BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 2ND OCTOBER, 2011
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (1) ARSENAL 1 (0)
Van der Vaart, 40
Referee:- Mike Dean
Assistants:- Mr. S. Burt & Mr. S. Ledger
Fourth official:- Mr. A. Taylor
Spurs (4-4-2):- Friedel; Walker, Kaboul, King (Capt.), Ekotto; Van der Vaart (sub Sandro, 63), Parker (sub Corluka, 90), Modric, Bale; Defoe, Adebayor (sub Livermore, 84)
Subs not used:- Cudicini; Bassong; Giovani; Pavlyuchenko
Booked:- Van der Vaart (foul on Gibbs), Parker (foul on Arteta)
Arsenal (4-2-3-1):- Szczesny; Sagna (sub Jenkinson, 68), Mertesacker, Song, Gibbs; Arteta, Coquelin; Walcott (sub Benayoun, 72), Ramsey, Gervinho (sub Arshavin, 77); Van Persie (Capt.)
Subs not used:- Fabianski; Santos; Frimpong, Park Chu-Young
Booked:- Mertesacker (foul on Defoe)
Walkers’ crisp shot gives Spurs ascendancy
Kyle Walker scored a simply sensational 30 yard goal in the 73rd minute to seal this result for Spurs. It was Walker’s first league goal for Spurs, and one he will be able to dine out on for the rest of his life, as it was such a cracking winner. Walker has started 8 of Spurs 11 games so far this season, and is the only member of the first team squad not to be automatically rested in Europa League and Cup games to date. The 21 year old has established himself as first choice right back and won himself a regular place in the England squad.
Walker’s goal and performance was not the only eye-catching game from a Spurs player today. My man of the match was Scott Parker, who in my view did not put a foot wrong, and was simply masterful and dynamic, both when shielding the defence, but also when moving forward. Parker too has become a regular in Fabio Capello’s England squad. The former West Ham midfielder deserved his ovation, when replaced by Corluka as the match went into added time.
Spurs went into this game as favourites, but Arsenal put up a better show than most of us perhaps expected, despite the number of absentees through injury. They played an attacking game, with Aaron Ramsey playing ahead of Arteta and Coquelin in midfield, supporting Walcott, Gervinho and Van Persie up front. Harry Redknapp clearly had a selection dilemma, and whilst some of us thought that he would make a choice of Van der Vaart or Defoe with Adebayor, the Spurs manager played both, which left Sandro on the bench. Van der Vaart had put Spurs in the lead at the right time before the interval, but he was running out of stamina, and also a degree of desire to help out with the defending. Sandro was a much-needed substitute, and had a great game.
Bale was being kept pretty much in check by Sagna, but when the Arsenal right back was stretchered off injured (after a fair challenge by Benoit Assou-Ekotto), Bale played a far more prominent part in the game, and whilst Arsenal were always looking for opportunities to score, Spurs might well have had another two or three goals, with Szczesny having to make some decent saves.
The game was played in baking October sunshine, with the crowd dressed for July. The Arsenal fans displayed a flag congratulating Spurs on their “Golden Jubilee” since their last league title. I couldn’t read the small print but no doubt it made mention of a few titles that have been won down the road in the intervening years. Mind you, there’s been nothing put in their trophy cabinet for 7 years now, has there!
Adebayor was the target for some ritual abuse, which has been strongly criticised by Harry Redknapp. I don’t think it affected him adversely, and let’s face it, Spurs fans have been guilty of some nasty abuse towards him in the past. Anyway, Adebayor was not shy of playing in front of the visitors section in the Park Lane end, and for some reason was often to be found out on that right flank, when he might have been of more use in the middle. Mind you, he did get his assist from a position towards the right.
It was a poor ball inside by Ramsey that gave Spurs their first attack. The ball was received by Adebayor and he sent Modric away down the left flank, but he was flagged offside. Walker won a corner after three minutes, and Van der Vaart took this and the following corner kick. After the second, Rafa sent over a cross which was met by the head of Defoe, but went over the target. Scott Parker had a great chance after 6 minutes, but Szczesny made the save to concede a corner. Parker had been set up because a good release by Brad Friedel to Adebayor who left Song in his wake as he advanced down the right.
Referee Mike Dean had “words” with Walker over an early challenge on an Arsenal defender. When Walker advanced, Parker was covering heroically for the right back. Such actions are not really within the scope of Van der Vaart. Bale was seeking to help Ekotto at the back, but too often seemed to allow too much space to the advance of the red shirts. Indeed the Spurs defence as a whole was sometimes prone to leave relatively large areas of space outside an imaginary semi-circle outside the Spurs box. Sagna took advantage of such space after 15 minutes, and his ball into the middle fell for Walcott, who fired over.
Bale picked up a loose ball in the middle and went on a run down the left flank, crossing low. Parker had made a lung-bursting run and met the cross, but fired over. Kaboul fouled Van Persie just outside the Spurs box, and Arteta’s free kick passed over the goal. Arsenal’s best chance came after 28 minutes, when Van Persie got goal side of Kaboul down the left flank, took the ball to the bye-line, then cut it back for Gervinho, who should have scored, but fired wide of Friedel’s right post.
Mertesacker got a deserved card for bringing a Defoe advance to an unfair halt, but Van der Vaart’s free kick was blocked. Walcott had another chance, which he spurned across the goalmouth. Spurs took the lead at the right time, with five minutes left of the first half. The build up had incorporated some great passing from Defoe and Modric, before Adebayor hit a cross deep from the right channel. Van der Vaart seemed to be allowed an age to set himself up before firing into the net across Szczesny’s left hand. Arsenal were appealing for handball by Van der Vaart, but this was ignored by the referee. Bale also had a curling shot pass just wide, and at the other end, Friedel did well to hold a deflected shot by Ramsey.
Three minutes after the break, Spurs won a cheap corner from which Van der Vaart set up Modric. However, Luka scuffed his shot. Another Bale effort from the left passed just over the bar. Arsenal put Spurs under brief pressure and got a goal back when Song took the ball to the left bye-line, and crossed for Ramsey to make a close-range finish. Defoe, Van der Vaart and Bale were involved in a move which ended with a great chance for Adebayor, whose shot was deflected out for a corner. Van der Vaart was soon to be replaced by Sandro, to add some steel to the Spurs defensive positions.
Kaboul made a great run with the ball out of defence and had a wall pass with Adebayor, before carrying on and hitting a shot which won Spurs a corner. After some good defending by Sandro in front of the area, Spurs got forward through Bale and Ekotto, whose cross was too good for his strikers. The pass came behind the Arsenal defence, but Ekotto’s team-mates had failed to read the play on this occasion.
Walker’s golden wonder goal (enough crisp puns yet?) came in the 73rd minute. Spurs had an attacking throw, received by Sandro who threaded the ball to Ekotto. Ekotto passed inside where Modric tried a shot but was blocked. The ball ran out to a point about 30 yards out, and Walker had seen the chance and decided the ball and shot was his! Kyle hit a cracking shot which beat Szczesny, when perhaps he should not have been deceived, but Spurs fans didn’t care; they were in spasms of ecstasy! Kyle Walker was instantly awarded legend status in the same way that Danny Rose won the accolade 18 months ago.
There was plenty of work still to be done for Spurs to hold onto the lead, but in fairness there were times when that lead could have been increased. A long clearance reached Bale who made a landmark run down the left, before hitting a shot just outside the post. Szczesny made a great save diving to his left to push out a Defoe shot for a corner, after another Bale cross. Modric took the corner and Sandro headed over. Bale received another long ball, and Defoe had made a good run to collect the pass. Jake Livermore had replaced Adebayor, and was close to Defoe, trying a shot which went wide. Modric collected a Bale throw and hit a shot into the side netting.
We had to endure five minutes of added time, but endure it we did, and of course we had the reward of unabated joy at the final whistle. That’s four consecutive league appearances by Ledley King; four consecutive league wins by Harry Redknapp’s Spurs; sixth place for Spurs, and erm – 15th place for Arsenal, who have lost 4 out of 7 games. Arsenal are on 7 points, 5 behind Spurs, who have a game in hand. Walker’s crisp shot has given Spurs the ascendancy in North London!
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