Subs not used: - Cesar; Gunter; Huddlestone, Modric
Booked: - Woodgate, O’Hara, Lennon
First signs of open dissent for Ramos
Spurs suffered their fourth defeat in 6 Premier League games this season to remain at the bottom with just 2 points to their name. This is now their worst start for 53 years. Manager Juande Ramos first mystified many travelling fans with the removal of Zokora in favour of Giovani after 57 minutes, and was then subjected to chants of “You don’t know what you’re doing”, when replacing Pavlyuchenko with Darren Bent, rather than playing two strikers in tandem. Inevitably, Jermain Defoe scored the first goal with a penalty, and he was actually cheered by both sets of fans. To his credit, Jermain was humble in front of the away end. Another former Spur, Peter Crouch, completed the humiliation when scoring from the parried save of Gomes after a Traore cross/shot in the second half.
There was of course another ex-Spur in the home team, who was subjected to the usual insults and baiting. He did not seem to get rattled on this occasion. The away support for the last fifteen minutes was incessant towards their own team, and perhaps if we could focus our support in a positive way throughout the game, the players might benefit more.
Ramos abandoned pace in the midfield, by using Bentley on the right side, where he did at least have an improved game than of late, but Gilberto on the left was anonymous for the 45 minutes he lasted before Aaron Lennon took over. Ramos might claim that Zokora was being preserved for Thursday afternoon’s game in Poland, but Zokora had arguably been Spurs best player up to that point, neutralising many attacks just outside the box. Ironically his absence led to more penetration, and the second goal can be attributed against Ramos in this way, as Defoe was able to spray the ball easily to Traore on his left.
Another criticism would be to question the presence of Lennon on the left and Giovani on the right (not that Gio full realised he was supposed to be there some of the time), as opposed to letting them play to their strengths. The lone striker was given little service, and James was rarely tested. These are statements that can be applied to most of our games to date. I thought that back four looked quite strong, conceding only the first half penalty, then that second goal with insufficient midfield protection.
I have said enough about Portsmouth’s ground in recent years, but this time, for the princely sum of £35, I was treated to a view through the top angle of the net, making it very difficult to pick out some of the action. This is how the mighty THFC PLC treat some of their best customers. For once (now we do have a roof over our heads) the match was played in glorious sunshine. I understand that the Pompey chime has finally been banned for health and safety reasons, and the home crowd were taunted by chants of “Where’s your famous atmosphere”, and other more ribald remarks directed towards the bell-ringer.
Bentley was subject to an early foul by former gooner Traore, and took the free kick himself, which was held by James. Defoe did have the ball in the net, but was offside – not for the first time in his career! Defoe then had a battle for the ball with Michael Dawson, who prodded it as far as Richard Hughes, whose drilled shot was well saved by Gomes as the ball came through a sea of legs.
Corluka was getting forward to good effect from his right back berth, and received a good long ball from Dawson. Corluka sent in a deep cross which reached O’Hara, but his effort was not strong enough. Gomes made another good save from Hughes, following a corner from the right. A deep cross by Bentley also reached O’Hara at the back post, but Jamie fired wide.
Spurs had managed to keep Pompey at bay, and then suffered a sucker punch, when Jenas’s outstretched right arm made contact with a free kick from the right. Referee Mike Dean awarded a penalty; Defoe stepped up to cheers from home and away support and chants of “You’re Spurs and you know you are”, but he coolly put the ball to Gomes’ right to score a goal that must have given him a great deal of satisfaction, but which he celebrated with grace towards his former fans.
Diarra got a booking for cynical foul on Zokora who was making a great run out of his own half to forge an opening for Spurs. With Lennon’s presence, Spurs played with more eagerness, but for all their possession and effort, they just could not give James sufficient work to do. With Lennon’s assistance, Ekotto sent in a deep cross, which Pavlyuchenko met, but headed wide. Another Lennon run and cross from the bye-line seemed to be patted out for a corner by a Portsmouth hand, in a move far more considered than Jenas’s infringement. The referee would have none of it, and nothing came from the corner.
Off went Zokora, and on came more pressure for the Spurs defence. Giovani’s skill and pace did lead to a pass to Corluka, whose cross was met by Lennon, but his shot was blocked. Spurs won a free kick after Giovani was fouled. Bentley took the kick, and Pavlyuchenko stuck a foot out, but the ball went way over the target. Then came the killer goal for Pompey. Defoe was causing problems outside the area in the middle, fed the ball to Traore, whose cross/shot was only parried by Gomes, and easily converted by Peter Crouch.
There was a half-chance for Pavlyuchenko after Jamie O’Hara’s ball, but that was blocked. O’Hara hit a curling free kick across the goal, and just outside the stanchion, and then came the dissent towards Ramos over replacing Pavlyuchenko with Bent, rather than play the two together. Bent did get a good ball over the defence from Woodgate, but put his shot wide, and was then offside when receiving Jenas’s fin al pass, after Giovani had started the move. Glenn Johnson was allowed a long run past Lennon and Corluka, before he fired over the bar. Giovani fed Lennon whose shot was finger-tipped out by James for his first meaningful save of the match.
Diarra was sent off for a second bookable offence, but too late to be of any help to Spurs.
I suspect that THFC PLC and the manager have too much UEFA Cup Round Two in their eyes, and are desperate for the financial benefit that would bring. Hopefully we will get a result next Thursday to carry us though, but on this form, we are going to win nothing this season, and need to get our eye on the Premier League ball.