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Blackburn Rovers v Spurs, 02.02.11

(8 P.M.)

Crouch, 3

Attendance:- 23,253

Referee:- Mr. A. Marriner
Assistants:- Mr. S. Burt & Mr. D. Richardson
Fourth Official:- Phil Dowd

Blackburn (4-4-2):- Robinson; Salgado, Samba (Capt.), Nelsen, Olsson; Andrews, Dunn (sub Pedersen, 67), Jones (sub Nzonzi, 64), Hoilett; Diouf (sub Benjani, 81), Roberts

Subs not used:- Bunn; Hanley, Grella, Kalinic

Booked:- Jones (foul on Defoe), Nzonzi (foul on Van der Vaart)

Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Corluka, Gallas (Capt.), Bassong, Ekotto; Van der Vaart, Jenas, Palacios, Lennon; Crouch, Defoe (sub Sandro, 76)

Subs not used: Cudicini, Pletikosa; Khumalo(36), Woodgate; Kranjcar; Pavlyuchenko

Booked:- Corluka

Crouch scores on Groundhog Day for Rovers

It was Groundhog Day and how Blackburn must hate Spurs, and in particular Peter Crouch! Crouch scored only his second Premier League goal of the season to secure a precious three points for Spurs. His only other league goal this term was at White Hart Lane against – Blackburn! Spurs completed their second consecutive league double over Rovers last night, and when they last won at Ewood Park, in December 2009, it was that man Crouch who scored both Spurs’ goals!

Last night’s goal came very early on three minutes, and although Spurs at times played some pleasant training ground one touch football, for the most part their game was about defending Blackburn’s attempts to level the scores as they pursue their dream of a qualification for Europe. The Spurs defence, marshalled by skipper William Gallas, held firm, and to a man played well. In particular Gomes was at his best form, making plenty of key saves, not least with two in added time. Gallas has proved to be an excellent signing. His experience, guile and leadership qualities have assisted Spurs a great deal. There was no sign of Alan Hutton and he was replaced by “Charlie” Corluka, who also had an outstanding game, although he was up against the man that Rovers announced as the Blackburn man of the match, Junior Hoilett.

Corluka was perhaps exposed to the advances of Hoilett, as Aaron Lennon was deployed on the left to try and exploit veteran right back Michel Salgado, who in the past has had such a difficult time against Gareth Bale. Lennon had a decent enough game, but he was predictable, cutting inside rather than outside at every opportunity. Still, he did usually retain the ball, and pass it accurately! The absence of Hutton has yet to be explained, but perhaps it was he who had the clash of heads with Steven Pienaar in training. Pienaar was absent with a concussion, and Spurs also had to cope with the absence of Luka Modric, who had an appendix operation earlier in the week.

The absence of Modric and the positioning of Van der Vaart on the right gave Spurs a more balanced look, with Jenas and Palacios doing okay in the midfield, and Crouch and Defoe battling away up front. New signing Bongani Khumalo was on the bench, and it was great to see Jonathan Woodgate warming up down the touchline too. Woodgate was greeted heartily by Spurs fans, who reflected upon his glorious Carling Cup Final winner against Chelsea in 2008.

There was a decent turn-out at Ewood Park, although I suspect the upper tier above us away fans was empty. On a damp midweek night over 200 miles from home, the faithful Spurs support turned out in masses, despite the painful Cup exit last Sunday.

The goal came with one of Spurs first attacks, after Van der Vaart exchanged passes with Corluka, then sent a deep cross to the back post, where Crouch rose to head back across Paul Robinson’s goal and into the net. Thereafter genuine chances for Spurs and threats to the ever-popular Robinson were at a premium, but Spurs kept Rovers at bay with some solid defending. Midfielder David Dunn was their main threat in the first half, and when he was replaced in the second half by Pedersen, the decision brought boos from the home crowd who had seen Dunn threaten Gomes’ goal on a number of occasions. Most of his shots were always passing wide though.

Hoilett had a shot blocked and cleared by Corluka after 14 minutes, and Gomes had to make a save just before the shot too. Dunn’s first noteworthy attempt after 20 minutes was always passing wide of Gomes’ left post, although the keeper dived dramatically to try and reach the ball anyway. At the other end after half an hour, Defoe was fouled by the massive Samba just outside the area. Van der Vaart’s free kick passed just over the bar. Jermaine Jones, playing as the holding midfielder for Blackburn, also fouled Defoe, and got the first yellow card of the night. Van der Vaart also missed with this free kick.

After 35 minutes, a mistake by Palacios led to a Blackburn attack, and Dunn hit a low shot on target down the middle of the goal. Gomes was down to save this one, and held the ball at the second attempt. A minute later Dunn caused more danger with an arrowed shot that passed outside Gomes’ left post again.

One Diouf might have gone to Glasgow Rangers, but Rovers have another – Mame Diouf, a 23 year old Senegalese who was on Manchester United’s books last season. Diouf was partnering Jason Roberts and threatened the Spurs goal soon after the start of the second half. Gomes made the save as the shot came from his left.

Spurs’ best chance to increase their lead came after 56 minutes, when Lennon made a break and carried the ball down the middle, having a chance to shoot, but feeding the ball to Defoe who was on his left. Defoe was one on one against his former spurs team-mate and Paul Robinson won this confrontation with a good save. In the follow-up Van der Vaart’s shot was blocked and Blackburn cleared their lines. A couple of minutes later, Lennon cut inside with the ball and hit a rising shot that got a slight deflection and then was tipped over the bar for a corner by that man Robinson who by now had been regaled with the chant of “You’re Spurs and you know you are”.

Steve Keane played all his substitution cards in an effort to try and get level, but by and large Spurs were holding firm before their goal could be directly threatened. Gomes made a great save, with a dive to his left to thwart Hoilett’s shot, and repeated the trick two minutes later when Roberts tried to get on the end of Hoilett’s cross. Rovers had a free kick on the edge of the area, and Gomes just patted this shot down confidently and completed another good save.

Harry Redknapp made his only substitution, replacing Defoe with Sandro. The clear intention now was just to consolidate and hold the one goal lead. Spurs held firm but were threatened in added time, as Samba had a shot blocked and Gomes made another good save from Andrews’ shot after a Pedersen corner.

Gomes was my man of the match, and the early votes on the “Spursometer” are supporting that suggestion. This was our fifth clean sheet in our last 8 games, which is praise-worthy in the context of our ongoing fight to retain a top four place. Forget that Cup exit! We’ve won the first of our “Cup Finals”. Only 14 more to go in the league! Come on you Spurs!

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