BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
WEDNESDAY 2ND MAY, 2012
BOLTON WANDERERS 1 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 4 (1)
Van der Vaart, 60
Adebayor, 62, 69
Referee:- Mike Dean
Assistants:- Mr. D. Cann & Mr. S. Ledger
Fourth Official:- Mr. J. Moss
Bolton (4-1-3-2):- Bogdan; Boyata, Wheater, Ream, Ricketts; Eagles (sub Miyaichi, 83), Reo-Coker (sub Vela, 65), M. Davies, Petrov; Ngog (sub Klasnic, 65), K. Davies (Capt.)
Subs not used:- Jaaskelainen; Alonso, Knight; Sordell
Booked:- Vela (foul on Lennon), Eagles
Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Friedel; Walker, Gallas (Capt.)(sub Nelsen, 87), Kaboul, Rose; Lennon (sub Saha, 84), Sandro, Modric, Bale; Van der Vaart (sub Livermore, 79); Adebayor
(Armband to Kaboul)
Subs not used:- Cudicini; King; Giovani; Defoe
Booked:- Walker (foul on Petrov)
Spurs give ‘em “What fo(u)r”!
In the end, Spurs didn’t just win their first league game at The Reebock Stadium, they beat relegation-fighting Bolton out of sight! In doing so, they held fourth place on goal difference (above Newcastle who beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge), and got to within one point and one goal of Arsenal. That third place could still be attainable if Arsenal slip up against either Norwich at home or West Brom away, whilst we still need to win both our games. Chelsea are four points behind and have surely conceded a top four place, but of course they have that Champions League final to play. Newcastle play Man City on Sunday, and we are surely now favourites to hold fourth. Spurs won their first back to back league games since the first two games of the year, at home to West Brom and Everton. This was also our first away win this calendar year.
The match was preceded by the appearance of Fabrice Muamba on the pitch, as anticipated. As you would expect, Fabrice was given fantastic applause from both sets of fans. From the stands it was very evident of what an emotional moment this was for the man who made such a miraculous recovery. Watching some TV pictures later, I saw how Muamba was affectionately greeted behind the scenes by the Spurs medics who had been closely involved in that drama on the pitch at White Hart Lane.
Bolton still couldn’t fill their stadium, despite the crucial nature of the game, but it was a bigger crowd than usual, in my experience, despite the absence of Spurs fans from the top tier in the South Stand. A win was what was required by the home side, still in the bottom three, and as a result Owen Coyle chose an attacking formation, and an attacking style, with Ngog and Kevin Davies up front, and an attacking midfield three of Chris Eagles, Mark Davies, and Martin Petrov. Nigel Reo-Coker played the defensive midfield role.
Harry Redknapp was able to pick an unchanged team, despite pre-match fears about Lennon’s fitness. The personnel on the bench were also unchanged from Sunday’s win against Blackburn.
After only one minute, Lennon won a corner which was taken by Van der Vaart, flashing across the area, without a touch from attack or defence. There was no negativity about the game, and both teams were looking for a vital win. Danny Rose made a good recovery against Chris Eagles, after losing the ball first time, but then making a good tackle to concede a Bolton throw. Bale and Lennon made an early switch, and Bale had a shot from the right channel, which Bogdan could only parry. Van der Vaart followed up, but could only hit his shot straight at the goalkeeper too. A minute later, whilst still playing on the right, Bale got the ball to Van der Vaart, who touched it on to Adebayor in the area. Adebayor’s initial touch was too strong and the ball simply ran into the goalkeeper’s hands, instead of Adebayor managing to get in a meaningful shot.
After 16 minutes, Lennon was fed a good ball down the line by Walker, before cutting in with the ball, and exchanging with Adebayor. Lennon hit a shot which caught a deflection and went just over the goalkeeper’s right corner for a corner kick. Younes Kaboul won a good battle in defence after 23 minutes and the ball was fed to Bale, now operating left of centre. Bale got all the way into the box, and sent over a low cross, which was missed by two or three Spurs’ shirts.
Spurs were playing some lovely football, and at times were back to the skilful best we had seen earlier in the season. On the other hand of course, it was refreshing to be given the opportunity to play our natural game against a team that were not simply getting men behind the ball. Modric and Van der Vaart were displaying some lovely touches, and Spurs won a free kick about 25 yards out on the left of centre. Once again, Kyle Walker loitered near Van der Vaart, but this time Rafa took the kick and nearly curled the ball in, but it didn’t curl quite enough going outside Bogdan’s right post.
Referee Mike Dean settled for “words” with Mark Davies over a nudge in the back on Sandro down the right side. Van der Vaart took the free kick, which was collected by Bogdan, after a touch by one of his defenders.
Younes Kaboul had to change his shirt (presumably for a blood injury), and wore the number 49 shirt. Bolton had a good chance after 34 minutes, when Petrov’s cross passed through the area, and was returned from the far post by Eagles. Ngog hit a shot which Friedel saved, and Spurs cleared. After that scare, Spurs had a good chance which came from Adebayor on the left, passing to Van der Vaart whose shot was saved, falling to Sandro, who forced a corner. The corner was taken from the left by Van der Vaart, who hit it directly to Luka Modric, sitting 22 yards out on the left side of the box. Modric hit a quite superb un-stoppable right footed shot that hit the net in the top left corner.
Bolton had a couple of chances of note before the break. One came after Gallas half cleared and Eagles fired wide. The other was a close range chance for Boyata, after Kevin Davies had headed a free kick over the area to the back post. Boyata also failed to hit the target.
After the break, David Wheater made an error and the ball fell for Van der Vaart who tried, but failed to find Adebayor with his pass for what would have been an excellent goal-scoring opportunity. Now Spurs had to endure 10 minutes of genuine Bolton pressure, with their crowd making more noise than I have ever heard at The Reebock. This spell was rewarded with an equaliser that followed a Bolton throw on the right, being fed in towards the area, where Nigel Reo-Coker hit a right footed shot across and into the far corner of Friedel’s goal. Subsequently, Eagles also had a good chance from the right, which passed wide across the goal.
Bolton were committing themselves of course, looking for the winner. This enabled Spurs to take advantage, scoring two goals in quick succession. Firstly, Bale was released by Van der Vaart down the left wing. Bale crossed, and Van der Vaart had continued his run, hitting the net with a delightful first time left footed low shot. Then Modric released Lennon with a smashing ball inside the defence, which Lennon made his own. Lennon crossed and Adebayor scored with an easy finish. That Bale on the left, Lennon on the right strategy was working well!
Adebayor should have had another goal very quickly too, after Danny Rose crossed, but he couldn’t stretch enough to reach the ball. The big striker did get a second goal though to seal the win for Spurs in the 69th minute. Modric started the play in the middle, and Bale and Van der Vaart exchanged passes before Adebayor was sent clear, rounding the keeper and firing home just inside the post.
The pressure was off for Spurs, but Bolton didn’t give up. Their one significant chance came after Petrov beat Walker in a chase for the ball, and hit a shot on target which Friedel saved. Spurs then cleared through Sandro. A raft of substitutions were made as the game closed, and Bale was away again after 84 minutes, giving Adebayor another chance, but the ball was fired over the far post.
It’s going to be a great end to the season for Premier League viewers, with issues at the top and bottom of the table likely to go to the last day. Spurs’ next task will be at Villa Park on Sunday, where I suspect they will be faced with a more defensive strategy from a team for whom a single point will probably be enough to secure their Premier League status. Without under-estimating the task still in hand for Spurs, I am dreaming of an Arsenal slip-up, and a climb to third place on Sunday 13th May. Why, if that occurred, I might even support Chelsea in the Champions League final!
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