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Spurs v Everton, 11.01.12

(7.45 P.M.)

Lennon, 35
Assou-Ekotto, 63

Attendance:- 36,132

Referee:- Martin Atkinson
Assistants:- Mr. P. Kirkup & Mr. M. Mullarkey
Fourth Official:- Mr. K. Woolmer

Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Friedel; Walker, Dawson (Capt.), Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon (sub Pienaar, 77), Livermore, Modric, Bale; Van der Vaart; Adebayor (sub Pavlyuchenko, 86)

Subs not used:- Cudicini; Bassong, Rose; Kranjcar; Defoe

Booked:- Lennon (foul on Drenthe)

Everton (4-4-1-1):- Howard; Neville (Capt.), Heitinga, Distin (sub Duffy, 59), Baines; Donovan, Cahill, Fellaini, Bilyaletdinov (sub Gueye, 82); Anichebe (sub Drenthe, 68); Saha

Subs not used:- Mucha; Stracqualursi, McFadden, Vellios

Booked:- Donovan (foul on Assou-Ekotto), Cahill (foul on Modric), Fellaini (foul on Pienaar/dissent)

Benny’s sweet goal wraps up the “Toffees”!

There was so, so much to admire about our beloved Tottenham last night. The team was without key players such as Ledley King, Scott Parker and Sandro, and Jake Livermore had to be drafted in to play the anchor midfield role against an experienced Everton side. Jake has now played 1299 minutes for Spurs this season in all competitions, and has gained valuable experience at the top level. He did not let us down, and I have heard plenty of people suggest that he should be the Spurs man of the match. There is plenty of competition for that spot though, as Rafa van der Vaart offered a masterclass of stylish slick passing and creative football, whilst “Benny” Assou-Ekotto scored a so, so stunning 30 yard strike that will be up there when our goal of the season is decided. In scoring, “Benny” effectively wrapped up the game for Spurs, who took full advantage of their long-standing game in hand to go level on points with Manchester United, and just three behind Manchester City, who we play on 22nd January. A Premier League title challenge really is on the cards, you know!

We also welcomed back skipper Michael Dawson to Premier League action, from which he has been absent since that City defeat of 28th August. Dawson played as if he had not been away, and his partner Younes Kaboul played as he has all season, whilst also finding time for an occasional foray into opposition territory. There is not a bad word to be said about any of the team, whose skill levels, passing and creativity was superb. Okay, to be really hard on them, you could say that the final touch as the goal beckoned could have been more clinical. This was our fourth clean sheet in 6 league games, in which we have conceded just two goals. As I said, there is so much to admire about our Spurs!

David Moyes’ Everton did not play as defensively as I expected, and they were set up in similar style to Spurs, with Saha as their front runner, supported by Victor Anichebe, who fell back to support the midfield, whenever Spurs were on the attack. That was most of the time then. Spurs “owned” the midfield, opposed by Tim Cahill lacking real grit, and Fellaini, who was matched or by-passed by Livermore, Modric, Van der Vaart or Bale, who whilst starting on the left, switched occasionally with Lennon, or turned up wherever he liked, really.

Van der Vaart was also popping up everywhere, and the best feature of his play today for me was accurate and skilful passing when he was being tightly marked. Mind you, Rafa also played some delectable long balls, as did Modric and Bale. We really are good to watch!

Saha did have a very early chance for the visitors after a poor clearance by Kaboul was returned by Everton’s now annual loanee from LA Galaxy, Landon Donovan. Saha pushed his shot just outside Friedel’s left post in front of the Paxton Stand. Incidentally, the level of Everton’s support was very high, probably because the tickets were sold for the intended August opener, which had to be postponed, due to the Tottenham riots.

Spurs tried to respond immediately to that Saha scare, with Adebayor threading a pass down the left channel for Bale, but he was thwarted by the offside flag. Spurs soon started to dominate possession, without testing Tim Howard, the club’s top league goal-scorer this year so far! Everton lost the ball in the middle after 11 minutes, and Van der Vaart took advantage, feeding Adebayor with a ball that took the striker to the left of the area. Adebayor hit the shot too high. Adebayor was having a great battle with Sylvain Distin, and Distin was often coming off the better. He was sorely missed by Everton, when he had to be replaced by Duffy due to injury in the second half. Duffy was recalled from a proposed loan, after Phil Jagielka fell to knee injury last week.

After a Spurs corner on the right, Walker passed inside to Modric, who was on the right side also. Luka fed the ball to Adebayor, who turned and fired at goal, but wide. After 19 minutes, Assou-Ekotto received a fantastic cross field pass from Walker . “Benny” took a run towards goal and tried a cross/shot which lacked power and was picked up by Howard. Modric started and finished a move after 23 minutes, with Van der Vaart playing the intervening passes. Luka hit his shot high and wide of the target.

Van der Vaart combined in a move which gave Adebayor another chance on goal, but the striker just over-hit his final touch, which ran out of play. Howard had been rounded though. Assou-Ekotto sent a ball to Modric racing down the left channel. Adebayor received the pass and ran into the box, where he fell under challenge. Mr. Atkinson waved play-on. Assou-Ekotto and Modric were providers again. Modric was down in the box, but the ball had gone to Adebayor, who pushed his shot wide this time. Everton did have a counter-attack at this stage, and Saha had another shot which he put wide.

More great football from Spurs ended with Modric’s pass to Van der Vaart, who hit a left footed shot that landed on the top of Howards’ net. It was only a matter of time before the goal came, and it was an immaculate long ball from Assou-Ekotto on the left that Lennon picked up and carried into the box. I’d like to think that Aaron deceived Howard and the Everton defence into thinking he’d use his favoured right foot for the shot, but although it as scuffed, Lennon hit a low left footed shot that beat Howard to his left.

Spurs were not resting on their laurels. Rafa picked up Kyle Walker’s pass from the right, but fired over. Just before the break, Everton did have a free kick, which was taken by Baines; was half-cleared as far as Bilyaletdinov, who fired wide. Any further references to Bilyaletdinov will state “The Russian”. I’m just glad that substitute Denis Stracqualursi stayed on the bench!

The opening phase of the second half featured exquisite long passing by both Walker and Van der Vaart to Assou-Ekotto on the left. Bale had a Norwich-style run down the middle after 49 minutes, and hit a shot that was partially blocked, and picked up by Howard. Another long ball found Assou-Ekotto, who crossed to the back post where Aaron Lennon tried a diving header that was saved.

Spurs sealed their win in fantastic style in the 63rd minute. Rafa had provided the final pass, but the goal was all “Benny”’s work. It followed a throw-in taken on the right side, near the corner flag. Rafa passed across the outside of the area, and Assou-Ekotto first looked for a pass, then decided to have a pop himself, touching the ball to the left of two opponents, before unleashing a pile-driver of a shot that beat Howard in the left corner of his net. The ball did take a deflection off Cahill, but had been on target. The spin of the ball after Cahill’s touch led it to curl back inside the post. It was Benoit’s first league goal since we beat Liverpool 2-1 on the opening day of the 2009-10 season. Our stylish left back must have something about scoring against Liverpudlians!

Bale had another run, this time down the right of centre, trying a left foot shot that passed over the target. Everton replaced Anichebe with Drenthe, who was fouled by Lennon as he tried to advance upon goal. Lennon took a booking for that, and it wasn’t too long before he was replaced by Steven Pienaar, playing against his old team for the first time. Pienaar relished the chance, and offered some good touches, starting on the left flank, but then switching with Gareth Bale.

Modric had a shot on target after 78 minutes, which was sufficiently blocked to make the pick-up easy for Tim Howard. Pavlyuchenko replaced Adebayor in the late stages, and might have been the beneficiary of a Pienaar cross, but it was just intercepted by the Everton defence. Modric had started that move. At the other end, Drenthe was looking lively, and he had a shot that was half-blocked, falling to Saha, who fired well over. Everton also had a failed appeal for a penalty in the closing stages, but the game had been won by the mighty Spurs, who are a team that any opponent will rightly fear.

Did I mention that we strengthened our position as top team in London, 8 points above Chelsea, and 9 points above Arsenal? Did I? They can fight it out for fourth place, can’t they? I’m not counting chickens, but I am really, really looking forward to January 22nd at The Etihad against an increasingly embattled Man City. Isn’t it really, really great to be a Spur?

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