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Spurs v Stoke, 27.01.09

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
TUESDAY 27TH JANUARY, 2009
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 3 (3) STOKE CITY 1 (0)

Spurs scorers:-
Lennon, 8
Defoe, 21
Dawson, 25

Stoke scorer:-
Beattie, 57

Attendance: - 36,072

Referee: - Mike Riley

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Cudicini; Corluka, Dawson, Woodgate (Capt.), Ekotto; Bentley, Zokora, Modric, Lennon (sub Huddlestone, 90); Pavlyuchenko (sub Campbell, 90), Defoe

Subs not used: - Alnwick; Bale, Rocha; Giovani, Taarabt

Booked: - Bentley, Woodgate

Stoke (4-4-2):- Sorensen; Wilkinson (sub Griffin, 46), Shawcross, Abdoulaye Faye (Capt.) (sub Sonko, 46), Higginbotham; Delap, Amdy Faye (sub Fuller, 48), Whelan, Etherington; Cresswell, Beattie
(Armband to Griffin)

Subs not used: - Simonsen; Pugh; Lawrence, Kitson

Booked: - Higginbotham, Cresswell, Whelan

Some scintillating football, Spurs!

It is a pleasure to record that at times, particularly in the first half, Spurs played some scintillating football. After surviving an early scare, they went on to master Stoke in the first half, thanks to a superb performance by Luka Modric, and devastating strike play by the trio of Lennon, Defoe and Pavlyuchenko. Carlo Cudicini made a secure debut, and one of my friends asked me if all the Spurs players were called “Even”, because I said that even Bentley played well; even the goalkeeper could catch, keep and kick the ball, and even the strikers played well together. It was without doubt the best team performance of the season so far.

With new signings Pascal Chimbonda and Wilson Palacios watching from one of the boxes, I have a feeling that all eleven starters for Spurs last night have been told they have a future at the club. They certainly played with a new-found confidence and verve. Bentley was allowed to start on the right, where he put in some decent crosses, free kicks, shots and even a strong tackle or two. He was unfortunate to be booked by the perverse and hapless Mike Riley when he seemed to get the ball first in a fair challenge, which means he will now have to sit out the return match with his former team from the other end of the Seven Sisters Road.

Aaron Lennon was exciting down the left flank, and Luka Modric played ahead of Zokora in midfield. To watch Modric in action is a real treat, as the ball sticks to his feet, while he consistently wafts his way through close marking, retaining the ball, even at times when falling over!

With long-throw expert Rory Delap in the Stoke team, part of Spurs’ strategy was clearly to play the ball down the field, rather than towards the touchline in our own half. A happy by-product of that tactic led to Defoe and Pavlyuchenko winning the passes aimed in their direction, holding off their respective defenders well. Such was the Spurs domination that Stoke manager Tony Pulis made all three of his substitutions within three minutes of the re-start. Skipper Abdoulaye Faye was replaced at the back by Sonko, and club captain Andy Griffin took over from Wilkinson at right back.

Spurs had an early scare when Stoke won a free kick out on the left flank, which was floated in towards Beattie, with Cudicini uncertain for the only moment of the game. The ball passed ahead of the advancing Beattie. Spurs then got to work. Their first chance came when Zokora won a header in Stoke’s half, feeding it to Modric, who passed like a needle through the thread of two defenders to get a shot in that was just wide. A Stoke corner taken by former Spur Etherington was headed goalward by Shawcross was but cleared in front of goal.

Spurs got the precious early goal in the eighth minute. Pavlyuchenko laid off the ball inside the Stoke half for Defoe, who hit a delightful pass from right to left for Lennon, who skipped into a scoring position and obliged with a left foot drive through Sorensen’s legs. Stoke had another free kick which was headed on top of the net, and then Spurs failed to clear the ball properly after another attack, giving Beattie a half-chance which he put wide.

Spurs scored a well-worked second goal in the 21st minute. Modric passed forward to Pavlyuchenko, who found Defoe with a clever reverse pass. Jermain scored his third goal in four starts since his return with a superbly taken right foot drive.

Bentley forced a save by Sorensen, with a free kick awarded for a foul on Modric, who was near the flag for the resulting short corner. It was Modric’s ball into the box that Michael Dawson confidently headed home for a three-goal lead. The trouble is that Spurs have a record of not being secure with even a three goal margin. After all, we have not enjoyed such a margin in the league all season, and it was to be the first time we have scored three in a league win this season.

Defoe had a chance to make it four, after Lennon got into the area on the right channel, and cut the ball back. Wilkinson cleared as Defoe pulled the trigger. Another good move involving Lennon, Pavlyuchenko and Defoe led to a chance for Bentley, whose shot went just over the bar. Spurs had generally been getting so few decisions from Mr Riley, that the crowd cheered vigorously when he did award Spurs a free kick or two. Spurs kept the pressure on as half-time approached, with a close range shot in the area being blocked. Then Defoe collected a Dawson ball, and after a touch by Pavlyuchenko, Lennon’s shot was deflected for another corner. Woodgate headed wide from the corner, and after 44 minutes, Pavlyuchenko demonstrated Berbatov-like skill in collecting a long ball, controlling it with his chest, turning and shooting just outside the post.

Another factor in the Spurs success had been the unceasing effort from all players, defending from the front, leading to Stoke errors under pressure. Although Spurs had a bright start to the second half, it was perhaps inevitable that they would slow down, and despite allowing Beattie a goal, they generally controlled the game. Lennon and Defoe battled for and won the ball down the left flank, and Defoe had a goal-bound run which was blocked as he entered the area.

Woodgate saw yellow for a foul just outside the box after 48 minutes, and Cudicini clutched Beattie’s free kick cleanly, as it was sent around the wall. At the other end, Lennon fed Modric, whose shot was deflected wide. In this half, Corluka was getting forward more, and there were times when the understanding between he and Modric was telepathic and penetrative. Pavlyuchenko had another good effort held by Sorensen, but then Spurs made a mistake through Michael Dawson. He gifted the ball to Delap, and Etherington chipped over the defence for Beattie to fire low past Cudicini from the right of the area.

Bentley hit a free kick into the side netting after a foul on Pavlyuchenko, and there was a great run by Lennon into the Stoke area. He seemed to be unfairly challenged but Mr. Riley waved away penalty appeals. Stoke did have one late chance with a header that was glanced wide, but Spurs retained their two goal advantage and climbed up to thirteenth – their highest placing so far this season. It was a crucial win, but now let’s see if we can make it two in a row at Bolton on Saturday!

· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
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