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Spurs v Newcastle, 28.12.10

(3 p.m.)

Lennon, 57
Bale, 81

Attendance:- 35,927

Referee:- Mr. A. Taylor
Assistants:- Mr. M. Mullarkey & Mr. A. Watts
Fourth Official:- Mr. M. Jones

Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Gomes; Hutton, Dawson (Capt.), Kaboul, Ekotto; Lennon, Palacios (sub Jenas, 46), Modric, Bale; Van der Vaart (sub Crouch, 72); Pavlyuchenko (sub Bassong, 66)

Subs not used:- Pletikosa; Corluka; Kranjcar; Keane

Booked:- Palacios, Kaboul

Sent off:- Kaboul (65 – Violent conduct)

Newcastle (4-1-4-1):- Krul; Simpson, S. Taylor, Coloccini, Perch; Smith; Routledge, Barton (Capt.), Tiote (sub Lovenkrands, 79), Gutierrez (sub Ranger, 67); Carroll

Subs not used:- Harper; Williamson; Xisco, Best, Kadar

Booked:- Tiote, Gutierrez (foul on Lennon), Smith, Carroll (foul on Gomes)

Spurs Wizards’ Merry Christmas!

Once again, Spurs had to come through adversity, after Younes Kaboul was needlessly sent off mid-way through the second half, and once again Spurs had to deal with below standard officiating that allowed some thuggish and unsporting behaviour by the visitors to go un-punished, but two simply lovely goals and the most magical performance by my favourite current Spurs player Luka Modric ensured that Spurs remained unbeaten in 8 Premier League games, and that they went into fourth place (at least overnight) above Chelsea.

Spurs are simply a lovely team to watch at the moment, and those of us who have followed the team through thick and thin (too much thin) need to cherish what we are seeing at this time. Arguably we have three world class players in the shape of Van der Vaart, Modric and Bale, but definitely we have a group of players who clearly have a great spirit, some great skills, and unbounded determination to succeed.

As I tweeted and updated my Facebook status last evening, I had a lovely day; got very angry with the officials; loved the goals and of course love Spurs and Luka! I got very animated with the referee, Mr. Anthony Taylor, and his assistants. They looked like clones out of some poor FA Referee-making factory. Mr Taylor is relatively inexperienced in the Premier League, and in my view it showed, as he was soft on the cynical and tough Newcastle team which included Joey Barton and Alan Smith. As for Joey Barton, this man should not be playing professional football, never mind captaining a Premier League team, as he did today. Apart from his despicable character and his vicious challenges, everything was shown about the man that you need to know, after Spurs had put the ball out of play for a Newcastle injury, and instead of giving possession back to Spurs, Barton hit a long kick deep into the corner and beckoned his team to defend what became a very attacking situation for Newcastle, when Spurs had abandoned a potential attack themselves to put the ball out of play. The situation also led to Younes Kaboul’s yellow card for a foul on Barton himself. Younes was clearly upset with the strategy, and allowed himself to get fatally rattled later when he head-butted Tiote who had impeded his run down the line. Kaboul got a straight red for that, and for the third time this season (FC Twente, Villa and Newcastle) Spurs won the game with ten men. Perhaps we should start that way!

Spurs are surely one of the least dirty sides in the league. Too often in fact, we comment that we are not hard enough. Our side is full of flair and attacking talent, complying with manager Harry Redknapp’s desire to play entertaining and attacking football. This is football conforming to “The Spurs Way”. There is the sheer class of Van der Vaart; then there is the similar class of Modric coupled with astounding effort, skill and determination to drift through challenges and lead to attacking play. Then there is the pace and wonder of Spurs Player of the calendar year, Gareth Bale, who scored another classic goal, fed by Modric from the Spurs half. Aaron Lennon too is regaining his old form and fitness, and both our wingers track back and defend effectively, which has a lot to do with our ability to cope with being a man short, and to counter-attack venomously.

Newcastle have achieved some great results this season, notably with a win at The Emirates. They missed the suspended Kevin Nolan, but lined up in a 4-1-4-1, with Carroll far ahead of his midfield, Smith protecting the defence, and former Spur Wayne Routledge, Barton, Tiote and Gutierrez in the middle. Of our defenders, Alan Hutton was the only one that worried me occasionally, as Gutierrez managed to get goal-side of him too often for my liking.

The game was preceded with a hearty one minute’s applause for the late Ralph Coates, taken from us a relatively young age and mourned by plenty of his contemporary Spurs players on the touchline. There was a fine filmed tribute to Ralph at half-time too, with words offered by Pratt, Mullery, Beal, Chivers, Jennings and Peters, all of whom played with Ralph of course.

Spurs started the game brightly, with Lennon winning two corners, one of which followed a Modric pass identical to that which had sent Hutton away at Villa Park for Spurs’ first goal. Spurs were struggling to break down the Newcastle barrier though, as exampled by a triple probe through the middle by Palacios, Modric and Van der Vaart, who failed to break through. Modric challenged for a high ball after 14 minutes, and it dropped to Pavlyuchenko who tried a right footed shot from an angle, which goalkeeper Krul held.

Modric was everywhere for Spurs, and under great pressure just outside the Spurs area, he sent a quality ball down the left to Van der Vaart, who won a free kick. Rafa took the kick, which the goalkeeper initially fumbled but then managed to clear. Pavlyuchenko won a corner after a Bale throw, and the kick was taken by Van der Vaart. The ball fell to Palacios who tried a shot from 25 yards, which was well wide of the mark. Palacios was having a missed game with plenty of good stuff such as winning tackles and decent passes, but a few that were mis-placed too.

The referee’s lenience towards the Newcastle midfield was shown when Smith got no punishment for his heavy challenge on Van der Vaart. The free kick was saved for another Spurs corner. Two minutes later Tiote won the ball off Palacios, perhaps unfairly, and got in a right foot shot, which Gomes held. More Van der Vaart and Modric quality led to a shot by the Dutchman which was blocked. Now Gareth Bale turned up on the right flank, after a switch with Lennon, and fed Van der Vaart, whose shot carried no power.

Surprisingly, it was Palacios who got the first yellow card for his first foul really, whereas Newcastle’s blue shirted players had been getting away with too much. Ekotto sent Bale away for an exciting run, but this attack came to nought down near the bye line. Just before the break, Spurs all but scored, as Van der Vaart just failed to make contact with a cross from the left, before the ball was returned by Hutton from the opposite flank. Pavlyuchenko rose and headed down, but Krul managed to touch the ball onto his left post, leading to the ball running tantalisingly across goal, and maybe even touching the opposite post.

Harry Redknapp correctly saw Palacios as a risk, fearing a second booking, and Jermaine Jenas started the second half.

Within the first minute of the re-start, Pavlyuchenko won a header and put the ball into the path of Van der Vaart, who hit a shot wide across the goalmouth. Then came the Barton incident and Kaboul’s booking. Barton had already been attracting heavy abuse from the Spurs fans, and this incident only served to exacerbate the situation. To the tune of the “Adebayor” song, they chanted “Your sister’s your Mum”

Gutierrez saw yellow for halting Lennon in his tracks, and then Spurs took a 57th minute lead. Kaboul had already been getting forward to try and break the deadlock, and this time from a central position, he passed outside to Lennon in his familiar position. Lennon got round his marker and hit a low shot across the keeper’s hands. There was a slight deflection, but the ball hit the net to send that Paxton Road end into ecstasy.

After a Spurs throw on the hour, Pavlyuchenko laid the ball up for Modric whose right foot shot was saved by Krul. Now Kaboul came running with the ball out of defence making ground down the left flank, only to be halted by Tiote in front of the dug-outs. Kaboul responded stupidly, and now we have two players missing the next two, and in Kaboul’s case three games. Once again, Spurs responded by playing Van der Vaart up front, with Bassong replacing Pavlyuchenko, and fulfilling a successful defensive role against his old team.

Newcastle’s new manager Alan Pardew wanted to go for the throat by taking off Gutierrez and putting on another striker, Nile Ranger. Spurs played with the same control and discipline that they had at Villa Park, and still managed to make plenty of threats upon the Newcastle goal. Modric threaded a clever ball for Lennon who ran around his defender, but was adjudged to be offside by the assistant referee. Cue more ire towards the officials!

Peter Crouch replaced Van der Vaart, but this time he was concentrating on his hold up play at the front, and not assisting the defence, other than at set pieces. Lennon had a chipped ball handled in the area but again the officials let it go. There is no way that was ball to hand, as the cross had relatively little power, but direction. A minute later Jenas fed Lennon for another attempt on goal, which passed wide.

Pardew tried more attacking re-inforcements as Lovenkrands replaced Tiote, but spurs doubled their lead in sensational style in the 81st minute. Once again, the move started from the back, and some typical Modric battling to bring the ball away from opponents before sending Bale away on an Inter-type run down the left flank. Blue shirts were left in his wake and the last of these was Steven Taylor, before Bale beat Krul with a great low shot to the far corner.

Newcastle tried to peg Spurs back. Carroll had a 25 yard left foot shot deflected for a corner, and then had a shot saved well by Gomes after a Barton corner. Jenas tried a run and a right foot shot that was just wide, and as full time approached, Spurs had some defending to do, as Newcastle piled on the pressure all too late.

It was game, set and match for Spurs and a great end to 2010, with plenty to look forward in the rest of this season and 2011. Already, I can’t wait till Saturday’s game against Fulham. Happy New Year everybody!

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