THE WEMBLEY CUP
FRIDAY 24TH JULY, 2009
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0) BARCELONA 1 (1)
Referee: - Mark Halsey
Attendance: - Est. 60,000
Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Cudicini (sub Gomes, 46); Hutton (sub Naughton, 46), Corluka, Huddlestone (sub Bostock, 80), Ekotto (sub Dervite, 83); Lennon, Jenas (Capt.) (sub Chimbonda, 46), Palacios (sub Livermore, 80), O'Hara (sub Keane, Capt., 46); Modric (sub Rose, 73); Defoe
Sub not used: - Obika
First Half: - Jorquera; Montoya, Caceres, Fontas, Abidal; Gai, Sanchez, Toure (Capt.), Pedro; Bojan, Gudjohnsen
Second Half: - Pinto; Dalmau, Muniesa, Henrique, Espasandin; Oriol, Keita, Rueda, Jonathan (Dos Santos); Rochina, Jeffren
Jake "The Head" snatches draw for Spurs
19 year old substitute Jake Livermore was the hero for Spurs, as he scored a diving header in the 83rd minute to secure what had looked like an unlikely draw against the European Champions. Whilst plenty of star names such as Henry, Messi, Eto'o (rumoured to be on his way out anyway), Pique and Hleb to name just a few were missing, those representing the Catalans played with a control and style that put Spurs on the back foot for much of the game, restricting their opportunity to create any danger. Spurs too were missing players, with the central defensive absentees well known, and Bent and Pavlyuchenko allegedly not being fit enough to play. Robbie Keane was restricted to a second half appearance.
As a result, Spurs played with Modric nominally the man to support Jermain Defoe, but he would often fall back to the left of midfield, whilst Jamie O'Hara sat behind Jenas, whose job clearly was to get forward as much as possible, and offer a little height for any long balls forward. Those displaying success for Spurs included the tenacious Palacios, and Tom Huddlestone, who from his centre-back slot sprayed a number of accurate long passes to the wings. Spurs unfortunately failed to make good use of the ball, and passes went astray or possession was conceded too easily. Barca played at a slow pace, keeping control until they were ready to uncoil an attack and often caused danger in the Spurs half, where few white shirts looked too good against the attacks. Spurs were being given a lesson by a reserve team, indicating just how far we have to go as a team.
55,000 Spurs fans had bought tickets for the game, and it was mainly down to them to create any atmosphere in the stadium. There were some Celtic fans who stayed after their first game (a 5-0 win over Al Ahly), and they booed former Rangers' star Alan Hutton whenever he was on the ball. Of course Spurs fans countered those jeers with cheers.
Barcelona's captain Yaya Toure (brother of gooner Kolo) gave a master class in his 45 minutes, and lifted a ball over the Spurs defence after 7 minutes for the advancing left back Abidal, who could only run the ball out of play. After 17 minutes Bojan beat Huddlestone and fired over the bar from 20 yards out. Two minutes later Bojan was in space but his shot was blocked, falling to Pedro on the right side, whose low shot was well saved by Cudicini.
Barcelona took the lead in the 32nd minute when Toure made a powerful (dare I say Vieira type) run through the middle that not even Palacios could stop. Corluka failed too, whereas Huddlestone got a foot in, being unfortunate to see the ball run to Bojan who made no mistake from 15 yards.
Finally Spurs showed some bite, when Palacios rounded a midfield opponent then sent a neat ball down the left channel to Modric whose shot was deflected onto the bar. In the follow-up, Lennon crossed deep from the right and Ekotto slammed his shot into the ground which the keeper pushed over the bar as it bounced up. It was Cudicini who had the last save of the half though, as Corluka made a poor attempt at a pass out of defence which was picked up by Sanchez, and well saved low to his left by the Spurs keeper.
Gomes started the second half, and Kyle Naughton replaced Hutton at right back for his official first team debut. Chimbonda replaced Jenas and slipped into the back four allowing Huddlestone a midfield berth. Finally Keane replaced Jamie O'Hara, and Spurs reverted to a traditional 4-4-2. They still didn't make much headway though, despite an even younger Barcelona side which now included Jonathan Dos Santos (Giovani's brother) playing on the wing.
After 58 minutes, Huddlestone had a goal-bound shot charged down after a Lennon cross, and then Chimbonda managed to head over a Modric corner from close range. Keita had a pop from 25 yards for Barcelona, and then Jeffren was the recipient of a good ball to the right side of the box, hitting a low shot that Gomes did well to keep out. From another Lennon cross, Keane just failed to get a finishing touch, and Luka's attempt at a follow-up was also blocked. Oriol had a good shot pushed over by Gomes for a corner. Jonathan was provider for Rochina who headed over from no more than 10 yards.
Spurs then made several substitutions including Danny Rose for Modric, Livermore for Palacios and Bostock for Huddlestone. Funnily enough these talented youngsters sparked the Spurs revival, with Bostock providing a good ball to Keane, who again was not able to get a decent touch on the ball. The equaliser came after a short corner taken by Rose to Keane who fed the ball back to Ekotto. Ekotto had not had one of his best games at the back, but now he sent in a great cross for Jake Livermore to head home with a committed dive forward. What a great moment for the youngster who will be able to dine out on tales of scoring at Wembley against the European Champions! Jake also showed creative skill with a neat pass to Defoe, whose shot was blocked for a corner.
Spurs will surely have learnt several lessons from this game against tougher and more talented opponents who are clearly drilled into a team style of slow build up, good movement as a unit and neat passing. The next game will be against Celtic at 4 p.m. on Sunday.
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