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Spurs v Portsmouth, 18.01.09

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 18TH JANUARY, 2009
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0) PORTSMOUTH 1 (0)

Spurs scorer:-
Defoe, 70

Portsmouth scorer:-
Nugent, 59

Referee: - Steve Bennett

Attendance: - 36,011

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Corluka, Woodgate, King (Capt.) (sub Dawson, 44), Bale (sub Bentley, 67); Lennon, Zokora, Modric, O’Hara; Pavlyuchenko (sub Bent, 29), Defoe
(Armband to Woodgate)

Subs not used: - Alnwick; Huddlestone, Taarabt; Campbell

No Bookings

Portsmouth (4-2-3-1):- James; Johnson, Campbell (Capt.), Distin, Belhadj; Kaboul (sub Wilson, 87), Davis; Nugent (sub Utaka, 73), Kranjcar (sub Hreidarsson, 90), Traore; Crouch

Subs not used: - Begovic; Pamarot; Little; Kanu

Booked: - Davis (foul on Pavlyuchenko), Kaboul (foul on Modric)

Football was the winner.

On a day which had threatened to be dominated by the various items of friction between the two clubs, football became the clear winner as Spurs and Portsmouth dished up an open and exciting game. They ended with honours even, but Spurs had plenty of chances to win the game, and one clear winning chance sadly squandered by substitute Darren Bent. Jermain Defoe countered the hatred of the Pompey fans by scoring on his second home debut for Spurs (his first was against the same team in February 2004). It was Spurs’ first home league goal since November 23rd, and their first in the league since losing at Newcastle on December 21st. The draw was enough to take Spurs up to 16th place, but the bottom five clubs are only separated by goal difference. Spurs are now without a league win in their last 6 matches.

Sol Campbell was greeted with rousing but acceptable boos throughout the game, and on one occasion a version of that song without the lyrics. It has to be said that he performed stoutly in the Pompey defence, and he exchanged shirts with Defoe at the end of the game. Defoe and Redknapp were inevitably also greeted with boos by the 1700 Pompey fans, but it wasn’t long before the speed and excitement of the football (if not the quality) took over and enthralled the crowd. It was end to end stuff throughout.

One of Spurs’ problems was the fact that they started with two injured players. Ledley King was clearly not 100% fit, and never will be, as we all know. Unfortunately, he was caught out by pace a couple of times, before he had to be replaced by Michael Dawson just before half-time, due to a hamstring injury to add to his ongoing knee problems. I’m sorry Ledley. I love you to pieces, but it must surely be time to admit defeat in your constant battle with injury. It’s a different era for football now, and you cannot get by in the Premier League without training and peak fitness in the way that McGrath did all those years ago in the old Football League.

Heurelho Gomes was still carrying his injury too, and was unable to kick the ball, meaning no pass backs by his team-mates, contributing to the fast moving style of the game. Gomes did make a couple of vital saves though, but surely he will be rested for this week’s cup games. Pavlyuchenko got clobbered by former Spur Sean Davis, who got a booking for his trouble, meaning Darren Bent was also on in the first half, leaving Spurs with little option regarding substitution for the second half.

Spurs played with a flat midfield four, with Lennon on the right and battler Jamie O’Hara on the left. Modric was the attacking central midfielder, and he became more and more prominent in the second half of the game.

Portsmouth did not seem to play in accordance with their recent form of losing their last four league games, and Crouch was supported by an attacking threesome of Nugent, Kranjcar and Arsenal loanee Armand Traore, who gave the defence plenty to worry about with his speed and movement across the midfield zone.

The referee, Steve Bennett, also deserves credit for contributing to the free flow of the game, and I am sure the non-partisan viewers enjoyed this game.

Defoe had a great chance to put Spurs into what would have been a precious early lead when Davis inexplicably passed the ball inside from the Portsmouth left flank, and Defoe hit a left footed shot wide, when he really should have scored. Zokora then fed the ball to the lively Aaron Lennon, who hit a decent low shot that James held. James was to have a busy afternoon, and his man of the match award was well earnt.

At the other end, Glen Johnson cut inside Bale and Gomes failed to hold his shot. Crouch was on hand, ready to poach a goal, but Gomes just managed to stretch and push the ball away from Crouch’s feet. After a Portsmouth corner, Spurs made a good break, which ended in a long range effort by Pavlyuchenko which was held by the keeper. Defoe picked up a Lennon ball, and after an exchange with Aaron, Defoe hit another low shot, which James saved at his left post. Traore got away down the right channel and hit a shot into the side netting.

After a mistake by Zokora in the opposition half, Belhadj and Traore threatened with a speedy break, but Spurs came back and won a corner through Lennon from which Pavlyuchenko’s shot at the back post was actually blocked by Defoe! Great play by Lennon and his cross then offered a headed chance for Defoe, which James tipped over. Pompey broke forward and Nugent put in a good ball for Traore who was in the middle. Corluka made a great saving tackle to prevent Traore pulling the trigger.

After Pavlyuchenko’s injury and the arrival of Darren Bent, Kaboul had a chance after a corner, which he put wide. Bent had a good glanced header from a corner, which was cleared, and with Ledley still up front, and the ball coming back in, his header was saved. Bent was ready to follow up, but was offside.

Jamie O’Hara made a mistake after receiving a Gomes throw, and Kaboul got goalside of Bale who assumed O’Hara was going to retain possession. Kaboul’s shot hit the side netting, and we all breathed one of many sighs of relief of the afternoon. O’Hara tried to make amends with a decent long range effort at the other end, but is passed wide without really worrying James. Ledley was left trailing by Nugent when he broke clear after 42 minutes, and Nugent had the goal at his mercy, but allowed Gomes to make a crucial save with his feet.

It took a while for the second half action to match that of the first, but then came a flurry of activity at either end after 57 minutes. Zokora sent Lennon away down the right wing, and Lennon beat his man hitting a low shot that was deflected and saved well by James, who had been initially wrong-footed because of the deflection. Pompey responded by taking a lead against the run of play, when Nugent scored his first league goal for Portsmouth with a low shot under the legs of Bale, which may have deflected the ball slightly.

Spurs knuckled down and it was pretty much one way traffic after this point. If only we had played like this more often, we would not be in the mess at the bottom of the table. Defoe hit another shot into the side netting after an exchange with Lennon. Bale was replaced by David Bentley, who took up station on the left, with O’Hara dropping back. It was Modric though at the heart of the move which led to Spurs’ equaliser. The final passes came from Zokora, then Modric himself, enabling Defoe to hit a great shot through Campbell that beat James to his left in front of the Paxton Road crowd. It was another great chapter in the striker’s record, and of course a moment to cherish for the crowd.

Corluka cut inside with the ball after a Spurs throw, but put his shot wide across the far post, and he also had a header from a corner cleared off the line. Bentley had won this corner with a well taken free kick, which James pushed out. Bentley again delivered well (in fact perfectly), with a chipped cross from the left which Bent should have picked his spot for a header. Bent headed the ball wide, causing head in hands despair for the home fans, and not a little abuse for the villain of the piece!

Distin made a great tackle to prevent Corluka’s run towards goal, after he and Modric had combined. Lennon had a shot go wide, and when he passed to Bent in added time, the striker hit his shot low to the hands of David James.

We are now getting to the point in the season when the tension will just build and build. Spurs have the distraction of two cup ties this week, but the most important game is next Tuesday’s home match against Stoke. I fear the nail biting will go on till the end of the season.

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