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Spurs v Athletic Club Bilbao, 06.08.11

FRIENDLY MATCH
SATURDAY 6TH AUGUST, 2011
(5.15 P.M. – ITV 4)
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (0) ATHLETIC CLUB BILBAO 1 (1)

Spurs scorers:-
Crouch, 50
Defoe, 53

Bilbao scorer:-
San Jose, 25

Referee:- Lee Mason
Assistants:- Mr. D. Cann & Mr. D. Bryan
Fourth Official:- Mr. J. Hillier

Attendance:- Est. 25,000

Teams:- Spurs (4-2-3-1/4-4-2):- Gomes (sub Friedel, 46); Corluka (sub Walker, 46), Dawson (Capt.), Bassong (sub Kaboul, 46), Ekotto; Jenas (sub Bale, 46), Huddlestone (sub Defoe, 46); Lennon (sub Livermore, 80), Pienaar (sub Modric, 23), Kranjcar; Pavlyuchenko (sub Crouch, 46)

Bilbao (4-1-2-2-1):- Iraizoz; Iraola, San Jose, Martinez, De Marcos (sub Aurtenetxe, 46); Gurpegi; Iturraspe (sub De Galaretta, 87), Herrera (sub Lopez, 62); Muniain (sub Toquero, 46), Gabilondo (sub Susaeta, 76); Llorente
(Team and substitutes not confirmed)

Booked:- Gurpegi (foul on Bale)

Almighty ovation for Modric

The story of the day in this last friendly of the pre-season for the Spurs first team was surely the almighty ovation that Luka Modric received when he replaced the injured Steven Pienaar after just 23 minutes. Luka played the remainder of the game, directing operations and indicated very clearly how important a player he is for Spurs to achieve any sort of success this season. Another such player was Gareth Bale, who entered the fray at half-time, creating Peter Crouch’s equaliser, and offering plenty of pace and excitement to the ample and vocal Spurs crowd. The second half team played with more tempo and penetration than the first!

I have had difficulty confirming the Bilbao team and substitutes, as the programme squad numbers and actual numbers worn by the players did not tally. Such is the life of an amateur reporter, without the benefit of an official team-sheet for friendlies!

The Spurs first half formation consisted of Huddlestone and Jenas at the back of midfield, with Lennon, Pienaar and Kranjcar behind Pavlyuchenko. Pavlyuchenko did not get the sort of supply that Crouch and Defoe were offered by Bale in the second half. Bilbao played with Gurpegi at the back of the midfield, which consisted of two banks of two players behind the lone Fernando Llorente, who is one of the strikers that is being linked with Spurs. The visitors looked more lively and sharper than Spurs, with quick and short passes offering them more early possession.

The very first chant of the season was (sadly in my view) “Stand up if you hate Arsenal”, focussing upon our enemy, rather than our own team, but such is the way of the average Spurs fan!

Bilbao had an early chance with Herrera looking suspiciously offside to me, but getting his shot on target and forcing the first save of the day (and a hold) by Gomes. Even the bane of some Spurs fans’ lives, Jermaine Jenas was getting generous vocal support, as he fired off a couple of early Spurs attacks with good passes to the forward runners such as Kranjcar. Lennon won a battle against De Marcos, but the ball ran easily to the Bilbao keeper. Corluka sent Lennon away on a run, and his cross was met by Kranjcar, who hit a right footed shot wide.

Pienaar hobbled off, apparently with a groin strain, and had to be replaced by Modric, who got that terrific reception, by which he has apparently been swayed that Spurs is where he should stay and play. Let’s hope that is true!

Bilbao took the lead following a free kick on the right, taken by Herrera, and reaching San Jose at the back of the area. San Jose was able to place his shot to the left of Gomes, to give the Bilbao supporters reason to cheer.

Spurs made mass substitutions at half-time, which led to a different style and formation, with twin strikers, supported by old fashioned wing play by Lennon and Bale, with Modric and Kranjcar in central midfield. With little in the way of defensive midfield, the only way was forward really. The reward came within five minutes, as Modric fired the attack from the middle, sending Bale away. Bale’s hard and low cross was met by Crouch, who succeeded with a low left foot shot. Three minutes later, Spurs had the lead, following a half-cleared corner. Modric chipped to Lennon, who fired in for Defoe to fire the ball into the roof of the net.

Bilbao gave Spurs enough to worry about though, especially after 61 minutes when the ball hit the woodwork and a follow-up shot went wide. Friedel was a spectator in this incident. Gurpegi got the only booking of the match when he halted a Bale run unfairly, and then Lennon was brought down by the same player in the box, as Aaron had made a good run into the danger zone, with Modric again to the fore in the build-up.

Kranjcar was the appointed penalty taker but was too tentative in his run-up and his shot was too easily saved by Iraizoz. Spurs tried to increase their lead by more traditional means, with Modric still in charge. Ekotto sent in a good cross and Crouch headed down for Bale, whose shot passed outside the post. Crouch headed down a Bale cross and Kranjcar tried a shot, which was cleared. Lennon was replaced by Jake Livermore, who had a good ten minutes in central midfield, with Bale moving to the right. Spurs pressed once or twice more, without hitting the target, but the home fans went home happy.

Our trip home, walking up towards Seven Sisters Road was a little hampered by a protest taking place outside Tottenham Police Station. Tottenham has made headline news for events which followed, and not for football reasons, and not for the first time either. Our Spanish guests must have been dismayed.

Next week then, the football action starts for real with David Moyes’ Everton the visitors. Moyes was in the directors’ box, and will have seen more threat from that second half team and display.

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