BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
TUESDAY 27TH DECEMBER, 2011
NORWICH CITY 0 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (0)
Bale, 55, 67
Referee:- Mr. M. Oliver
Assistants:- Mr. S. Burt & Mr. S. Long
Fourth official:- Mr. P. Walton
Norwich (4-4-2):- Ruddy; De Laet (sub Barnett, 64), Martin, Whitbread, Drury(sub Bennett, 75); Crofts (sub Pilkington, 75), Hoolahan, Fox, Surman; Morison, Holt(Capt.)
Subs not used:- Rudd; Johnson, Jackson, Wilbraham
Booked:- Whitbread (foul on Walker)
Spurs (4-3-2-1):- Friedel; Walker, Gallas, Kaboul, Ekotto (sub Rose, 72); Parker (Capt.) (sub Livermore, 90), Sandro, Modric; Van der Vaart (sub Kranjcar, 85), Bale; Adebayor
(Armband to Modric)
Subs not used:- Gomes; Bassong; Pienaar; Pavlyuchenko
Booked:- Gallas (foul on Surman)
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Pinch yourselves, Spurs fans and enjoy the rhapsody of not just being in third place, but being four, yes four points above Chelsea with a game in hand, and just seven points behind the Manchester teams at the top of the Premier League. The BBC report referred to Gareth Bale’s two goals underlining our title credentials. I can’t get used to our team being spoken of in such terms, but I am certainly enjoying the ride, and I hope that every Spurs fan out there is fully appreciative of what we have got in the shape of a team with outstanding individual performances, but with outstanding passing and battling defensive qualities expressed throughout the team.
Last night at Carrow Road, Harry Redknapp was able to field a hardly changed team, with Younes Kaboul replacing Ledley King at the back. The Spurs manager trumped his counter-part’s plan to try and deal with Gareth Bale, by playing the “Christmas Tree” formation of 4-3-2-1, which gave Bale a free role as one of the two players behind Emmanuel Adebayor. Such was the power of Bale, and the confusion he caused in the Norwich defence, that Russell Martin seemed to be moving around the defence from right to centre to try and keep track with the Welsh Wizard. In this morning’s Telegraph, Henry Winter has described Bale as “one of the great sights of the modern game”. We are so lucky he was “born to play for Spurs”.
The work ethic of this Spurs team was superb to witness, and that included Rafa van der Vaart, often seen in his own half, supporting the defensive triumvirate of Parker, Sandro and Modric. I say defensive, but of course each of those three is as powerful coming forward and creating, as they are in tackling, blocking and feeding runners.
The scoreline might not suggest it, but Norwich were somewhat overwhelmed by a far superior team. That’s not to belittle the home side, who fought hard, and did often get the ball to feet in decent areas, particularly in the first half. Manager Paul Lambert has built a team that works very hard for each other, and has done very well in their return to Premier League status. It was the home side who had the first effort on goal, within the first minute, with a long range effort by Steve Morison, held by Friedel. Spurs responded with an early run down the flank by Ekotto, and a threatening cross.
Bale had his first chance after 5 minutes, following a patient move started from the back by Scott Parker and Van der Vaart. As Spurs moved forward, Van der Vaart fee the ball to Adebayor, who passed to Bale, who hit a decent curling shot that Ruddy was able to hold comfortably. Spurs dominated possession and piled on some pressure, winning several corners, without further testing the Norwich keeper for a while. In fact, Friedel was tested by a shot by David Fox after 15 minutes, but again, he was comfortable.
Kyle Walker was working up and down his line, and sending in some quality crosses too. One great cross into the danger zone was headed away from Adebayor by the Norwich defence. Bale was fouled just outside the box, and Van der Vaart touched the ball to Kaboul, who fired wide. At this stage, the home fans were in good voice, crowing about such misses, but as the game wore on, they were quietened down by the quality of the visitors’ play, and the heavy vocal support of the travelling fans.
After 26 minutes, and another patient build-up, Walker and Van der Vaart fed the ball to Bale in that central position. Gareth’s shot was deflected wide for a corner. Five minutes later, Bale closed down Martin, who showed too much of the ball 25 yards out. Bale’s shot was too high though. Adebayor couldn’t quite reach another ball from the right. Some more great passing football by Spurs after 34 minutes, led to yet another chance for Bal. Modric offered the final pass, and Bale’s shot was well saved by Ruddy, conceding a corner.
Hoolahan was offering some good support to his front men, and he gave Morison a chance, which was put outside the far post after 35 minutes. Spurs were controlling the play in the Norwich half for most of the time though, and another move ended with Walker hitting a shot just outside Ruddy’s left-hand post. In first half added time, Adebayor fired wide after a Parker ball.
Five minutes into the second half, Spurs bided their time before producing a threat on goal, but it came from a Walker cross, which was deflected into the grateful arms of Ruddy in goal. William Gallas drew a booking for a foul just outside the Spurs area, and Fox’s free kick went wide of the target. Spurs took a well-deserved lead in the 55th minute following another good move, started from his own half by Van der Vaart. Later in the move, Van der Vaart offered an incisive ball into Adebayor inside the box in a tight area, but Adebayor managed to feed the ball across to Bale who fired the ball low past Ruddy’s left hand. Cue the Bale/Adebayor Strictly come dancing routine!
Spurs continued to power forward at will, and Modric sent Ekotto away down the left flank. Ekotto’s cross went beyond the back post, where Walker hit a shot well over the bar. Paul Lambert replaced De Laet with Barnett and changed his defensive line-up, with Martin at right back, Barnett next to Whitbread, and Drury at left back. It didn’t help though, and Spurs went two up through a terrific goal. Parker’s never-ending industry in his own half won the ball, fed to Modric who sent Bale away from the half-way line with a powerful run full of pace. Bale’s bee-line down the middle was capped by a superb deft finish above the diving Ruddy for his second goal, and the convincing lead that spurs would not relinquish. Bale and pace indeed. Bale and grace as well!
Whitbread saw yellow for a foul on Scott Parker. Bale and Modric worked the ball forward before Modric’s final ball gave Bale a shot that went straight to the keeper. Harry Redknapp could now rest his first choice left back in favour of Danny Rose, who had a fine cameo for the 20 minutes or so he was on the pitch. Norwich made a double substitution, but it was to no avail, as Spurs remained in control. More good football came after 82 minutes, with Modric feeding Van der Vaart, whose cross to the far post was kicked over his head by Bale to Adebayor. Adebayor passed inside and Modric hit a shot to the keeper.
The game was won and in the closing stages, Kranjcar replaced Van der Vaart, and Jake Livermore got a few seconds in place of Parker. “Jingle Bells” was highly appropriate, as Spurs won their sixth away game of 9 played so far this season. Next we go to the other side of the country to Swansea. I can’t wait!
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