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Birmingham v Spurs, 04.12.10

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 4TH DECEMBER, 2010
BIRMINGHAM CITY 1 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1)

Birmingham scorer:-
Gardner, 81

Spurs scorer:-
Bassong, 19

Attendance:- 25,770

Referee:- Mr. Kevin Friend
Assistants:- Mr. S. Burt & Mr. P. Keane
Fourth official:- Mark Clattenburg

Teams:-
Birmingham (4-1-4-1):- Foster; Carr (Capt.), Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell; Ferguson; Fahey (sub Zigic, 60), Gardner, Bowyer (sub Larsson, 71), Beausejour (sub Murphy, 80); Jerome

Subs not used:- Taylor; Jiranek, Michel; Derbyshire

Booked:- Ridgewell (foul on Bale)

Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Hutton, Gallas (Capt.), Bassong, Ekotto; Lennon, Modric, Palacios, Bale; Defoe (sub Pavlyuchenko, 78), Crouch

Subs not used:- Cudicini, Pletikosa; Corluka, Dawson; Sandro, Kranjcar

Booked:- Palacios

Blue Grit pegs back pretty Spurs.

Harry Redknapp fielded his strongest available starting eleven at St. Andrews today, and for the first 25 minutes or so, many of them demonstrated some intricate and entertaining football, incorporating a number of tricks from the training ground. It was during this period that Spurs took a deserved lead with Sebastien Bassong scoring only his second Premier League goal for the club. Sadly, the clever touches started to go wrong, and whilst Birmingham had initially looked a bit leggy after their mid-week Carling Cup win, they gradually saw more and more of the ball until Craig Gardner levelled the scores with less than ten minutes of the game remaining. This goal had been coming and despite the disappointment, it is hard to begrudge the “Blues” their ninth draw of the season.

One mystery about Harry Redknapp’s selection was the selection of two substitute goalkeepers, with both Cudicini and Pletikosa on the bench. This was either a kick in the teeth for fringe players such as Bentley and Robbie Keane, or an indication that at the last minute such players had fallen foul to injury or ailments. I understand that David Bentley did suffer an injury shortly before the game, so the truth seems to be that Spurs were just short of bodies. It was pleasing to see Michael Dawson on the bench though, and he was received fondly by the Spurs fans.

Birmingham’s fans cheered Wilson Palacios before the game. (He started there before going to Wigan). However, they were booing him before the game was out, when he was booked after he seemed to retaliate over a heavy challenge by Gardner. Palacios got booked for his reaction, whilst the heavy tackle of the home player was allowed by referee Kevin Friend. Spurs seemed to be subject to more unfair decisions in the second half, when Defoe was clearly fouled although not on the ball (the ball was in play), and on another occasion when he had a pretty good penalty appeal.

Birmingham’s strategy was cautious with Barry Ferguson playing behind the midfield four and Cameron Jerome on his own up front. Ferguson was announced as the Birmingham man of the match with half an hour of play left, but they might have wanted to change that decision after Gardner’s leveller.

Spurs were more traditional, and adventurous, with Bale somewhat neglected on the left whilst the majority of early attacks were down the right flank, where the likes of Modric, Lennon, Defoe and Crouch shared quick passes and clever flicks to put pressure on the defence. Such play led to an early chance for Crouch after 4 minutes, when Modric had fed Lennon, who crossed deep to the back post, where Crouch’s shot, after a little too much time taken, was saved by Foster, conceding a corner.

After a Jerome header out to the right flank, the ball fell to former Spurs man Stephen Carr, who fired miles high, and almost fell about laughing at his effort. The “Stephen Carr, My Lord” song was actually heard from some Spurs fans, which must be the first time I have heard affection for the man since he left us for Newcastle. Perhaps someone was being facetious. Birmingham had a brief spell of two or three corners, and Gomes led a Spurs attack with a throw that sent Hutton chasing away with the ball. He fed Crouch, who once again fired wide, this time with his right foot from a position on the right side of the area. More attractive combination play from Lennon, and Crouch led to a Defoe effort being blocked, and then a shot by Palacios being put out by Bowyer for a corner.

Bale actually turned up on the right side for Spurs and was on a run goalward from the right channel, before being unfairly halted by Ridgewell, who got a yellow card for his misdemeanour. The incident was punished by Spurs, as Bale’s free kick was floated to the back post; Foster failed to collect and Crouch put the ball back into the area, where Bassong had the luxury of a touch before firing home! Number 19 scored in the 19th minute!

Another Lennon cross reached Crouch who needed a touch too many and the ball was cleared. At the other end, Modric lost out in a battle with Gardner, who found space before hitting a shot wide. Shortly after Hutton raced forward and passed to Defoe, who turned one way then the next, before his effort was blocked. Despite their domination and plenty of pretty football, Spurs had failed to nail the game, and would ultimately pay a penalty for that failure.

After 52 minutes, with Spurs now playing towards their own fans, Modric then Palacios teed up Defoe, whose shot was both blocked then saved by Foster for another Spurs corner. Gomes had a save to make at the other end after a Birmingham cross from the left was headed down by Gardner. After 59 minutes Crouch was on the ball and making ground through the middle with Lennon on his right and Defoe on his left. Crouch made the wrong choice passing to Defoe who was under more pressure. This was the moment I thought he might have had a penalty, as he seemed to go down involuntarily, when he might have made use of the ball. The referee in pink was having none of it.

Alex McLeish brought on the imposing figure of Zigic on the hour, and he did give the Spurs defence some problems. Gallas had once again been showing plenty of leadership traits, and Bassong had also been defending stoutly. It was a Gallas clearance that was collected by Crouch, feeding Defoe, who made a run but fired wide. McLeish rang the changes again with former gooner Larsson replacing boo-boy Bowyer. Defoe put another Lennon cross wide, before Harry Redknapp made his only change of the game, replacing Jermain with Pavlyuchenko. Pavlyuchenko had a couple of half chances, but most of the play now was at the other end.

Gomes made a great reaction save from a Ridgewell shot, but minutes later Birmingham were back on terms after Zigic headed back a cross into the centre of the goal area, where Gardner piled in and headed home. Apart from Foster saving a Bale cross/shot, Spurs had no real chances, and fought a rearguard action for most of the remaining time to at least preserve a point, which has established them in fifth place, but leaves a three point gap between us and fourth placed Man City, who today beat Bolton.

Next we face the challenge of a trip to Holland and the need to beat FC Twente to secure a top of Champions League Group A place, before next Sunday’s crunch game against Chelsea. Onward and upward you Spurs!

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