BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 12TH DECEMBER, 2009
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0) WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 1 (1)
Referee:- Mr. S. Attwell
Assistants:- A Garratt and M Yerby
Fourth Official:- Mr. R Booth.
Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Corluka, Dawson, Bassong, Ekotto; Lennon, Huddlestone, Palacios (sub Modric, 58), Kranjcar (sub Giovani, 78); Keane (Capt.) (sub Crouch, 58), Defoe
(Armband to Dawson)
Subs not used:- Alnwick; Hutton, Bale; Rose
Wolves (4-4-2):- Hahnemann; Stearman (sub Iwelumo, 79), Craddock, Berra, Ward; Edwards (sub Foley, 59), Henry (Capt.), Milijas (sub Mancienne, 70), Jarvis; Doyle, Ebanks-Blake
Subs not used:- Hennessy; Surman, Castillo, Maierhofer
Booked:- Henry (foul on Huddlestone), Jarvis (simulation), Ward (Time-wasting), Hahnemann (Time-wasting), Mancienne (foul on Modric)
Wolves choke Spurs lambs
….”Then the wolf shall live with the sheep”…… (Isaiah 11, verse 6)
On a day when several Premier League results did not go according to plan and/or form, Wolves confounded the pundits and the Spurs players by taking an early lead and holding on for the remaining 87 minutes plus a total of 9 minutes added at the end of the two halves. Unlike the Stoke defeat, where Spurs had clearly been the better team, and had plenty of chances to win, on this occasion Wolves’ desire for Premier League survival was far greater than Spurs’ desire for Champions’ League football.
To their credit, and that of their manager Mick McCarthy, Wolves did not come to play in a 4-5-1, but with two committed strikers. Having got their goal, of course Wolves got men behind the ball, but their work ethic ensured that Spurs players were closed down in all areas of the pitch, putting a clamp on their creative genes on most occasions. The lion-hearted relative unknowns of Wolves had the upper hand on the Spurs stars, who like lambs frolicked prettily for a lot of the game, seemingly unaware of the fate that lay in store for them.
Harry Redknapp made just one change to the starting line-up, with Keane replacing Crouch in attack, perhaps for a sentimental return against the team where he started his career in the nineties. Luka Modric was a welcome presence on the bench, but even his insertion with over half an hour to go was not to break the Wolves defence.
Wolves also brought a strong support with them, occupying both upper and lower tiers of the away section, which is more than many Premier League teams manage. That support had plenty to cheer too, and for most of the game made more noise than the home support who may have sensed the destiny of their team. There were plenty of occasions when the Spurs fans did try and get their team going though.
Wolves goal came as a result of a harsh free kick awarded against Huddlestone in the north-east corner by assistant referee Mr. Yerby. I should point out that Mr. Yerby isn’t all bad, as he was the official that spotted Wayne Bridge’s penalty area ball juggling when we beat Chelsea in the Carling Cup Final. The kick was quickly taken by Milijas, and swung into the box dangerously, where former Reading striker Kevin Doyle got the faintest of headers to hit the net. Gomes probably had only one meaningful save to make in the rest of the game, but Spurs didn’t really test Hahnemann until late in the game.
As Spurs dominated possession and occupied enemy territory, Michael Dawson sent a number of trademark diagonal passes directly to the feet of Ekotto, who was one of Spurs most effective players going forward. However, despite plenty of decent approach play, most moves broke down before getting near the goal, and I felt that our midfield was too often too far behind the strikers to offer support. This occurred even in the second half when we were chasing the game.
Huddlestone found Defoe with a good pass after 21 minutes, and Jermain did at least hit the target, where Hahnemann was comfortable in holding the shot. Huddlestone was the provider again for Robbie Keane who wanted a corner for his shot being deflected. Mr Attwell was having none of it. Keane had another chance when Kranjcar crossed from the left after a Spurs throw, but the header went well over the bar. Defoe met a good pass from Corluka at the near post, but the shot went outside the target.
Just after the break, Gomes had to make a good save from Ebanks-Blake after Doyle had beaten Bassong to a fifty-fifty ball and laid off the pass. For all their effort, Spurs had still not forced a clear cut chance and Crouch and Modric replaced Keane and Palacios after 58 minutes. There were great cheers for Luka who immediately had an influence on the game from a deep position, firing accurate passes left and right, whilst Huddlestone was allowed the more attacking role.
One of McCarthy’s adjustments was to bring on Chelsea loanee Michael Mancienne – a defender for a midfielder. Wolves had a definite time-wasting strategy, which drew two yellow cards from the referee – eventually! Kranjcar’s last action was to hit a shot down into the ground and off target, after good play by Lennon and Corluka. He was replaced by Giovani Dos Santos, making his first appearance since September, and his first Premier League appearance for over a year.
Modric had a shot go over the bar, and Huddlestone had a blinding shot well saved before Defoe’s follow-up was blocked. Huddlestone again brought a meaningful save by the Wolves’ keeper, at last having to earn his corn. It was too little too late, and Ebanks-blake might have made it 2-0 with a shot that whistled past Gomes’ left post.
I am still angry and depressed over this result. Obviously I am one of those embarrassed by over-confidence before the game, and perhaps Spurs’ players were guilty of such complacency on the pitch. There will be no room for such attitude against Manchester City next Wednesday night. Realistically, having lost 7 points in the last 3 games, we have no right to be optimistic about our finishing position, have we?
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