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Spurs v Everton, 30.11.08


Pienaar, 51

Referee: - Steve Bennett

Attendance: - 35,742

Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Corluka, Woodgate, King (Capt.), Ekotto (sub Bale, 67); Lennon, Huddlestone (sub Boateng, 75), Zokora, Bentley; Pavlyuchenko, Bent (sub Campbell, 61)

Subs not used: - Cesar; Gunter, Dawson; O’Hara

Booked: - Ekotto

Everton (4-4-1-1):- Howard; Neville (Capt.), Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott; Osman (sub Baines, 88), Fellaini, Arteta, Pienaar; Cahill; Yakubu (sub Saha, 10) (sub Anichebe, 70)

Subs not used: - Nash; Castillo, Rodwell, Gosling

Booked: - Pienaar (shirt off), Fellaini, Cahill

Cheated by the referee?

Amidst all the tension and frustration of watching Spurs try desperately and fail to equalise Steven Pienaar’s 51st minute goal, my over-riding emotion was one of anger at referee Steve Bennett. Mr. Bennett used to be one of my favourite officials, but yesterday I felt he gave one of the lamest refereeing performances I have seen all season. Throughout the game he had consistently INSISTED on every free kick being played to his command – i.e. to the whistle. Now, I know that it is up the defending team to be alert to the danger of a quick free kick, but inexplicably, Mr. Bennett allowed Mikel Arteta to slide a quick free kick to the left where Pienaar was un-marked and allowed a free shot on goal. Corluka got in the way, but only enough to deflect the shot past the helpless Gomes for what turned out to be the deciding goal.

Mr. Bennett’s other sins (in my opinion) were to let the visitors get away with their consistent fouling of attacking Spurs players, and leave it till late in the game before he showed an Everton player a card for their unsporting behaviour.

I know, it reads like sour grapes, doesn’t it? I do give credit to Everton for a good team performance; for winning the midfield battle (not difficult against our crew, I’m afraid), and from their point of view, speed of thought when taking that kick.

This was our first home defeat under the management of Harry Redknapp, who hopefully learnt some lessons about his chosen team today. Yes, I know we were missing Modric and Jenas (and how!), but Harry is mis-guided in his wholesale appreciation of Tom Huddlestone and David Bentley. We know that Huddlestone is the best passer at the club, but he was anonymous yesterday against the five man midfield which included the powerful Fellaini, the creator Arteta, and the dangerous Tim Cahill, supporting the one front man. Here, David Moyes has problems, as Yakubu had to be stretchered off after just 9 minutes, and is now out for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Yakubu’s replacement Saha, also had to be replaced due to a hamstring injury.

Everton can at least survey the lower half of the Premier League from a position of relative comfort after this win, whilst Spurs have been put back to earth with a thump. There is much work yet to be done to ensure our survival this season.

There were some good performances from our players. All the defence were secure, with Gomes the busier of the keepers in the first hour, and making plenty of saves. Corluka, Woodgate and a fit Ledley King would be the mainstays of the back four for the season, if possible. Ledley got man of the match for me (from a Spurs perspective), not only for his play, but for his second half inspiration of the team as he spent more and more time in the Everton half. I thought Pavlyuchenko was impressive up front, battling away and winning a fair amount of ball. With a little more luck he would have got on the score sheet, but that did not seem to be on the cards for his partner, Darren Bent, who was replaced by the enthusiastic Campbell.

At the end of the day, when you remember the teams were separated by a lucky goal, Spurs surely have not got to worry too much, have they?

It took a long time for the game to lift off, with Everton flooding the midfield, and easily repressing any attempt by Spurs to win the ball in that vital zone. Too often, the ball would keep coming straight back towards the Spurs defence. The first effort on goal came after a good ball out of defence by Woodgate, which reached Huddlestone, who hit a good shot outside the far post. Another lovely ball from defence found Bent, but he could not get enough control over the situation to shoot effectively.

Huddlestone was easily forced off the ball by Fellaini after 33 minutes, and his cross shot was held by Gomes. Fellaini then troubled Gomes again with two decent shots, the second of which was pushed out for a corner. Ekotto sent in a good cross from the left after 40 minutes, and Pavlyuchenko either dummied or missed intentionally, allowing the ball to run to Bent, who hit a tame shot at Tim Howard. Saha then forced a good save at close range from his downward header after a ball from the left. Spurs broke out, and Lennon raced away down the right side, hitting a shot that whizzed across the goal but wide.

Spurs increased their efforts after the break, and after determined play from right to left, Pavlyuchenko teed up Ekotto for a shot that went just outside the target. Then came the goal, and for his celebrations, Pienaar did see yellow, but the strong contingent of Evertonians didn’t care as they were on their way to their third successive win at a ground they used to dread.

Bentley won a free kick right on the edge of the box, and after the free kick sent good ball to Pavlyuchenko who sadly skied his effort on goal. Pienaar then had another effort on goal from 25 yards, which Gomes could only parry. Bent was replaced by Campbell, whose enthusiasm is sadly not matched by his application, whilst Ekotto was replaced by Bale. Lennon was less effective in the second half as he was asked to play on the left, whilst Bentley was given the right flank.

As time wore on, Spurs pressed more and more, with both Corluka and King getting forward. Sadly, the more Spurs tried, the more they also panicked, and despite 6 minutes of added time, it just did not quite happen for us. Bentley did offer great skill in a move on 72 minutes, with Campbell assisting him. The ball was sent to the near post where Pavlyuchenko met it, but did not get enough strength on the shot, which Howard saved.

With 10 minutes to go, Zokora brought the ball out of defence at speed, and sent Lennon away for a decent run inside. Pavlyuchenko received another good pass, but his shot was deflected for a corner. Campbell was not strong enough to hold off Fellaini who stole the ball off his feet, and sent Anichebe away for a shot across Gomes that nearly doubled the lead. In that period of added time, substitute Boateng was involved in a move that ended via Lennon with a Campbell shot being saved. It was just not going to happen for Spurs on this occasion, who have to wait now till next Monday for their next League action at Upton Park.

Next up though is the trip to Watford, where the reward would be another Carling Cup semi-final!

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