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Spurs v Birmingham, 22.05.11

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 22ND MAY, 2011
(4.00 P.M.)
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (0) BIRMINGHAM CITY 1 (0)

Spurs scorer:-
Pavlyuchenko, 49, 90(+3)

Birmingham scorer:-
Gardner, 79

Attendance:- 36,119

Referee;- Mark Clattenburg
Assistants;- Mr. S. Beck & Mr. S. Child
Fourth Official:- Mr. S. Attwell

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Cudicini; Kaboul, Dawson (Capt.), King, Rose; Lennon, Huddlestone (sub Kranjcar, 83). Sandro, Modric; Crouch (sub Pavlyuchenko, 39), Defoe

Subs not used:- Gomes; Corluka, Ekotto; Jenas, Palacios

No bookings

Birmingham (4-4-1-1):- Foster; Carr (Capt.), Davies, Johnson, Ridgewell; Larsson (sub Derbyshire, 75), Ferguson, Gardner, Fahey; Beausejour; Jerome

Subs not used:- Doyle; Murphy, Valles, Mutch, Redmond, Asante

Booked:- Ferguson, Ridgewell, Gardner, Derbyshire

Stinging the Blues!

Substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko’s second goal, scored in the final throes of added time was not the goal which sent Birmingham crashing down to the Championship, but it did provide a sting in the tail of a game which rarely excited in terms of football played. The game however did play a full part in the drama that was survival Sunday, during which various combinations of the five teams battling it out for survival were facing the drop. At half-time, Birmingham were safe, and ultimately the goal that did relegate them was Wolves’ second goal at home to victorious Blackburn, which meant that even if they drew against Tottenham, McLeish’s Birmingham were doomed because of a worst goals scored record. It was that close.

McLeish was short on resources at the business end of the season. He adopted a cautious approach strategically, with Beausejour playing a withdrawn role that looked more like part of a five man midfield for most of the game, rather than a supporting attacking partner for the often stranded Jerome up front. On the other hand, Spurs had the luxury of not even including perpetual substitute Bassong on the bench, with Danny Rose holding his place in favour of substitute Ekotto, and Cudicini keeping Gomes on the bench too. There was no Van der Vaart, and the Spurs goal-scoring hero of the day didn’t appear until Crouch had to withdraw through a first half injury. Both of Pavlyuchenko’s goals were cracking strikes with his “wrong” foot, and he did no harm to his chances of being retained, or perhaps attracting a decent fee in the summer transfer market.

It was a full house and the Brummie fans had turned up in their droves, and in some colourful outfits to urge their team on to survival. Spurs lined up with Huddlestone in the middle next to Sandro and Luka getting a free role from the left side of midfield. It was pretty much one way traffic in the early stages, as Birmingham struggled to hold back the tide, but successfully defended their goal. Crouch controlled the ball and sent Sandro away down the right channel. Sandro’s powerfully driven cross was parried by goalkeeper Ben Foster for a corner. Three minutes later it was Sandro again who tested the “Blues’” goal with a stinging right footed shot. Foster saved again and Spurs had another corner.

Danny Rose was showing some great touches at the back and in attack. One minute he was winning a great defensive tackle near his own corner flag, next he was at the other end sending in a great ball for the Spurs strikers. Sandro and Crouch both had shots blocked after 25 minutes, before Crouch headed on a cross from the right and Defoe got a head to the ball which looped into Foster’s arms. All the time, the Jumbotron was reporting scores from around the grounds, but personal radios were often ahead of the big screen. We knew that Liverpool were losing at Villa Park so we were a goal better than them in our quest to simply match their result to hold onto fifth place.

Rose won a personal battle with Birmingham skipper Stephen Carr and sent in another great ball. This time Luka Modric, busy as ever, was unable to develop the move. Sandro hit another shot that was deflected for a Spurs corner. Before the break, Kaboul came to the fore with some good crossing skills, but also at the other end with a great winning tackle against Barry Ferguson. Birmingham were appealing to the referee, Mark Clattenburg, but the official waved play-on, and did no harm to the Spurs cause today. Ferguson got booked for an attempt at retribution upon Kaboul. Before the break Huddlestone sent a good ball to the left side and ultimately Modric hit a shot which Foster held comfortably.

Soon after the break, Spurs went ahead in some style. After some great work by Danny Rose and a pass inside, Pavlyuchenko took the ball on and hit the net with a great right footed shot in front of the Paxton Stand. Now Birmingham had their work cut out, and had to try to come forward more, but first Spurs were going to maintain the pressure. Jermain Defoe had a great effort beating four players before hitting a shot that was deflected for a corner. Even Pavlyuchenko applauded his partner’s skill.

Ledley King was playing a second consecutive game, and he and Michael Dawson were well in control at the back. The crowd regaled Ledley with the modern chant which refers to his skills as opposed to those of John Terry, rather than referring to a former centre-back, although HIS name did slip in at least once during the game. Spurs had to deal with some pressure around the hour mark, with Birmingham winning successive corners.

Dawson sent Lennon away on a run with a great pass. Lennon took the ball to the line and cut it back for Huddlestone, whose shot passed wide. Pavlyuchenko had a nice crisp effort saved by Foster after 72 minutes. It wouldn’t be Spurs these days if they didn’t concede a goal though, and the away fans were given hope in the 79th minute, when a corner was only half cleared and Gardner scored with a shot that beat Cudicini’s left hand. By this time, we knew that Wigan had scored and in the midst of their celebrations, Birmingham fans found that once again they were facing the drop. Gardner skimmed the top of the Spurs bar with a free kick. Kranjcar replaced Huddlestone, before Lennon beat Gardner at the other end and chipped a short cross which Sandro tried unsuccessfully to convert. Birmingham substitute Matt Derbyshire saw yellow for simulation, when initially it looked as if Mr Clattenburg had succumbed to the ruse.

Niko Kranjcar hit a right foot shot just over the bar, and now we heard that Wolves had scored to seal Birmingham’s fate at that precise point. There were three minutes of added time, and at the death, Danny Rose was again the provider for a solo effort by Pavlyuchenko, whose shot was deflected slightly before hitting the under-side of the bar and going in the net. Birmingham’s players were on their knees and knew their fate.

At the final whistle, the Birmingham fans cheered their team relentlessly, and won applause from the Spurs fans for their attitude. It even looked as if the visiting fans were going to stay for the Spurs end of season party, and in fairness a few of them stayed throughout, as Gareth Bale was presented with the young player of the year award, and Luka Modric won the player of the year award. This makes me particularly proud, as a) I voted for him! and b)Spurs Odyssey readers have also voted for Luka over the course of the season through the “Spursometer”.

There will be no Fair Play league Europa entry for Spurs then, as they go straight to the first round of next year’s competition. Of course we wanted Champions League, but hopefully we can have another good go at that next season. Personally, I look forward to Her Majesty The Queen presenting the FA Cup to Spurs in her Diamond Jubilee year next May. See you there then!

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