BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 28TH AUGUST, 2010
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0) WIGAN ATHLETIC 1 (0)
Referee:- Phil Dowd
Assistants:- Mr. S. Long & Mr G. Turner
Fourth Official:- Mr. A. Bates
Spurs (4-4-2):- Cudicini; Kaboul, Dawson, King (Capt.), Ekotto (sub Kranjcar, 46); Lennon (sub Giovani, 73), Huddlestone, Palacios, Bale; Defoe, Crouch (sub Pavlyuchenko, 46)
Subs not used:- Alnwick; Bassong; Jenas; Keane
Booked:- Dawson, Huddlestone, Kranjcar
Wigan (4-5-1):- Al-Habsi; Boyce, Gohouri, Alcaraz (Capt.), Figueroa; Stam (sub McArthur, 87), McCarthy, Thomas, Diame, Rodallega; Boselli (sub Gomez, 68)
Subs not used:- Pollitt; Watson, S. Caldwell, McNanaman, Mustoe
Booked:- Thomas (foul on Lennon), Figueroa (Dissent)
Spurs fail to break down the Wigan wall
Spurs fell dramatically back to earth not with a bang, but with a whimper. Sod's law came into play and dictated that not only would Wigan score their first league goal in 4 games (having conceded 18 in their last three without reply), but that they would win in front of their diminutive band of some 60 or 70 supporters, who tried their best to spread themselves around the upper tier in the south-west corner of White Hart Lane. They were the only fans who went home happy though, as Spurs failed to show any imagination in their efforts to break through Roberto Martinez’s more athletic and ultimately effective defence. Apart from Wigan connections, the only other happy people on the day would have been the bookies.
I heard someone saying on the way out of the ground “That was the real Spurs”. No it wasn’t. The “real Spurs” was the team we saw strutting around the Lane on Wednesday night to qualify for the Champions League. Mind you, the “real Spurs” obviously finds it easier to play against a team that does not withdraw to its own final third of the pitch as soon as their opponents cross the half way line. You have to give Wigan credit for their successful game plan, in which recent signing Maura Boselli, from Argentina, played alone up front, supported by Rodallega and Stam from the flanks, who soon withdrew behind the play to support the remaining midfield when Spurs went on the attack.
Personally, I was surprised that Harry Redknapp did not deploy more fresh legs from the outset, as the only changes were the forced ones of Cudicini for Gomes, and Kaboul for Corluka, with even Ledley King surprisingly playing a second game in four days. Aaron Lennon was being double marked at all times, and Gareth Bale received plenty of attention whenever he got forward too. Wigan goalkeeper Al-Habsi must have had one of his best games with two or three great saves in the second half. There are those would say that it was “just one of those days for Spurs”, but as the season develops, Spurs have got to learn how to cope with their new match schedule.
There was little enough to excite the home crowd in truth, and it wasn’t long before certain Spurs players attracted the fans’ bile. Benoit Assou-Ekotto was one of these, but criticism could be justified as he twice lost the ball through flamboyant defending by bringing the ball inside instead of down the line. When it works, he’s great, but today he was a mortal, and was replaced at half-time by Kranjcar, which led to Bale taking up more defensive duties, which he in turn seemed to have abandoned by the time the Wigan goal came.
Spurs had a scare after 7 minutes, when a Wigan corner went to the back post where Alcaraz returned the ball to the middle and Gohouri hit the underside of the bar with his powerful shot. Ekotto’s fancy play was failing for a second time after 11 minutes, but luckily for Spurs the ball rebounded off the defence for a corner. Crouch won and controlled a good ball, feeding Defoe, who in turn found Bale. Bale’s shot was deflected for a corner. After 22 minutes, Defoe latched onto Ekotto’s cross, took one touch, then shot on the turn, low to the right of the keeper, who made a good save.
At the other end, Michael Dawson allowed too much space for Boselli’s run, but the Argentinean’s shot was straight to Cudicini. Defoe showed great strength and individual skill in battling his way through after a ball from the left, getting in a toe-poked shot that Al-Habsi held.
Harry Redknapp made two changes at half time. As well as the arrival of Kranjcar, we saw Pavlyuchenko replace Crouch, who apparently had an injury. It was Cudicini who had to look sharp first though, as he was out well to seize the ball off the feet of Rodallega. Kranjcar received a clearance from Cudicini and went away on a strong run, feeding Lennon, who crossed for Pavlyuchenko, whose header was weak. Spurs just were not getting through that wall though, and the crowd became more and more frustrated. Lennon was replaced by Giovani, who hardly saw the ball. Kaboul’s efforts too often went astray, and it just wasn’t happening for the midfield or anybody.
Figueroa got Wigan’s second card after a foul on Kranjcar right on the edge of the box. Bale ran over the free kick and Huddlestone tried to hook the ball, but only managed to hit the side netting. Now Wigan staged three attacks down the right hand side, and whether Bale had been instructed to stay forward, or whether he just abandoned defensive duties, I don’t know, but it gave Wigan precious openings. Firstly Alcaraz contrived to scoop the ball over the net for one of the misses of any season, then substitute Gomez also fired over from close range. Rodallega did not fail though as he was free down that right channel, and his shot beat Cudicini to hit the net in the far corner.
Both Michael Dawson and Ledley King now got forward more and more to try and rescue a point. Dawson passed to Huddlestone, whose shot was just over the target. Defoe had a right foot shot into the side netting, and Kranjcar hit a great right footed shot that was dipping but was tipped over the bar by Al-Habsi. From the corner, Dawson’s goal-bound shot was also somehow saved by the keeper. In the 5 minutes of added time, Kranjcar took a free kick and Kaboul should have scored with his header, but planted the ball wide.
Those “Glory, glory” cheers were replaced by the boos of the crowd, who now have two weeks to try and come to terms with yet another disastrous Spurs result. We haven’t seen a home league goal yet!
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