BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 23RD OCTOBER, 2011
BLACKBURN ROVERS 1 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (1)
Van der Vaart, 15, 53
Referee:- Mr. S. Attwell
Assistants:- Mr. G. Beswick & Mr. S. Burt
Fourth official:- Mr. A. Marriner
Blackburn (4-4-2):- Robinson; Lowe, Samba (Capt.), Givet, Olsson; Vukcevic (sub Rochina, 70), Nzonzi, Pedersen, Hoilett; Formica (sub Yakubu, 70), Roberts (sub Goodwillie, 82)
Subs not used:- Bunn; Hanley, Petrovic, Slew
Booked:- Nzonzi (foul on Van der Vaart), Lowe (foul on Bale), Roberts (Dissent), Yakubu (foul on Modric)
Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Friedel; Walker, Kaboul, Bassong, Ekotto; Lennon (sub Rose, 70), Parker (Capt.), Modric, Bale; Van der Vaart (sub Defoe, 88); Adebayor
Subs not used:- Cudicini; Livermore, Sandro, Townsend; Pavlyuchenko
Booked:- Rose (foul on Olsson)
Rafaís two touches of class win it for Spurs
Spurs moved up to fifth place, and claimed a position as one of the top Premier League form sides over the last 6 matches with 5 wins and one draw. The win was largely thanks to two great touches of pure class by top scorer Rafa van der Vaart, who claimed his fourth and fifth Premier League goals. Rafa has now overtaken Jermain Defoe with 6 goals in total. Despite fielding their best available eleven though, Spurs failed to dominate possession (33% v 67%), and played too much with an away mentality, allowing the desperate home side to come onto them too much and apply too much pressure. Had Blackburn got an equaliser, it would have been hard to claim that it was not justice.
I was beginning to wonder whether or not some of the Spurs side could actually do with more football, rather than the Europa League rests being prescribed by manager Harry Redknapp. Gareth Bale was opposed by a reserve right back today, but failed to dominate him in the way that he has so often dominated first choice full back, Salgado, who was injured. Gareth was one of those players too often guilty of allowing too much space when Rovers went on the attack, and Spurs in general gave away a few too many free kicks, when Rovers had the big men (in particular Nzonzi and especially captain Samba) to press an advantage against the embattled Spurs defence, who lacked composure.
That phrase lack of composure has to be applied to Brad Friedel, playing in front of his old fans, and quite often being rattled in a way that would have drawn heaps of abuse for third choice keeper Gomes, who was man of the match on Thursday, and couldnít even find a place on the bench. Sandro would have been a welcome presence at any stage in the side today, but I understand he suffered a set-back in the warm-up. Scott Parker was given the Captaincy today, and has obviously now superceded Luka Modric. That Captainís armband has been passed around a little too much recently, and we need to find a regular home for it, which would offer firm leadership on the pitch. It wasnít too evident there today.
Roversí manager Steve Kean is of course under a lot of pressure himself, and there were rumblings of much discontent around the ground before and after the game, but his team gave their all today, and for that, they and the manager deserve credit, and support. Maybe itís those on the board that should have been funding the club better.
It was the home side that started the brightest, and they put Spurs under pressure, without causing too much of a problem. Junior Hoilett made a good little run through the middle (which ideally should not have been allowed) and hit a right footed shot over the bar.
Bale got a cross in which was headed for Adebayorís feet, but well intercepted and cleared by Olsson. Parker made a good pass inside the defence, angled to the right flank for Lennon, who cut back to Van der Vaart, but the cross passed too deep. Spurs took the lead in the fifteenth minute, when Adebayor sent walker clear with a great ball. Walker made a great run to the bye-line, crossing into the area, where Van der Vaart made the necessary neat finish from the near post. Spurs might have extended their lead after Modric sent Bale away, and his cross nearly resulted in an own goal, but Paul Robinson made a save to concede a corner. After 24 minutes, Spurs were still in the ascendancy, and Bale beat 2 defenders to get in his cross, where Adebayorís effort was parried and Van der Vaart could not quite get enough on the ball.
Now Spurs surrendered the initiative, and it wasnít long before they paid a price. Pedersen chipped a free kick deep into the Spurs area, where Samba headed back and Formica hit the ball into the roof of the net.
After withstanding some more pressure, Modric made a run through the middle after 35 minutes, hitting a shot which Robinson was happy to push out for another corner. Kyle Walker allowed Hoilett too much space, and the Blackburn midfielder hit a shot that Friedel parried and the defence cleared. Ekotto came inside from his left flank position and sent a great ball to Adebayor, who controlled well, but saw his shot well blocked through close marking. It was the sort of marking that might have prevented so much possession against Spurs, and resulting pressure from the home side. Samba had a headed attempt go over the bar from another free kick awarded about 25 yards out.
After the break, Spurs were trying some decent moves which didnít quite come off. Ekotto fed Adebayor, who passed the ball onto Modric. Parker had the ball on the right of the area, but made the wrong decision about its disposal. The same player threaded a pass to Lennon soon after that, but Aaron too was unable to get his shot in. Kaboul sent over a good long pass to Ekotto, who crossed for Van der Vaart and Adebayor. A Spurs shot was parried; Lennon tried to tee up Bale, but Bale missed his kick. Spurs did take the lead though with a great goal by Rafa. It was Ekottoís ball from the left that reached Van der Vaart about 20 yards out, and the Dutchman fired home with a cute shot, taken so quickly and aimed perfectly.
Unfortunately, it was after this goal that Spurs seemed to adopt that away team mentality, falling back, and allowing Blackburn to come onto them. Friedel was guilty of some Gomes-like flapping, but Spurs were getting through the situation, despite an air of panic at the back. At the other end, Parker got himself into a great position down the right channel, and had two chances to put the ball on the toes of his attackers, but failed dismally.
There was still half an hour left to play, and most of it was not much fun to watch for this fan. After an attacking throw from the left, Friedel had to tip over a close range effort by Samba, who of course does get forward more than your average defender. Spurs had a similar throw at the other end, and the ball reached Modric who hit a quite powerful low shot, which Robinson pushed round the corner. Keane made a double substitution, and Aaron Lennon was replaced by Danny Rose, who mysteriously spent most of his game on the Spurs right flank. Rose also got booked for an under-pressure tackle near the Spurs bye-line, which led to more pressure from a free kick.
We got through the pressure, and a win is a win, but it wasnít always pretty. We are in fifth place though, with that game in hand, and the psychological advantage of having more home games to play, having had only three at home against five away. We also have some eminently winnable games between now and Christmas, and I have to say that things are looking good for the season!
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