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Sunderland v Spurs, 12.02.11

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 12TH FEBRUARY, 2011
(5.30 P.M.)
SUNDERLAND 1 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (1)

Sunderland scorer:-
Gyan, 11

Spurs scorers:-
Dawson, 44
Kranjcar, 57

Attendance:- 40,986

Referee:- Mr. M. Jones
Assistants:- Mr. D. Bryan & Mr. G. Turner
Fourth Official:- Mr. N. Swarbrick

Teams:-
Sunderland (4-5-1):- Gordon; Onuoha (sub Zenden, 85), Mensah, Bramble (Capt.), Bardsley; Muntari, Henderson, Sessegnon, Malbranque (sub Elmohamady, 76), Richardson; Gyan

Subs not used:- Mignolet; Angeleri, Ferdinand; Riveros, Colback

Booked:- Muntari, Richardson

Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Corluka, Gallas, Dawson (Capt.), Ekotto; Pienaar (sub Lennon, 78), Jenas, Sandro, Kranjcar; Pavlyuchenko, Defoe (sub Palacios, 87)

Subs not used:- Cudicini; Bassong, Khumalo, Woodgate; Crouch

Booked:- Dawson, Gomes, Pavlyuchenko, Jenas

Depleted Spurs win again!

A depleted Spurs side, missing their best three players (Modric, Van der Vaart and Bale) along with other long term absentees such as Ledley King and Tom Huddlestone won their third consecutive Premier League game with a gutsy win at The Stadium of Light, where the crowd was bigger than I can remember it for several years. That home crowd was heavily riled throughout the game by the decisions of referee Mike Jones, but chiefly by the ability of Spurs to frustrate the “Black Cats”. Niko Kranjcar probably had the biggest grin for the second week running, as this overlooked Croatian once again scored Spurs’ winning goal.It was another cracking goal too, to take Spurs back to fourth place, three points above Chelsea, who have a tricky match at Craven Cottage on Monday night.

Sunderland are missing players too, particularly a strike force to back up Asamoah Gyan, due to the departure of Darren Bent and the injuries to Danny Welbeck and Fraizer Campbell. It seemed to me that Steve Bruce chose to play what I’d describe as an attacking 4-5-1 where chiefly Kieran Richardson and Steed Malbranque supported Gyan. Richardson and Malbranque thus shared duties on the left flank for the home side, who had Sully Muntari making his home debut in the midfield. Sunderland are also missing captain Lee Cattermole, and Titus Bramble took over those duties.

With Wilson Palacios presumably late back from his International duties, Spurs’ young Brazilian Sandro partnered Jenas in the middle, and had his most impactive game in his short Spurs career to date. Sandro had a prominent part in the winning goal, and will have gained a lot of confidence at this level after coming through quite a tough encounter. Despite the enforced absentees, Harry Redknapp’s choice to leave Lennon and Crouch on the bench indicated that he was still keeping more than half an eye on Tuesday’s Champions League match in Milan. In the end that strategy paid off, although when Spurs went a goal down after 10 minutes, it looked as if they might pay for voluntary weakness. That said, I thought that Steven Pienaar had an excellent game for Spurs, with a lot of intelligent and crafty play in the middle, which will be of great benefit to our future success. He’s got an eye for intelligent short passing too!

Spurs preceded kick off with the ritual huddle, and there was some high five bonding between Dawson and Gallas. Spurs had an early chance after Jermain Defoe chased an Ekotto ball down the left wing, and crossed inside where Jenas tried a first time left footed shot, that flew well over the target. Sandro was penalised just outside the area by the referee and after the free kick was half cleared by Spurs, Steed Malbranque’s shot was blocked, possibly by one of his own players. Then Gallas mysteriously went AWOL, and it seems he wanted to change his boots. While this was going on and Spurs were down to 10 men, Dawson was left in the lurch as the ball was crossed from the left by Richardson and Gyan turned swiftly to fire home low past Gomes and hitting the net inside the far post.

It looked as if it would be a backs to the wall job, but what you might not know is that Sunderland have the worst record this season for losing points from winning positions, and that Spurs have the best record (in the Premier League) for coming back from losing positions!

It was to be a longish road back though. Sandro had an effort well over after some good football by Pienaar, and five minutes later Kranjcar’s effort flew over the bar also. Phil Bardsley is a highly favoured player these days at Sunderland and after 27 minutes, he advanced from his left back position, finding space opening up before his eyes and feet, as he tried a shot that was well over the bar. Spurs were awarded a free kick just outside the box and Jenas was the taker. It was a poor effort to be frank. After another foul just outside the box, Kranjcar took a shot that was on target and was cleared.

Pavlyuchenko was having an in and out game, but he was the more prominent of the two strikers, and did well after the ball was played across the area from right to left, finding room for his left footed shot just over the goal. Just before the break, Spurs were level, after two corners by Pienaar. Dawson rose and headed powerfully down. The ball beat Gordon between his legs and the theory is that William Gallas might have run across the keeper to impede his view. It was a welcome goal at a crucial time, although Dawson also saw yellow soon after for a foul on Onuoha.

Pienaar cleverly won a corner on the right after 50 minutes, taking the kick himself and after an exchange with Corluka crossed where Spurs had a couple of efforts on goal, the closest of which came from Gallas. At the other end Gomes had to make a save from Malbranque, but the keeper did this cleanly, demonstrating good handling today. Gomes had to deal with a wide shot by Henderson and had to make another save from Sessegnon in the following minutes.

Then Spurs took the lead in the 57th minute, which they never surrendered. Sandro broke from midfield chasing a ball down the right channel. Defoe had a shot with no joy and Kranjcar picked up Mensah’s attempted clearance before whacking a right foot shot past Gordon’s right hand. It was another great goal by Niko, leading to joyous celebration in front of the travelling fans. Now Spurs had the bit between their teeth as Pavlyuchenko latched onto a great ball out of the Spurs half. Corluka was in support and Pienaar was on the end of the pass, but fired over.

As the crowd started to get on the referee’s back he booked Gomes for alleged time-wasting, which looked a bit harsh. Sunderland replaced Malbranque with Elmohamady, whilst Aaron Lennon made a late appearance in place of the tiring Pienaar who has had a return trip to South Africa this week. Richardson had an effort that clipped the top of the bar, after Gyan’s pass, but I feel that Gomes did have this shot covered. That was as close as the home side got to an equaliser, and Spurs played the game out in a controlled fashion to record their sixth away win of the season, with only one more win needed to match their record of last season.

Spurs gained their 1002nd Premier League point with this win, and with 7 of their remaining games against bottom six sides they must fancy their chances of holding onto a prized top four place. Sunderland remain in the mix for possible Europa League places, assuming that top four sides win the domestic cups.

I’ll see you in Milan on Tuesday!

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