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Spurs v Sunderland, 09.11.10

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
TUESDAY 9TH NOVEMBER, 2010
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0) SUNDERLAND 1 (0)

Spurs scorer:-
Van der Vaart, 64

Sunderland scorer:-
Gyan, 67

Attendance:- 35, 843

Referee:- Howard Webb
Assistants:- Mr. J. Flynn & Mr. M. Yerby
Fourth official:- Mr. P. Crossley

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Gomes; Hutton, Gallas, Kaboul, Ekotto; Bentley, Huddlestone (Capt.), Modric, Bale; Van der Vaart; Pavlyuchenko (sub Crouch, 46)

Subs not used:- Cudicini; Corluka, Bassong; Jenas, Palacios, Kranjcar

Booked:- Bentley (simulation); Gomes (foul outside his area)

Sunderland (4-4-1-1):- Gordon; Onuoha, Turner, Bramble, Ferdinand (sub Bardsley, 18); Henderson, Cattermole (Capt.), Riveros (sub Welbeck, 46), Zenden; Richardson (sub Malbranque, 86); Gyan

Subs not used:- Mignolet; Angeleri, Da Silva, A Elmohamadi

Booked:- Cattermole (foul on Modric)

Van der Vaart extends his record, but so do Spurs

Rafa van der Vaart was a welcome presence in the starting line-up last night, and by scoring he extended his record by scoring in his this, his sixth home game. Unfortunately, Spurs also extended a record, and that is now a run of 4 Premier League games without a win. Despite dominating possession at least in the first half, and bringing a number of saves from Gordon, Spurs lost concentration and allowed a quick equaliser to Van der Vaart’s 64th minute goal. They never really looked like regaining the lead in front of their frustrated fans.

A number of factors can be held responsible for this failure to secure three much needed home points. Spurs had plenty of possession and won many corners, but they lacked penetration and a killer touch. Gordon was busy and had to make a number of saves, but he was rarely over-stretched, I would suggest. Bentley and Hutton saw lots of ball down the right, but Bentley often took too many touches and as so often has been the case, his delivery was not as good as it could be. Having said that, on the other flank, Bale has yet to match the form he displayed last Tuesday against Inter. Onuoha has to be given a lot of credit for that, as do Steve Bruce’s Sunderland – still smarting from that Derby Day defeat at Newcastle – but here displaying more vigour and fitness than Tottenham, closing us down well, and often having a man over on the counter-attack. This Tuesday was oh so different from the last.

Harry Redknapp again made three changes to his midfield, with Luka Modric beside skipper tom Huddlestone and Bentley replacing Kranjcar on the right, due to Lennon’s continued absence. Pavlyuchenko got the nod and played in front of Van der Vaart, but was replaced at half-time by Peter Crouch, who provided the assist for Rafa’s goal. Sunderland matched Spurs’ formation, with Kieran Richardson playing behind Asamoah Gyan. Darren Bent had to sit out of another game with his hamstring injury.

Another reason for Spurs’ failure to nail this game must surely have been referee Howard Webb. Mr. Webb is not of course one of our favourites, and I swear that if Spurs had been the away side, they would have seen three first half yellow cards, whereas the “Black Cats” often escaped with “words”. Phil Bardsley, who replaced Anton Ferdinand after only 18 minutes, committed two cynical fouls in quick succession, which were punished by free kicks but no sign of yellow. Such leniency only encouraged the visitors to maintain a strong physical approach, something which Spurs seem unable to manage. Then there was Mr. Webb’s denial of a second half penalty for Bentley, when he was clearly fouled by Zenden in the area. Mr. Webb then aggravated the situation and the home fans by showing Bentley yellow for simulation. Gomes later got booked for a foul on substitute Malbranque just outside his area, and somehow Spurs managed to outnumber the Sunderland card count, with their skipper Lee Cattermole only getting yellow for a quite vicious foul on Modric.

Maybe it is all sour grapes on my part, but Spurs were not quite good enough.

It was a bright start for the home side, who lost the toss and played towards the Paxton End. After only 2 minutes and a Spurs throw, Van der Vaart crossed the ball for Modric, whose shot went to the right of Gordon, who managed to hold the ball at the second attempt. Bentley nudged a 4th minute free kick and Kaboul unleashed a decent shot which passed wide. Both Kaboul and Huddlestone were spraying passes upfield to good effect, but the front men were letting the side down with too much approach play, or just ineffective passing. Pavlyuchenko did do well to control the ball with his back to goal, turning and hitting a right footed shot just wide, but his contributions were few and far between after that.

Lee Cattermole was able to work some space for himself after 8 minutes, hitting a right footed shot wide. A minute later Gallas blocked well, after Zenden’s cross and Richardson’s shot. The game then slipped into a quiet spell, but after 16 minutes, Huddlestone hit the bar with a rasping shot after a Bale corner. Van der Vaart took a short corner after 33 minutes, and exchanged passes with Huddlestone before hitting a right foot shot that Gordon parried, conceding another corner. After a foul on Bale, Bentley took the free kick and Gordon patted the ball away for another Spurs corner. Bentley got into the box two minutes before the break, and tested Gordon with a left foot shot, but the keeper pushed the ball out for a corner.

Bruce also made a half-time substitution, replacing Riveros with Danny Welbeck, on loan from Manchester United.

A cross from the left was returned to the danger zone by Bentley, but just too high for Crouch. Van der Vaart hit a great ball to Bentley, and Hutton crossed where Van der Vaart’s header beat the keeper, but went wide. Then came Bentley’s yellow card in the area, leading to ritual abuse against Webb. Another Van der Vaart header from a Spurs corner hit the ground first and was then patted away for another corner by that man Gordon.

The Spurs goal came after great work by Ekotto, working towards the middle but then releasing Bale, whose cross was headed down by Crouch for that man Van der Vaart to collect in front of two defenders in the 6 yard box, before finishing from close range. There has been some suggestion that here Mr. Webb was generous towards Spurs by ignoring a possible handball by Van der Vaart. Spurs were too generous within a couple of minutes. I thought that Bentley had been fouled as he tried to carry the ball out of his half, but let’s say he was “caught in possession”. The Spurs defence was asleep as Welbeck passed and Gyan was in space able to hit the ball past Gomes’ left hand into the net.

There was little excitement after the goals really, and Spurs never looked like regaining the lead. There was a melee for Mr. Webb to handle after Cattermole’s foul on Modric, and after consulting his linesman via his headpiece, the referee awarded a free kick for Gomes’ desperate foul on Malbranque which was deemed to b e just outside the box, when I feared a penalty was to be awarded.

Spurs will inevitably fall down the table after tonight’s games are played. They had better buck their ideas up soon, otherwise they are destined for the dreaded mid-table mediocrity, and another season out of Europe.

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