SUNDAY 9TH AUGUST, 2009
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 3 (0) OLYMPIACOS 0 (0)
Referee: - Steve Bennett
Attendance: - 26,462
Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes (sub Cudicini, 46); Naughton (sub Chimbonda, 46), King (sub Corluka, 46), Bassong, Ekotto; Bentley (sub Boateng, 66), Huddlestone (sub Bostock, 79), O'Hara (sub Modric, 46) (sub Livermore, 79), Rose (sub Lennon, 46); Keane (Capt.) (sub Pavlyuchenko, 46), Crouch (sub Defoe, 46)
Sub not used: - Obika
Olympiacos (4-1-4-1): Nikopolidis (Pardo, 46); Zewlakow (Gonzalez, 80), A Papadopoulos (Pantos, 80), Mellberg, Domi (Raul Bravo, 80); K Papadopoulos; Galletti (Zairi, 46), Maresca (Ledesma, 56), Dudu (G Papadopoulos, 65), Leonardo (Soiledis, 88); Diogo (Mitroglou, 56)
Zippy Spurs win it in second half.
In the end Spurs coasted this final pre-season friendly for the first team. Greek Champions Olympiacos have already played a couple of Champions' League qualifiers, and with the next round approaching, perhaps their minds and feet were elsewhere, as they seemed to go through the motions for much of the game, with only a handful of threats upon the Spurs goal. We were treated to the first appearance of the season by Club Captain Ledley King, looking leaner, as cultured a defender as usual and ready to take on Liverpool next Sunday after his 45 minute presence. Ledley moved over to the right side of centre to accommodate new signing Sebastien Bassong of the "Rainbow nation" - Cameroon.
This is the first time I recall Ledley giving up his favourite slot at the left of centre since he was partnered by Anthony Gardner. Jonathan Woodgate has always moved across to allow Ledley to play left side. Bassong played the full 90 minutes and made an impressive start. On the odd occasion when he had a lapse of concentration, he soon recovered his position and possession, and looks a good acquisition to say the least. (There were fears that Bassong would be suspended for the start of the Premier League. However it seems that Spurs delayed the signing till after Newcastle's Championship game, so he has served his two match suspension on 24th May and 8th August)
Another Spurs debutant was of course Peter Crouch, partnered not with Defoe but with Keane. Crouch won his headers which were generally cushioned or nodded in the direction of a team-mate, and demonstrated his sharpness with a neat shot on the turn that nearly led to a goal.
With Spurs looking particularly sharp in the second half, due to the presence of Modric, Lennon and Defoe, to name just three, along with a keen-looking Pavlyuchenko, Harry Redknapp has the dilemma of picking his first choice strikers for next Sunday's game. Most fans would probably pick Jermain Defoe ahead of Robbie Keane, but I suspect Keane is going to be accommodated somehow in the line-up. Defoe has looked particularly fast all pre-season, and his goal was a demonstration of how he can create and score a goal out of nothing - at lightning speed.
David Bentley made his first appearance since the Bournemouth friendly, when he got injured, but whether he has cemented a place in the squad or improved his chances of a move is anybody's guess. Danny Rose got a welcome start on the left wing, and I am sure he will be featuring in the squad more this term. Danny is fast and holds and battles for the ball well. He got a few low crosses into dangerous areas, whereas Bentley provoked the usual questions about the quality of his delivery.
Olympiacos featured former Aston Villa defender Olof Mellberg at the back, and former Newcastle player Didier Domi at left back. There was no sign of Matt Derbyshire on the day. The Greeks played with a defensive midfielder - Kyriakos Papadopoulos - behind a 4-man midfield and Brazilian Diogo alone up front, although he was supported by his compatriot Leonardo (not the famous one!). Papadopoulos up-ended Jamie O'Hara as he advanced through the middle as early as the third minute. Bentley delivered a free kick which was met by Crouch but headed over the bar. Crouch had another header from a Bentley corner, which was headed down into the ground and up over the goal.
A further debutant for Spurs at right back was Kyle Naughton, who had a decent match, but was wayward with his passing a little more than one would like. A poor clearance after 9 minutes gave Dudu a chance which went just outside the far corner of goal. Robbie Keane had a good chance after 12 minutes, and won a corner with his deflected shot. Crouch's quick shot on the turn came after a Huddlestone pass, and went just wide of the target. The visitors had a decent chance just before half-time after a free kick was spread from right to left. Leonardo left Bentley in his wake, and Domi set up Diogo whose shot was wide. Gomes had been tested by a shot on target earlier in the half which he held cleanly, as he did any high ball that came his way.
Spurs made a string of substitutions at half-time, and suddenly the pace of the game lifted considerably. Lennon played left side to accommodate Bentley (until his substitution), and Modric partnered Huddlestone in central midfield. Lennon created an early chance for Defoe as he cut in from that left side, feeding the ball back for Defoe to fire wide. Jermain had a second shot two minutes later saved then cleared by the defenders. Aaron Lennon got a shot on target after a Huddlestone header was half-cleared.
Olympiacos made a steady stream of changes, and their interest seemed to wane as the game went on, although Leonardo had a good effort well saved by Cudicini after 57 minutes.
Spurs took a deserved lead in the 66th minute. Lennon did well to reach a clever Modric ball into the penalty area, and when he went down a penalty looked on the cards. However, Pavlyuchenko had already latched onto the ball and hit a powerful rising shot into the net with his left foot. Bentley was replaced by Boateng and now Lennon took up his position on the right, with Luka Modric moving to the left of midfield.
Spurs second goal came after a period of pressure and corners. Modric's corner led to an effort by Boateng which was cleared. Bassong had a header blocked then Chimbonda should have scored. Very soon after, Corluka scored on the ground after a corner taken on the right led to more disarray in the Greek defence. Defoe wanted a penalty when he went down in the box in an ensuing move, but then he scored a sparkling solo goal, collecting the ball outside and on the left side of the box, rounding a defender then emphatically firing home with his right foot.
Now a couple more Spurs youngsters (Bostock and Livermore) got their chance to impress. Spurs might have added to their tally in added time. Firstly Chimbonda did well on the right and got the ball into Defoe, whose shot was just over, then Pavlyuchenko forced a great save from the Greek goalkeeper, with a sharp shot that followed a speedy move from right to left in the midfield.
There was no sign of Jenas, Palacios, Hutton, or Bale and of course Harry Redknapp has a defensive problem to solve with the injuries to Woodgate and Dawson. However, Liverpool have their own injury problems in defence, and if Spurs play with the speed and style that was seen in the second half of this game, then a good game is in prospect next Sunday.
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