BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 7TH MARCH, 2009
SUNDERLAND 1 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0)
Referee: - Phil Dowd
Attendance: - 37,894
Sunderland (4-4-2):- Fulop; Bardsley, Ben Haim, Collins, McCartney; Malbranque, Whitehead (Capt.), Richardson (sub Leadbitter, 83), Reid (sub Edwards, 82); Jones, Cisse (sub Murphy, 72)
Subs not used: - Gordon; McShane, Davenport; Healy
Booked: - Richardson, McCartney (both for fouls on Lennon), Bardsley
Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Corluka (sub Pavlyuchenko, 82), Woodgate, King, Chimbonda; Lennon, Jenas (sub Huddlestone, 62), Palacios (sub Bentley, 71), Modric; Keane (Capt.), Bent
Subs not used: - Cudicini; Dawson, Zokora; O’Hara
Booked:- Corluka, Woodgate
Keane grabs a deserved point
In the only premier league game of the day and in the cauldron-like atmosphere of The Stadium of Light, Spurs went down to an early Kieran Richardson goal, and then took the rest of the game to get themselves back on level terms thanks to a breaking move featuring substitute David Bentley, Darren Bent and for the second successive game, a goal from skipper Robbie Keane.
Keane had been one of those Spurs players reserved a negative reception by the home fans. The others were predictably Jermaine Jenas for his former Newcastle association, but especially Pascal Chimbonda – drafted in at left back by Harry Redknapp, perhaps to wind up the home crowd!
I have read no news of an injury to left back Benoit Assou-Ekotto, so Chimbonda’s introduction on the left was one of the little mysteries of team selection in my eyes, with Wednesday night’s winning team being changed a little too much in my view. With Woodgate moving to right of centre to accommodate Ledley King the whole back four was different with Corluka returning at right back, and the presence of Chimbonda. Ahead of them the only change to the starting line-up was Bent for Pavlyuchenko. Bearing in mind the fact that Sunderland’s goal came through Ledley’s territory and that Darren Bent missed a glaring opportunity, perhaps it was the team changes that led to it being such a frustrating afternoon for this Spurs fan in particular.
Sunderland included three former Spurs in their eleven, with Fulop retaining his place in goal despite the presence of Craig Gordon on the bench, and with Andy Reid and Steed Malbranque impressing for the “Black Cats”. Calum Davenport (on loan from West Ham) was one of the un-used substitutes.
It looked and sounded as if the 48,000 capacity stadium had more than 37,894 souls inside, but most of the souls present were roaring for Sunderland success. They used to say “Beware the Roker Roar”. Well, I heard its presence yesterday at times.
In the face of that hostility, Spurs task was never going to be easy, and of course, our Spurs made it harder for themselves after only two minutes, when Malbranque moved forward on the right hand side, passed inside where Richardson had run into space before hitting a beauty past Gomes from the right side of the area. The tone was set for the game, with Spurs giving themselves the early handicap.
After 9 minutes, Darren Bent chased and retrieved a ball down the line, passing to Aaron Lennon, then meeting Lennon’s cross with an effort that caused no damage, before being put out for a throw. Two minutes later after a free kick, Lennon crossed and Keane headed the ball into Fulop’s hands. After 32 minutes, Palacios won a free kick 25 yards out, and it was Darren Bent who stepped up to take the kick, again held by Fulop.
Richardson was booked for a foul on Lennon and Jenas took the free kick. This was half cleared as far as Ledley King, who tried a shot which was blocked. Sunderland had not forced any hard work from Gomes, and Lennon again drew a late foul, this time from McCartney (Lennon and McCartney – that rings a bell!).
At half time, Jenas was the scapegoat for many Spurs fans, but he had been putting a few decent passes together and got his tackles in. In truth, apart from Lennon, none of the Spurs team had impressed really, with Palacios again being below par. It is true to say though that Jenas often takes a touch too much before acting on the ball.
Bent had his great chance after 58 minutes, receiving the ball from an appalling defensive pass. The goal beckoned, and he was one on one with the keeper not too near him. Bent fired way over the target. Bent did better a minute later when Robbie Keane slipped him a pass from the right. From an angle, bent hit a low shot just wide across the goal. The ex-Spurs connection nearly added to the Sunderland tally, when Malbranque fed the ball back to Reid who hit a long curling ball that beat Gomes but passed his back post.
Jenas was replaced by Tom Huddlestone in an effort to spark more creativity for Spurs. Cisse had a decent headed after a cross from the right and Ledley King defended successfully for a corner. There had been a worrying moment when Ledley had been caught out a little too far forward and was grateful for a successful offside appeal as he had been out-run for the ball. Palacios was replaced by Bentley, who went to the right side, whilst Lennon switched with Modric coming inside. Certainly Harry was committing to attack. There was also a switch with the full backs as Corluka moved to the left, allowing Chimbonda to play down the right.
Modric had a shot over the bar after Spurs took a quick throw and Lennon put in the cross. Robbie Keane met a long pass by Huddlestone, and hit a good first time effort over the bar. Murphy had a good shot just outside the target after a Spurs move broke down when Keane headed into space and the home side raced away with the ball. Corluka was then replaced by Pavlyuchenko, as Spurs changed formation, with three at the back (Woodgate, King and Chimbonda), four across the middle (Bentley, Huddlestone, Modric, Lennon) and Robbie Keane behind Pavlyuchenko and Bent. Their efforts and the strategy paid off after Spurs broke away as referee Phil Dowd brushed away a Sunderland penalty appeal. Bentley passed ahead to Darren Bent whose cross from the right was met with power by the foot of skipper Keane scoring in front of the away end, and causing great celebration in the Spurs end.
The report confirms that a point was the least we deserved really. It was enough to lift us above Hull to 12th place – our highest of the season. The minimum objective for the last three games has been met, but we now face two difficult games at Villa Park, before Chelsea at home.
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