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Spurs v West Bromwich Albion, 02.05.09

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 2ND MAY, 2009
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1) WEST BROMWICH ALBION 0 (0)

Scorer:-
Jenas, 43

Referee: - Rob Styles

Attendance: - 35, 836

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Corluka, Woodgate, King, Ekotto; Lennon, Jenas, Palacios, Modric; Keane (Capt.), Pavlyuchenko (sub Defoe, 64)

Subs not used: - Cudicini; Hutton, Bale; Zokora, Bentley, Huddlestone

Booked: - Palacios

West Brom (4-5-1):- Carson; Zuiverloon, Martis, Olsson, Robinson (sub Simpson, 58); Brunt, Mulumbu (sub Mensequez, 67), Valero (sub Texeira, 76), Greening (Capt.), Koren; Fortune

Subs not used: - Kiely; Donk; Do-Heon; Bednar

Booked:- Mulumbu (confirmed via Premier League site)

Spurs edge it with a touch of Jenas!

It is becoming a familiar scoreline – 1-0 to Spurs. This one was the fourth consecutive home win by that score, and just the fifth (at home) in this year’s Premier League competition. With one remaining home game against Man City, Spurs are able to match their best league clean sheet record, and are still two goals below their previous best home defensive record for a season (11 goals conceded in 1919-20). Spurs are now 16 points ahead of the bottom three, with West Brom a further three points behind and seemingly condemned to relegation.

Yet West Brom are far from the worst team we have seen in the league this season, committed to free playing football and rueing the apparent lack of “the rub of the green”, seeing decent efforts in this game come off the post and also another cleared off the line, with Gomes making a couple of fine saves to boot. Spurs too can claim they should have scored more, with Lennon hitting the woodwork in the second half and substitute Jermain Defoe having a decent goal disallowed for offside.

Spurs could and should have taken this game by the throat in my view, and they have to thank “the touch of Jenas” for the deciding goal that keeps them in the hunt for seventh place and Europa Cup football.

Harry Redknapp made one enforced change to the starting line-up, with Roman Pavlyuchenko returning in place of the injured Darren Bent. It was Pav’s first Spurs start for two months. Jermain Defoe was loudly cheered when announced and whenever sighted warming up down the sidelines.

The early indications were that it could be easy for Spurs, who attacked the Paxton goal in the first half, hoping no doubt that Carson would be affected by the sun in his eyes. Keane gave Pavlyuchenko an early half-chance which was blocked and then Ekotto put in a dangerous cross. However, Albion responded well and with good possession actually put the home side under some pressure winning a corner with a deflected shot. Lennon was hauled down just outside the box after a Modric delivery. Pavlyuchenko took a decent free kick which was hit low and just outside Carson’s right post.

Robbie Keane lost the ball deep in his own half, but it was won back by the determined Corluka, who after exchanging with Lennon went inside and had a shot blocked. After Spurs had conceded a somewhat cheap corner, Gomes was forced to dive to his right to save a header by Martis. After 23 minutes, Pavlyuchenko fielded a good long ball by Ledley King, passing to the advancing Jenas, whose shot was fumbled by Carson. The ball was half-cleared and Aaron Lennon ought to have done better with his shot that went wide.

Keane lost the ball again, but was then one of two Spurs men chasing the ever dangerous Marc-Antoine Fortune, who went down in the box causing the away support to hope for a penalty. The appeals were waved away by Rob Styles. Pavlyuchenko received the long clearance but skied his attempt on goal. Pavlyuchenko got another chance after more good work by Corluka and Lennon, but put this shot wide. Spurs were getting plenty of possession, but always chased and harried by the yellow-shirted West Brom men, causing delay and indecision at times in the Spurs movement. Even Modric was not having his usual influence on this game.

Spurs had a good move featuring Corluka, Jenas and Lennon, before Lennon crossed, Jenas dummied and Keane mis-cued his attempt on goal. It was left to Pavlyuchenko, whose shot was well blocked by the West Brom defence. After an exciting Lennon run, Pavlyuchenko had another shot blocked for a corner, taken by Modric, who subsequently passed to Lennon who had another shot saved. After another corner and a ball from the left by Jenas, Ledley King flicked a header wide of the back post.

After 40 minutes, right back Zuiverloon got into the Spurs box, went down but recovered to chip a ball to Fortune whose shot was over. Spurs finally took the lead with two minutes left in the first half. It was a good goal, following Corluka’s pass inside to Jenas who took a touch to round the defender, then hit a good low shot inside Carson’s left post. It was only Jenas’s fourth goal of the season – all of which have been scored in the Premier League. In added time, after a foul on Pavlyuchenko the free kick was put to Palacios whose shot was deflected for a corner.

During the half-time interval, several Double-winning legends were introduced to the crowd. They were Maurice Norman, Terry Medwin, Terry Dyson, Bobby Smith, Cliff Jones and Dave Mackay. All looked well to me, and all revelled in the mighty reception afforded to them by the crowd – especially Dave Mackay. Cliff Jones is seen regularly at Tottenham anyway and looked dapper as always. Bobby Smith was not using a walking stick, and also looked fit to me.

There was plenty of action again in the second half, but no goals. Fortune won a race with Ledley King for a long ball that came down the right. Fortune’s shot was held by Gomes at the second attempt. Fortune next received the ball down the left channel and hit a shot that was deflected onto the post, running across the goal mouth, before being cleared. After 55 minutes, Corluka headed a clearance which was touched perfectly by Keane into the path of Lennon who raced away to the opposite goal where Carson saved his shot with a dive to the left. Pavlyuchenko was fouled outside the box and the referee correctly waved play on. The move ended in a Lennon effort passing across the goalmouth.

Tony Mowbray took off left back Paul Robinson and replaced him with former gooner Jay Simpson, who slotted into the five man midfield. Zuiverloon switched to left back and Koren fell back to the right back position, although whenever they could, West Brom played with three at the back.

Pavlyuchenko was removed in favour of Defoe after 64 minutes. Defoe got a roaring cheer, but the removal of the Russian drew boos – presumably from those who thought that Robbie Keane should have made way. Keane does seem to have lost form in the last few weeks, but as long as Spurs are winning games 1-0, I suspect that there will be no change in the default style of Keane linking between the midfield and a front runner.

Martis had another headed effort after a West Brom free kick, hitting it over the target. Lennon passed to Corluka whose cross nearly resulted in an own goal, but the back header went over the bar for a Spurs corner. At a West Brom corner, Gomes harried Defoe to mark the left post, and this paid off as a header from Brunt’s corner was cleared by a combination of a Gomes save and Defoe’s clearance off the line! Modric failed to take advantage on the break, with Defoe available to him on his left. Modric chose the wrong direction and was robbed of the ball.

Palacios got his eleventh league yellow card of the season, and has seen a total of 17 cards in all competitions this season (including Internationals). It’s almost easier to mention that the number of games when he has not been booked! Only five of his cards have been in Spurs colours though, and of course he has been a fantastic acquisition for us.

Just when I thought that Rob Styles had had a reasonable game, he totally ignored two infringements by Fortune. Firstly he clearly tugged Ledley King’s shirt when challenging for the ball, then handled an attempt to clear. This led indirectly to a move where Gomes had to make a great save from Koren’s shot from the right. Defoe put the ball in the net, but there was an offside flag which I understand was not correct.

As the game closed, Modric found his form, hitting a good shot that just curved away from goal. This effort had followed a good passing movement featuring Ledley King, Lennon, Jenas and finally Modric. Defoe fed Lennon on the right of the area, and Lennon’s shot skimmed across the goalmouth off the woodwork, before Carson made a good save from Jenas.

There is some support for those who argue that West Brom deserved something out of this game, but the fact is that Spurs could and should have won by a far greater margin. The team will have to play with more concerted desire in their remaining games if they are to win the closely fought battle for seventh. Spurs are one of three teams on 47 points (more than we gained last season), with West Ham one point ahead. Spurs must regain their winning ways against Everton next week to be in with any chance of winning that race.

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