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N.E.C. v Spurs, 27.11.08


O’Hara, 14

Attendance: - 12,500

Referee: - Mr. C. Fernandez (Spain)

N.E.C. (4-1-4-1):- Babos; Fernandez (sub Tshibamba, 81), Wisgerhof (Capt.), Zomer, El Akchaoui; Radomski (sub Kivuvu, 46); El Khabir, Sibum (sub Bouaouzan, 65), Davids, Schone; Van Beukering

Subs not used: - Baart; Pothuizen; Otten, Janssen

Booked: - Davids (foul on Lennon)

Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Gunter, Dawson, Woodgate (Capt.), Bale; Bentley (sub Mason, 90), Huddlestone, Zokora, O’Hara; Campbell (sub Obika, 83), Bent (sub Lennon, 71)

Subs not used: - Cesar; Smith, Ekotto; Bostock

No Bookings

Jamie puts Spurs on their way

Harry Redknapp does not seem to enthuse about the UEFA Cup, and has been quoted as saying that it’s “Hard not qualify” from this phase of the competition. Nijmegen might not be too happy with that comment, as they will find it very hard to negotiate a way past their next two opponents, Spartak Moscow and unbeaten Udinese. Udinese had a night off last night enabling Spurs to go top of the group after their two wins. Last night’s win was deserved and justice after some disparaging remarks about Redknapp’s “long ball tactics”.

Spurs did well, considering their enforced absences of the injured Modric, King and Jenas and the invalid Pavlyuchenko and Corluka. Barring Modric, all of these players are likely to play in Sunday’s game against Everton, which Harry quite rightly recognises as the more vital of the two games. Last time out, he gave John Bostock a Spurs debut, and whilst he was unused on the bench last night, his fellow Academy players Jonathan Obika and Ryan Mason will puff their chests with pride at having also been awarded the accolade of a first team debut, albeit brief. Mason was not on the pitch long enough to get an important touch, but Obika did make a couple of positive contributions and can be pleased with his first impression at this level. He should not take the “One Number 80” chants personally!

Another Spurs player with the right to feel pleased for himself was goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, who was cheered very positively throughout by the Spurs fans, who chanted supportively. That support was recognised by Gomes at the end of the game.

Spurs lined up with Chris Gunter at right back, and skipper Woodgate partnered by Michael Dawson. Bale played at left back, and Bentley was given a free role in front of O’Hara, Huddlestone and Zokora. Fraizer Campbell partnered Darren Bent. N.E.C. played with a lone striker Jhonny Van Beukering, who was supported by the runs of midfielder Lorenzo Davids (related to and bearing a resemblance to Edgar), and also by El Khabir on the right and Schone on the left side.

The Spurs defence was rarely sorely tested, but there were two occasions when desperate interventions were required. If Spurs are accused of playing a long ball game, it isn’t very effective, as most of the time when high balls were aimed in the direction of Campbell and Bent, they failed to collect, and the ball came back towards the Spurs defence too quickly. With O’Hara and Zokora beside him though, Huddlestone did have the freedom to concentrate on creativity. Huddlestone and O’Hara combined down the right side with an early Spurs move, and Hudd hit a shot over the goal. A good ball out of defence by Gunter found Darren Bent, who hit his shot wide across the goalmouth after 12 minutes. Spurs took a deserved lead in the 14th minute. Bentley had fed Bale, who got to the line and hit a hard low cross, which was nearly converted by Campbell. The shot hit the underside of the bar, bounced out and was headed home by Jamie O’Hara for his fourth Spurs goal, and his second in the UEFA Cup.

After 22 minutes, Gomes made a good save from the shot of El Khabir, and as the ball rebounded towards Schone, Gunter made a great saving tackle. Zokora led a Spurs attack, and chipped the ball to the back of the area, where Campbell’s header went straight to the keeper. Van Beukering had a chance but hit his shot wide of Gomes’ right post. Woodgate sent Campbell away with a good ball down the left channel, but the goalkeeper collected the cross. Both keepers’ handling was good all night.

After 37 minutes, Gunter half-cleared a ball as far as El Ackhaoui, who fired wide. Jamie O’Hara had a shot on target just before the break, held by Babos. After the break, N.E.C. replaced the defending midfielder Radomski, with Kivuvu. Bentley had another indifferent game on the whole, but early in the half did well to hold off the defender when receiving the ball from Huddlestone, hitting his shot over the target. To his shame there were a couple of occasions when Bentley clearly lacked the bottle to go in for a challenge, hoping the ball would run his way. Such a comment cannot be made about the likes of O’Hara and Zokora, both of whom battled hard all night – and fairly too!

The support given by the Spurs crowd of 600 loyal souls was terrific throughout the game, but the tempo sometimes did not match their enthusiasm. Spurs did defend well all night, and perhaps had the confidence to keep their second successive clean sheet after taking the early lead. Jamie O’Hara made a good run on the right side and finished with a shot on target, again held by Babos. Gomes also made a clean save from Van Beukering, whilst the home fans bayed for a free kick just outside the box. The referee ignored the requests, and the only booking he made all night was that of Davids, when he fouled Spurs sub Aaron Lennon, who brought some excitement to the game.

With fifteen minutes to go, Spurs enjoyed a spell of good possession, which ended with Bale feeding Lennon, and Bentley trying to chip Babos from Lennon’s pass. Bentley’s effort was not good enough to test the experienced keeper, who is a Hungarian International. Obika replaced Campbell and not long after he came on successfully brought down and controlled a long ball by Gomes, which is more than can be said for either Campbell or Bent for most of the night! Obika teed up Lennon for an adventurous long shot which Babos pushed over for a corner.

Spurs now have to sit out the next round of fixtures in Group D, and whilst they have probably already done enough to reach the “Round of 32”, they can secure their passage on the best terms, if they beat Spartak Moscow on December 18th. With Udinese favourites to win the group, Spurs would then finish second and play against a team dropping down from the Champions’ League in that next round.

· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
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