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Norwich v Spurs - 28.07.08

(At Carrow Road)

Norwich scorer:-
Cureton, 16

Spurs scorers:-
Stefanovic, (o.g.), 10
Bent, 44, 57, 71, 75

Referee: - (was from Ipswich!)

Attendance:- 25,243

Norwich (4-4-1-1):- Marshall; Otsemobor, Omozusi, Stefanovic (sub Shackell, 59), Bertrand (sub Russell, 37); Croft, Clingan, Fotheringham (Capt.), Pattison; Hoolahan (sub Chadwick, 79); Cureton (sub Martin, 67)

Subs not used: - Nelson; Renton, Eagle, Smith

No bookings

Spurs (4-3-2-1):- Gomes; Gunter, Dawson (sub Huddlestone, 26), King (Capt.) (sub Ekotto, 46), Gilberto (sub Bale, 59); Jenas, Zokora, O’Hara; Modric (sub Lennon, 46), Dos Santos (sub Taarabt, 80); Bent

Subs not used: - Jansson

No bookings

NB: - Berbatov was announced by Spurs (((mobile))) as a substitute, but was not dressed to play, and took no part in the game. He was in the dug-out.

Spurs fans on their way to Norwich this evening heard the confirmation that Robbie Keane had gone to Liverpool (for a very healthy fee and compensation to the Spurs Foundation charity by Liverpool) and will have been bemused by the presence of Dimitar Berbatov but by his lack of official participation, even as an official substitute. Those fans, quick to slip into their anti-Arsenal repertoire, were ultimately heartened by an emphatic scoring performance by 4-goal Darren Bent, who will have loved his performance even more because of his former Ipswich connection.

Harriet Harman look-alike Delia Smith had actor/comic Stephen Fry in the home kit beside her, perhaps to try and encourage his financial support for a club that struggled to stay in the Championship, and which was convincingly out-classed by Juande Ramos’s side which included a mixture of obviously fit players and those who tonight played their first football for Spurs this season. Ledley King, who to the best of my knowledge has yet to train at full level, played the first half, made an uncharacteristic error for the Norwich goal, and struggled for pace once or twice too. Debutant Luka Modric made his Spurs debut, playing behind Bent alongside the exciting Giovani Dos Santos, who has quickly won the hearts of Spurs fans. If anything, Modric and Dos Santos sometimes played too deeply behind Bent, who did not get the delivery he enjoyed in the second half, when Spurs (in their sky blue away strip) totally dominated proceedings.

Dos Santos is two footed, quick-witted, stylish and fast, and made a great impression. He and Modric switched from left to right ahead of the three man midfield of Jenas, Zokora and Jamie O’Hara. Zokora was soon required at the back, after Michael Dawson suffered three stitches when caught by Hoolahan’s trailing arm. Modric was playing in the same vein as he had in Euro 2008, concentrating first on possession, and always looking for a short incisive pass or two. With O’Hara on the inside of the middle with Zokora, Gilberto was given the responsibility to drive forward beyond the three, and on the other side Chris Gunter was allowed to be adventurous too.

Although Norwich had one or two chances in that first half, with their goal gifted by that mistake, they appear to face a struggle this season, whilst Spurs had better prepare for much sterner pre-season tests.

I felt that the benefits of Spurs’ pre-season regime could be seen in the condition and effort of all, with the exception of Ledley King, and Modric (late to return of course). Gareth Bale, who appeared for the last half-hour looked fit enough, and whilst making some chasing runs, he seemed to discipline himself to prevent over-exertion at this stage. A second half attempt at a volleyed scissor kick would have been spectacular, had he made the connection!

Modric made an early impression with a nice threaded ball into the 6 yard box, where Jenas had made the run but was blocked by the defenders. The Spurs lead came in the tenth minute, when Dos Santos had the beating of Chelsea loanee Ryan Bertrand, pulled back then sent a left foot cross low into the box, where the veteran Stefanovic got the unfortunate deflection to concede an own goal. Norwich were making some early inroads, as the Spurs full-backs committed to attack, and Croft’s deep cross from the right was too far out for Gomes, who then parried Hoolahan’s shot before Spurs cleared. Gomes looked confident and clearly can command his area, claiming a cross or two that his predecessor might not have collected.

The Norwich equaliser came after Ledley stumbled just outside the area, allowing Cureton to make the most of the chance, which he did with style, curling a right footed shot around Gomes on the keeper’s narrow side. For a moment or two, Spurs looked a little uncomfortable, as Otsemobor over-lapped Croft, received the pass, and put in a worrying cross. Jenas made a great “un-friendly”-like tackle upon Bertrand, who was advancing into the Spurs area. The referee awarded no foul, but Bertrand had to be replaced before the half was out. Michael Dawson suffered his injury after 25 minutes. Huddlestone came on and took over in the middle, with Zokora dropping back.

After a crunching challenge upon Modric, Dos Santos took the free kick, and former Celtic keeper Marshall made a great save from Ledley King’s header. Marshall then held a decent effort by Jamie O’Hara from outside the box. Spurs took the lead into the break after a powerful run by Jenas, which hit a dead-end. O’Hara was there to pick up the baton, feeding the ball to Bent on the right of the area, who drilled home a good low shot.

Modric was replaced by Lennon, and Benoit Assou-Ekotto made his first appearance for nearly a year, replacing Ledley at half-time. Ekotto, sporting longer Afro hair and a Boateng-type highlight down the left side of his head, took up the left back slot, with Gilberto moving forward. Huddlestone now fell back to play beside Zokora. Lennon and Gunter combined well on the right, before Gunter passed to Dos Santos, whose shot from the right side of the box was saved for a corner. Dos Santos was soon on target again, meeting a sharp low Lennon cross, with a low left foot shot that Marshall saved.

Darren Bent increased the Spurs lead in highly impressive style with a great diving header as he met Ekotto’s excellent cross. A minute later, Lennon’s cross was only parried by Marshall, but the keeper then managed to save Dos Santos’s close range attempt.

Bent got his hat-trick and made it 4-1 in the 71st minute, when another Dos Santos shot was parried, and Bent did well to get the ball from under his feet before firing home. Four minutes later, it was four for Bent, after a good move by Spurs down the right side, a cross from Gunter, and a firm low shot by Bent from 12 yards.

Gomes did have to make one late save from an attempt by Russell, before Jenas teed up a shot for Jamie O’Hara, whose 25 yard attempt was comfortably saved by the impressive Marshall, who could be in for a busy season.

Spurs visit Leyton Orient on Wednesday, when I fancy Bent will need (and deserve) a rest. Whether Berbatov is still a Spurs player then, who knows, but maybe Tomas Pekhart will get a game against the League One side. Whether Spurs have made a signing or two by then (see this page - http://www.spursodyssey.com/0809/xtn.html ) remains to be seen. The Feyenoord tournament could be really interesting at the end of the week.

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