BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
WEDNESDAY 4TH MARCH, 2009
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 4 (3) MIDDLESBROUGH 0 (0)
Lennon, 40, 79
Referee: - Howard Webb
Attendance: - 35, 761
Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Zokora, Dawson, Woodgate, Ekotto; Lennon, Jenas (sub Huddlestone, 64), Palacios, Modric (sub O’Hara, 73); Pavlyuchenko (sub Bent, 53), Keane (Capt.)
Subs not used: - Cudicini; Corluka, Chimbonda; Bentley
Middlesbrough (4-4-2):- Jones; Hoyte (sub Adam Johnson, 70), Wheater, Huth (sub Taylor, 46), Pogatetz (Capt.); O’Neil, Bates, Arca, Downing; Aliadiere (sub King, 53), Tuncay
Subs not used: - Turnbull; Emnes, Walker; Alves
Booked: - Pogatetz
Spurs win with touches of class
There is still plenty of work to do (and Saturday at Sunderland would be a nice start!) but Spurs did themselves plenty of favours last night with their best league win of the season, and a second consecutive league win that takes them up to 13th. Spurs are still only 4 points clear of the bottom three, but could even go into the top half if they beat Sunderland on Saturday. On this form, any team would have to look out as skipper Robbie Keane got off the mark on his return to the club and had a hand in all 4 goals, two of which were scored by my man of the match Aaron Lennon.
Three of the Spurs goals included touches of genuine class, with Modric also to the fore and involved in Spurs first two goals. An early goal was a settler, and to go two up after 14 minutes was a bonus. However, despite the scoreline, Middlesbrough’s fans were entertained and enthusiastic about their team’s chances in a game played in open fashion, with “Boro” desperate for points in an effort to build upon their 2-0 win over Liverpool last Saturday.
Harry Redknapp kept Didier Zokora in the team, but switched him to right back, presumably to keep Stewart Downing under control. Downing did play a prominent part early on, and I was amazed to see him actually out-pace Zokora once or twice, but on the whole the strategy worked. Woodgate returned to partner Dawson, and Wilson Palacios partnered Jenas in the midfield. Palacios made a few short and missed passes at the start and end of the game, but played to his usual standard in the middle section. Up front, Pavlyuchenko was partnered by Keane, who played deep, with Modric given the freedom of the midfield from a starting point on the left. Lennon was supreme throughout, with his pace always threatening “Boro” skipper Emanuel Pogatetz, who got the one booking of the night for a late challenge as little Aaron whizzed away from the left back. Lennon capped his performance with two fine goals, making it five league goals for this season – his best tally of his career so far.
Bearing in mind the mid-week date, Middlesbrough’s following was respectable, and they gave their team good support, even when two or even three goals down. That was because their team did always threaten Spurs, with Tuncay the most likely to score. It was Downing though, coming inside, who had the first attempt on goal after an attempted Woodgate clearance was blocked and deflected to the left winger. Gomes parried and Ekotto put the ball out for a corner. Downing has for so long been coveted by Spurs, and will probably be sought in the forthcoming summer too.
After three minutes, Zokora led a break with a chase down the right flank, and after an exchange of passes with Modric, fed the ball to Jenas whose deep cross was met by Lennon beyond the back post. Lennon’s shot went just wide back across Brad Jones’ goal. Lennon’s cross from the right after 8 minutes was headed out for a corner, intercepting Keane’s intended conversion. Modric took the corner and this took a touch from Dawson, falling to Keane’s feet for an easy finish. Robbie was hailed like the prodigal son and stood arms aloft in front of the lower Park Lane stand, packed with home support.
Middlesbrough were still chasing the game, and Spurs were leaving too much space for them to exploit at times, but increased their lead with the first goal of genuine chance in the game. Keane passed ahead to Modric down the right channel, and Modric flicked the ball past Huth with sublime skill, before crossing low to Pavlyuchenko, who finished from close range for his 13th goal in our colours.
“Boro” still fought away though, and Woodgate’s defensive headed from a right-field cross fell to Tuncay, whose shot was blocked well by Dawson to concede a corner. Dawson’s guts and determination has had everything to do with his return to his best form for Spurs. Gomes got down comfortably to another Tuncay shot, before Pogatetz got that yellow card after 28 minutes for the foul on Lennon, who had collected a great curling pass by Woodgate.
Spurs started “attacking from the front” and harried the Middlesbrough defenders in possession in their own half. This strategy was so nearly rewarded when the flustered Brad Jones hit a clearance at Pavlyuchenko, who sadly could not control the ball, otherwise he should surely have made it 3-0. Modric picked up another poor defensive clearance, releasing Keane who was on the left side of goal. This time Jones excelled with his well-timed advance, parrying Keane’s shot. Spurs did go three up in the 40th minute, after a prolonged spell of possession, culminating in a great threaded ball by Keane to Lennon on the right of the box, scoring with great confidence.
Two minutes before the break came some beautiful passing play involving Modric, Lennon and Keane, who was blocked as he entered the box. “Boro” had one more chance before the break, when former gooner Aliadiere met a cross from the right and headed it wide across the goal-mouth. The ball was easily shepherded out of play by Spurs.
Former Chelsea centre-back Robert Huth was replaced at half time by Andrew Taylor, who moved to left back, with Pogatetz moving inside to partner Wheater. It was the visitors to played with more intent in the early phase of this half, but only crosses from the right were giving Gomes any real exercise, as Spurs played comfortably within themselves, preserving their convincing lead. Aliadiere was replaced by Marlon King, and Pavlyuchenko by Darren Bent after 52 minutes. Gomes batted out a Hoyte cross after 62 minutes, a minute before Jenas was replaced by Tom Huddlestone, who prompted a few more Spurs attacks. Tuncay’s deep cross beat Gomes after 65 minutes and bounced back off the inside of the post. Clearly it was not to be “Boro”’s night. Former Sunderland star Julio Arca had an effort go over the target, and the tiring Modric was replaced by Jamie O’Hara. Modric received a deserved ovation, but the reception for O’Hara, who had stepped up for that first free kick on Sunday, was terrific, and continued when Jamie stepped up to take a Spurs corner. Jamie had been greeted in this fashion when warming up, which must have been so heartening for the lad.
It was a Huddlestone pass which prompted the Spurs fourth goal. He fed Bent down the right channel, who passed inside to Robbie Keane. Keane in turn put it in the path of Lennon, who beat Jones with lovely flick over his body.
Gomes was down well to save Tuncay’s shot at his right post, and concede a corner, before Huddlestone sent O’Hara away. O’Hara’s cross was cleared to concede a corner, taken by Jamie and headed over by Robbie Keane. Middlesbrough did have the ball in the net in added time after a free kick but the flag had already been raised for offside.
It was a surprise to hear that Hull had scored a late winner at Craven Cottage to stay above Spurs. It is a big ask, but if Spurs managed a third successive win on Saturday at The Stadium of Light, they would have amassed over a quarter of their points tally for the season in three consecutive games. If it happened, Spurs could leap into the top half and perhaps forget about relegation altogether. With form and confidence high after their last three games, there is absolutely no reason why Spurs cannot get a win on Saturday.
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