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Hercules v Spurs - 24.07.08

Many thanks to Spurs Odyssey member Mark Ackerman for this eye-witness report on Thursday's Friendly:-

Friendly Fixture
Thursday 24th July, 2008
Hercules CF 1 (1) Tottenham Hotspur 1 (1)
GROUND: Jose Rico Pereze Stadium, Alicante, Spain

Hercules scorer:-
Addison

Spurs scorer:-
Bent

ATTENDANCE: Not known, estimate 2-3000
REFEREE: Sr. Lizondo Cotes

Teams:

Hercules (4-4-2) Alba;Carril,Sergio F (capt), Camara,Javi Gonzalez (sub Raul 86); Sendoa, Paz, Exposito;Moran (sub Luisao 62),Addison (sub Kiko 81).

Substitutes on on 45: Santacruz, Dani Bautista, Farinos,Ruz, Rodri, Sergio Diaz, Ceasar.

Players off on 45: Carrill, Sergio F, Camara, Sendoa, Paz, Exposito, Calero.

Booked: Javi Gonzalez, Carrill.

Spurs (4-3-3) Gomes; Gunter,Dawson,Woodgate(sub Zokora 62), Ekotto (sub O´Hara 62); Lennon (sub Bostock 81), Jenas (sub Townsend 81), Huddlestone; Berbatov, Bent, Dos Santos.

Booked: Huddlestone, Woodgate, Lennon.

Hercules CF finished sixth in Spain´s second division last season and will be pushing for promotion this time round so they presented a clear step-up from Tottenham´s two previous Spanish friendlies where 12 goals were scored and only two conceded against weaker opposition.

This was never going to be that easy but the Spurs´players and management were smiling and relaxed pitch-side before kick-off. Robbie Keane seemed in especially good humour as did Ledley King who sat the game out alongside Modric and Bale. (No doubt you have all by now seen the pictures of Robbie and Ledley in the dug-out - available here http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=49911&l=226e4&id=740474746 - Courtesy of Mark Langton)

Ramos was playing an attacking 4-3-3 formation with Bent leading the line ahead of Berbs and Dos Santos on the left. Berbatov actually looked up for it from the start and made a great run after only three minutes then tried to put Bent in on goal, but the ball was cleared.

The Spurs defence, though, seemed nervous early on and unsure of who was picking up who. Gomes, picking up on the hesitancy, gave the ball away under pressure and had to make a hurried clearance for a throw. He caught the subsequent cross at the second attempt.

The sluggish Tottenham start led to Hercules taking the lead on six minutes. A quick midfield break led to a cross from Javi Gonzalez. Adisson met it on his shoulder but somehow the ball looped over Gomes´ outstretched right hand and into the net for 1-0.

Spurs were rocking and a minute later Gomes had to dive to push away a shot which was going in to his left. Spurs had their first serious attempt on eight minutes when Ekotto made a great run down the left, passed to Dos Santos who played the ball on to Berbatov before Huddlestone shot wide. Unfortunately, this didnt lift Tottenham and it was looking like 2-0 to Hercules on nine minutes when Ekotto underpowered a clearing header, Woodgate tried to boot the ball away but only stepped on it conceding posession.In came a dangerous Hercules cross which only just failed to connect with their onrushing forwards.

The defence was still all at sea and Hercules looked dangerous every time they broke. Then Daws produced one of his pin-point cross-field balls straight to Bent who brought it down and shot just wide and then headed over from a Huddlestone cross.

On the half hour Berbs teed up Huddlestone for a great left-foot shot which Alba did well to push out. The ball came back off Bent and hit the post but the Spurs´ man was ruled offside anyway. Then came a good spell of Spurs play which led to the equaliser.Lennon did Dani Carrill for speed and was chopped to the ground. The free kick from Hudd was cleared for a corner, taken by the lively Dos Santos. Dawson´s header was then cleared for another corner, this time taken by Lennon and it was Tottenham´s turn to score with a looping header on 35 minutes from Bent who went up with Woodgate and confused the Hercules defence.

Then the game got as hot as the weather. Dos Santos was brought down just outside the box and Dawson confronted Carrill, who´d just been booked and should have been off. Agricultural tackles were now flying in from every direction from the home side as Spurs at last showed their class and upped the pace.

Hercules were less of an attacking force now but there was still time for Hudd to get booked for a foul on Moran as he broke from midfield.

Hercules made seven changes at the start of the second half with Spurs unchanged.

The substitutions seemed to lift the home side with the goalscorer Adisson continuing to be nuisance and Woody was booked for fouling him on 49 minutes.When the free kick cam in Gomes had to make a great save from Cesar´s header which was going in.

Attacks were fewer now as both teams tired but Hercules still looked dangerous on the break with Adisson just failing to control a great through ball.

There was the usual flurry of substitutions around the hour mark which saw Zokora on for Woodgate and Huddlestone dropping back alongside Daws in central defence while O´Hara replaced Ekotto. Dos Santos was very lively but it just wasn´t coming off for him. He´d go on a long run, beating one, two or even three players with ease, then run into a brick wall in the shape of an uncompromising tackle. He took most of the set pieces with the delivery generally poor. But he will bring some pace and excitement to the Premier league and hopefully help add to Tottenham´s trophy haul next season.

Dawson was, as usual, totally committed.He´d probably play like this on Hackney Marshes and he needed to as he just nipped in in time to rob - inevitably - Adisson as he seemed certain to score on 76 minutes. Then Hercules did nearly score with a dangerous Luisao header after good play on the right. Gomes then had to make yet another good save from a shot after Huddlestone conceded a free kick in a dangerous position near goal.

Berbatov had been much quieter this half but he showed some great skill in the 86th minute when he brought the ball down in the box, turned in one movement and was just wide as he tried to place it in Alba´s top right-hand corner. Bostock, on for Lennon, was just trying too hard, which was understandable for a new player trying to impress.His first touch of the game was poor but he´s big and fast and should prove another good signing.

Spurs had a number of chances to win the game in the final minutes. Berbs generally worked well with Dos Santos on the left and this time he turned the ball back to the Mexican who cut inside and shot, but the ball was blocked for a corner. Dos santos took it and Huddlestone had his header blocked. Berbatov immediately volleyed the rebound at goal and again it was blocked and led to yet another corner.

Dos Santos then shot after another 1-2 with Berbatov and, finally, a loose ball fell to Bostock in the box. Sensing glory he snatched at it and blazed it over, endangering Alicante's gulls.

The plus points were that Gomes looked generally good in goal and Berbs played the full 90 and actually seemed interested and involved. Dos Santos is a livewire who will get better under Juande and become a crowd favourite at the Lane. The players also look very fit but on the negative side we may always need to field our strongest defence with Bale, Hutton and Ledders if we´re to get more succcess next season.

One major tactical point to note was the complete absence of any Robinson-style punts up to Berbs and Bent to control and lay off. Everything was played on the deck and this could be part of the new Ramos tactical plan come August when the serious stuff begins.

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