BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 29TH APRIL, 2012
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (1) BLACKBURN ROVERS 0 (0)
Van der Vaart, 22
Referee:- Mr. M. Jones
Assistants:- Mr. C. Breakspear & Mr. A. Halliday
Fourth official:- Mr A. Taylor
Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Friedel; Walker, Gallas (Capt.), Kaboul, Rose; Lennon (sub Giovani, 84), Sandro (sub Livermore, 86), Modric, Bale; Van der Vaart (sub Defoe, 88); Adebayor
Subs not used:- Cudicini; King, Nelsen; Saha
Blackburn(5-3-2):- Robinson (Capt.); Lowe, Orr, Dann, Givet, Ms Olsson; Formica, Dunn (sub Goodwillie, 84), Pedersen; Hoilett, Yakubu (sub Modeste, 72)
Subs not used:- Kean; Mn Olsson, Petrovic, Nzonzi, Rochina
What a Kyledriver!
Kyle Walker secured the points for Spurs against a very poor Blackburn side with an absolute pile-driver of a free kick, power-driven and curled beautifully into Paul Robinson’s top left corner in the 75th minute. It was an unstoppable shot and a moment that was celebrated around the ground more than any other in a subdued game, and a subdued performance. Walker’s other goal this season was equally memorable of course, against Arsenal. Spurs moved back into fourth place, one point above Chelsea, and above Newcastle on a significantly better goal difference. Should they manage a win at The Reebock on Wednesday (and they have yet to achieve such a feat), then they would be within a point of third placed Arsenal with two games to go. Despite the general depression amongst Spurs fans about this end of season slump in form and results, it is still all there to play for.
Blackburn’s highly negative strategy was a surprise for a team desperately in need of a win to aid their survival hopes. Their formation looked more like a 5-3-2, with Jason Lowe falling back to assist the defence, rather than getting forward. In fact, Rovers hardly did “getting forward”, as they left White Hart Lane without even a shot on goal to their credit. One could understand their desire to try to keep Spurs out, in the hope of scoring on the break, but even after conceding in the 22nd minute, they still sat back, played the defensive 10 man drill, inviting Spurs to try and find a way through or round them. That’s what Spurs did, but it wasn’t till Walker’s goal that we were able to relax about the result.
Harry Redknapp made several changes, with Danny Rose adequately replacing Benoit Assou-Ekotto at left back, and Younes Kaboul, and Adebayor returning after injury. William Gallas captained the side for the third time this season, and Ledley King sat out the game on the bench. There was no Scott Parker, but Sandro was a candidate for man of the match with a sterling performance in the Parker role. Sandro won his tackles higher up the field than does Parker (overall), and prompted several attacking moves playing a full part in the Rovers half of the field. Spurs played in their 4-4-1-1 formation, with Lennon on the right (sometimes), and Van der Vaart supporting Adebayor.
For the third time this season we were treated to the “He plays on the left” chant regarding Gareth Bale, who had switched with Lennon as early as the first quarter of an hour. Even when he was on the correct side of the field, Bale often left the left wing to the advances of Danny Rose. I have a controversial theory to offer regarding some of Spurs bad results in the latter part of this season. That is that when Bale disappears to whatever part of the pitch takes his fancy(and he does that a lot), we are often a ten-man team. We all know what a potent force Bale can be, but I submit that he has not been available to receive the ball as often as I would like.
It had been raining all day in London and virtually all over the country, where drought is declared, but flood warnings exist. By the time we kicked off, the rain had stopped and before long we even saw sunshine!
Spurs got off to a very bright start, and should have scored in the first minute. Rose and Bale combined before Modric carried the ball to the bye-line on the left side, hitting a cross just beyond the back post, where Lennon connected, but put his effort on the wrong side of the post. A Spurs corner after three minutes was returned to Lennon by Adebayor, and Lennon’s cross was put out of play. Sandro made a powerful flowing run into the Blackburn area, but the ever popular Paul Robinson was there to stop him scoring. It wasn’t long before Sandro’s shirt was the dirtiest on the pitch, which was a clear indication of the effort he was putting in, and the battles he was having.
Referee Mike Jones was lenient throughout proceedings, and as a result, Rovers were able to get away with a number of unfair challenges, which were punished by free kicks, but no cards.
After 8 minutes, Adebayor and Modric were challenging for the ball on the left, when it ran to Sandro 25 yards out. His right foot shot beat Robinson, but bounced down off the bar and was put out of play. Rovers did have a corner after 13 minutes (and I believe they had one in the second half too!), but Spurs broke forward through Rose and Adebayor, feeding Lennon who advanced but fired wide. Bale had already moved to the right at this stage.
It took a while, and it took the decision of the referee’s assistant in front of the West Stand, but Spurs took the lead in the 22nd minute. Lennon crossed from the left and Bale headed goalward. The ball was headed up onto the bar from the line, and with Adebayor protecting it, the ball fell to the feet of Rafa van der Vaart. He fired over the line, but the ball was cleared from behind the line. The referee looked to his assistant for confirmation of the goal, which was given. We even got a replay in the stadium, which did not happen when we were cheated at Wembley by Chelsea, and the officials.
Almost straight from the kick off, Lennon was away on a run from his own half, but his final shot was well wide. Sandro had a couple of good shots blocked around the half hour mark. After 37 minutes, Danny Rose got a return ball from Modric, and had his shot blocked by Robinson inside the area. After a Van der Vaart corner on 41 minutes, Gallas came to the near post and glanced a header which bounced out off of the bar. Spurs could and should have had the game killed off in the first half.
Two minutes after the break, Lennon hit a shot into the side netting after Modric and Adebayor had combined to get the ball to him. It was a while before Spurs created anything as threatening as they had in the first half, but after Walker’s pass inside Modric hit a shot wide. Spurs had a flowing move from the back on the hour, starting with Friedel’s throw to Lennon; his exchange with Van der Vaart, and a final pass by Rafa to Bale, whose shot was far too wide. Lennon was hobbling around for ages at this stage, and eventually went off for some treatment, but did return, which came as a bit of a surprise.
That welcome and spectacular second goal came after Lennon had been cynically fouled by David Dunn. The referee had “words” only. The word going around the Internet last night was that when Walker lined up for the free kick, Harry said to his bench “He’s not going to take it, is he?”. Walker asked Van der Vaart if he could take it, and he was going to say “No”, but up stepped Kyle to hit that simply unstoppable 30 yard shot. Along with his Arsenal goal, it is a clear candidate for Spurs goal of the season.
Blackburn at least now made an effort to get forward, and Luka Modric covered his defence very well after 84 minutes, setting an attack on its way, where Bale made a run through the middle and passed to Van der Vaart on the right side, whose cross was blocked.
Blackburn looked poorer than I can recall seeing them all season. They face a must win game next Monday night at home to in-form Wigan, then have to travel to Stamford Bridge on the last day of the season. I think they are doomed.
Spurs face a trip to the north-west on Wednesday night to face relegation-threatened Bolton. I’ll be there in the hope we can win a league game at The Reebock for the first time.
The post-script to this game was the news that the FA have been given permission to talk to West Brom manager Roy Hodgson for the vacant England job, for which Harry Redknapp had been the pundits’ choice. Perhaps now he can concentrate on Spurs final three games!
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