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Spurs v Sunderland, 23.08.08

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 23RD AUGUST, 2008
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0) SUNDERLAND 2 (0)

Spurs scorer:-
Jenas, 73

Sunderland scorers:-
Richardson, 55
Cisse, 83

Attendance: - 36,064

Referee: - Mike Dean

Teams:-
Spurs (4-1-4-1):- Gomes; Zokora, Woodgate, King (Capt.), Ekotto (sub Huddlestone, 55); Jenas; Lennon (sub Giovani, 55), Bentley, Modric, Bale; Bent

Subs not used: - Sanchez; Gilberto, Gunter, Dawson; O’Hara

Booked: - Bale (simulation)

Sunderland (4-4-2):- Gordon; Bardsley, Nosworthy, Collins, Higginbotham; Malbranque, Whitehead (Capt.), Richardson (sub Cisse, 65), Reid (sub Miller, 86); Diouf, Murphy

Subs not used: - Ward; Leadbitter; Stokes; Healey, Chopra

Booked: - Richardson (celebration), Malbranque (foul on Bentley)

More questions than answers.

There are more questions than answers about Spurs, who two weeks into the season appear to be in utter disarray. Was it a tired Ledley King that failed to leap and meet Murphy’s late “up and under” cross that Sunderland’s new boy Djibril Cisse was able to simply head back across the goal for the winner? Why was Dimitar Berbatov not even on the bench? Why did Spurs play at home with only one striker and a five man midfield that used Bentley out of position? Why did the programme only list 20 Spurs names on the squad list against Sunderland’s 38? Why has the Spurs squad for the season not been resolved before the start of the league programme? Will Spurs actually manage to resolve the Berbatov saga, and replace him when he goes? Who will provide the much-needed muscle in the middle for Spurs? Will members of the Spurs board now be involved in a secret tryst to arrange a replacement manager after a second successive start of two defeats? Was Darren Bent actually playing today?

Already this season it’s quite tiresome to be a Spurs fan, with the loss of hope, and the dismay at our star signings failing to give us a much needed win. On the other hand, Roy Keane is assembling a workmanlike team that contains little in the way of star potential, but plenty of proof that if you provide men who will run and run for you all day, offer grit and steel in the engine room of midfield, and more precision in front of goal, then you will get results. The top half must surely be a realistic hope for the Black Cats this season. Spurs’ one objective has to be to achieve their first league win, but it won’t come at Stamford Bridge next week.

A packed house welcomed the Spurs team to the pitch led by club captain Ledley King, playing one of his few games of the season. There was also a rapturous reception for Steed Malbranque in the visitors’ colours. We knew that Tainio was injured, but the absence of Pascal Chimbonda was a surprise.

Spurs lined up with Jenas at the back of the midfield, with Lennon and Bale on the flanks and Bentley beside Modric in the middle. The midfield arrangement was fluid, with Jenas also getting forward at times. Sunderland played Murphy up front with Diouf playing just off him. Steed was playing on the right, which he was so often denied at Spurs, and Andy Reid was on the left side.

It took a while for Spurs possession to turn into any spark, and their first real effort on goal came after 10 minutes, when Modric fed Bentley who tried a shot from 25 yards, which was well outside the post. Bentley delivered a meaningful cross a few minutes later that passed across the 6 yard area. Bentley, Lennon and Zokora had been providing some excitement down the right flank, and a lovely chipped cross by Lennon after 18 minutes (fed by Modric) led to a Spurs corner.

Spurs problem was that when they were on the attack, their flair players were usually swamped by two or three red-striped shirts, whereas when Sunderland attacked, Spurs were slow to close them down. The midfield is too focussed upon attack at present. Malbranque and Reid worked a Sunderland corner after 22 minutes, and Gomes had to take the ball off Nosworthy’s head. Gareth Bale got into the Sunderland area on the end of a good Lennon pass, but was shown yellow by referee Mike Dean for simulation.

Sunderland came closest to scoring after 38 minutes, when Malbranque’s shot from outside the box beat Gomes to his right, but rebounded off the post. The best Spurs could do was cross into the area (this time through Bale) just before the break, but no-one claimed the ball, least of all Bent who was clearly well policed by Nosworthy and Collins all afternoon.

Spurs were awarded a corner soon after the re-start, despite the fact that the ball appeared to come off Bent. Bentley swung it in, but Bale headed over from 8 yards. This was to prove an expensive miss indeed. Gomes was in action after 53 minutes, when Murphy met a right field cross and hooked a shot goalward, which was well saved. Spurs were failing to close the ball down, win second balls, and also failing to challenge the opposition in all areas of the field. They paid the penalty when Ledley King only half-cleared, Jenas failed to impose himself, and Richardson took advantage with a good shot to the left of Gomes.

Immediately, Ramos took off Lennon and Ekotto, for Giovani (that’s the name on his shirt folks!) and Huddlestone. Bale fell to left back; Huddlestone took over at the back of midfield, and Jenas moved up in support of the anonymous Bent. Giovani played mostly right side, and Bentley moved out to the left. At last Spurs did play with the sort of passion and desire that excited the home fans, and offered more chances on goal. Malbranque got booked for a foul on Bentley, who took the kick which Gordon failed to hold, and Woodgate missed the opportunity to prod home from close range.

Modric had been hustled off the ball once or twice earlier in the game, but he was also at the heart of Spurs attempted revival. He was on the right side of the area and passed to Huddlestone who sent in a quick cross, which Jenas headed over. After 62 minutes, Modric and Bentley helped Spurs out of their half with two incisive passes, ending in delivery to Bent who hit the side netting from the right side of the box. Jenas made another determined run into the 6 yard area but was closed down by Gordon.

Goal-scorer Richardson was replaced by Cisse – signed this week on loan from Marseille – with 25 minutes to go.

Spurs maintained the initiative though, and after a Zokora throw, Modric’s determination and skill was to the fore, as he managed to get the ball to Giovani who threatened Gordon’s goal with a shot from the right that whizzed just over the bar. Jenas showed more endeavour in reaching a long ball which bounced over the defence. He got the header in, but it went wide. Bentley took the ball off Jenas’s toes after 70 minutes, hitting a tremendous shot that Gordon tipped over the bar. The deserved equaliser came in the 73rd minute, thanks to Modric’s effort, a shot that was only parried by Gordon, and a short range finish from Jenas

At this stage you fancied Spurs to take the spoils, but the only further effort they created was when Bale was fouled, and Bentley’s kick was saved by Gordon. Spurs were caught on the hop in the 83rd minute when Murphy broke down the left flank, put over a high cross that went over Gomes and the defence. Ledley’s leap was not high enough, and Cisse was there to head back across the keeper for the winner in front of the ecstatic visiting fans.

This was Spurs’ first Premier League defeat at home to Sunderland, and the first home defeat in the league to this team since the 1977-78 season when we were in the second division. We are rooted near the bottom of the infant league, but those who think we will be there for long are surely wrong, aren’t they?

· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
· Read the preview for this game.

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