Zokora’s tackling was as sharp as ever, his runs as fast and penetrative as usual, but his delivery generally as poor too! Ekotto at left back is having a good pre-season, and remained at left back when Gareth Bale came on after the break.

Whilst Celtic played a traditional 4-4-2, the Spurs midfield was far more flexible, although they did have trouble actually winning the ball for the first part of the game. This may be because Huddlestone had that task chiefly, with Lennon on the right, Jenas getting forward, and Modric given the freedom of the park. In the second half, Spurs were more in control, partly due to Jenas getting the ball-winning responsibility.

Berbatov did not look dis-interested but was not at his best, often giving non-verbal signs of disapproval with himself more than team-mates for a change. Darren Bent looked very sharp, but occasionally fell short on the skill front when a pass was on. There was plenty of running from all those wearing the all sky blue away strip of Spurs though.

Spurs had a chance as early as after 2 minutes, when Lennon got to the bye-line, passed back to Bent who crossed from the right of the area, met by a Jenas header that might have tested Boruc more severely. Woodgate was strong in defence and did enough to prevent Jan Vennegor of Hesselink from converting McGeady’s cross. McGeady on the left wing was Celtic’s biggest flair player, but Celtic were giving no quarter physically.

After 22 minutes, after a period of Celtic possession and a cross from the right, McGeady was well blocked by Zokora, to concede a corner. Spurs took the lead in the 25th minute, when Jenas gave Hartley enough pressure to make him pass back, but Bent latched onto the pass sharply, put the ball round the diving keeper, then finished very well from a tight angle on the right of the area. The only other event of note in that first half came three minutes before the break, when Modric led the break out of defence, fed the ball ahead to Berbatov on the right near the touchline, then received the forward ball from the Bulgarian. Modric then threaded the ball for Bent, whose shot was saved by the advancing keeper.

In the first half, Spurs had been concentrating upon keeping possession and played more short passes. They say Modric doesn’t make long passes, but I did see one useful lobbed pass that just exceeded that distance to Bent. In the second half, with Bale and Bentley installed (Bentley came inside more than Bale), there were more long balls over the defence, and most of them were testing too. Bale looks as fit as he did before his injury, and Bentley (dare I say this) looks capable of Hoddlesque passing.

Early in the second half, Bent showed strength and pace to win the ball near the half-way line and to spread it to Bentley, who made a good long pass to Berbatov, where the move broke down. After 51 minutes, Berbatov received a low ball from the right across the edge of the area, and hit a skilful back-heeled flick into the path of Modric, who was blocked. Berbatov often had three or more defenders around him.

Bentley hit a great long ball down the middle which Bent collected. Darren then worked the ball onto his left foot for an attempted curler that the keeper dived to and held. Several substitutions followed, and significantly (?) Jenas did not hand over the armband to Ledley King when he replaced Tom Huddlestone, who had fallen back to the defence at the start of the half. Maybe I read too much into that, and Jenas was just over-possessive! Ledley made a significant block inside the Celtic half, following some good play by Spurs. Bale picked up the ball, and after good run hit a cross that passed over the area. Such play followed when Modric found Bentley on the right side of the area. Bentley’s cross was just too high for Gareth Bale. Another excellent cross from Bentley (this one from the bye-line) was met by Bent, who headed to the goal-keeper.

Spurs took a deserved two goal lead after good work by Bale whose ball towards Berbatov fell to the feet of Bentley after a mix-up between Boruc and Naylor. It was an easy first Spurs goal for Bentley, but a memorable moment for him, as he presented himself to his new fans.

Celtic came to life too late in the game, and their only meaningful attempt on goal came from a Brown shot which was blocked.

Giovani Dos Santos was rested for this game, but was seen on the bench. The word is that Alan Hutton is injured, but hopefully not for as long as first thought. The commentators were fairly drooling over this Spurs performance, and there is plenty of promise for the new season, despite the departure of Keane, and the doubt about Berbatov’s future. Maybe he is staying now – at least till January – but as I have written elsewhere, I feel confident the club will sign an adequate replacement if necessary, and of course there are still rumoured signings to be made!

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