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Swansea v Spurs, 31.12.11

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 31ST JANUARY, 2011
(3 P.M.)
SWANSEA CITY 1 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1)

Swansea scorer:-
Sinclair, 84

Spurs scorer:-
Van der Vaart, 44

Attendance:- 20,393

Referee:- Phil Dowd
Assistants:- Mr. R. Ganfield & Ms. S. Massey
Fourth Official:- Mr. S. Tanner

Teams:-
Swansea:- (4-2-3-1):- Vorm; Richards (sub Rangel, 46), Monk (Capt.), Williams, Taylor; Allen, Gower (sub Agustien, 62); Dyer, Dobbie, Sinclair; Moore (sub Graham, 68)

Subs not used:- Tremmel; Britton, Routledge, Lita

Booked:- Richards (foul on Bale)

Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Friedel; Walker, Gallas, Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto; Parker (Capt.) (sub Livermore, 71), Sandro; Van der Vaart (sub Defoe, 70), Modric, Bale; Adebayor
(Armband to Modric)
Subs not used:- Cudicini; Dawson, Rose; Kranjcar, Pienaar

Booked:- Bale (simulation), Livermore (foul on Taylor)

No dying swans here

Many Spurs fans left this game cursing the performance of their team, who failed to make as much ground on Manchester United as they hoped, when conceding an 84th minute equaliser to Swansea. However, the draw was no less than Swansea deserved, after manager Brendan Rodgers matched the Spurs formation, made 6 changes to his team and played a lot of the game on the front foot, with Spurs on the defensive. It was surely pertinent that the home team, in the bottom half of the table made 6 changes to their line-up following the Boxing Day programme, whereas Spurs stuck with exactly the same starting side that had played so well at Norwich. I made the point about lack of rotation earlier in the week, and there were a few tired legs out there for Spurs today, I felt.

Only one of Rodgers’ changes was enforced, and that was the absence of Spurs loanee Steven Caulker, who ousts the club captain from the side, when he plays. Luke Moore started in favour of the rested top scorer Danny Graham, and in midfield Stephen Dobbie got only his second league start of the season. Spurs welcomed back Michael Dawson, but only as far as the bench, where Jermain Defoe made a welcome return, although he failed to make an impact when replacing Spurs’ goal-scorer Rafa van der Vaart. Scott Parker had to be withdrawn with 20 minutes left, deploying an ice-pack on his knee, and may be missed on Tuesday, when West Brom come to The Lane. Still, there is Sandro, who starred for Spurs, and who deserves to play every game anyway.

Swansea and Spurs legends Cliff jones and Terry Medwin were very warmly welcomed onto the pitch before the game, in front of a full house, which as usual featured a very strong vocal home support. I noticed that a Swansea flag was displaying the Union Jack, rather than the Welsh Dragon, and perhaps the support here is not so xenophobic as that at Cardiff, where you get the Welsh National anthem before the game.

The “Swans” made a very bright start, keeping Spurs on the back foot, finding too much space for manoeuvre in the middle behind Moore, where Spurs were perhaps suffering a little because of their exertions at Norwich. Nathan Dyer got the better of Assou-Ekotto after 4 minutes, getting in a shot which Friedel patted down after a dive to the right. Two minutes later, Kyle Walker lost out on the rebound to Dobbie, who forced a Swansea corner. Spurs were braving the early storm, and one hoped they were just biding their time before unleashing a lethal counter-attack or two.

Another effort by Dobbie from 25 yards was safely held by Friedel after 10 minutes, before Spurs finally attacked with purpose and had a shot on goal by Luka Modric, which passed wide. Richards took an early card for his foul on Bale, and it was no surprise when he was replaced at half-time by Angel Rangel (good name!). Adebayor was getting caught too often offside for my liking, although as always, his work ethic could not be faulted. On one occasion, Sandro had done all the hard work winning the ball deep in midfield, before the ball was sent forward, only for Adebayor to be caught out.

Former Chelsea man Scott Sinclair, who scored 19 goals in Swansea’s promotion campaign last season, was given too much space by Walker, after a ball from the right came to Sinclair, who hit a right foot shot wide.

It was a long time again before a meaningful Spurs effort on goal, and it came from Assou-Ekotto, following a corner. “Benny” tried a shot from 25 yards, but pulled it wide. A minute later, Parker and Adebayor were at the heart of some good Spurs play, before Adebayor hit a shot over the bar from the left of the area. Gareth Bale was carded by Phil Dowd for alleged simulation on the approach to the Swansea area, before Spurs took a lead just before the break. Assou-Ekotto sent in a low and powerful cross, met by Van der Vaart, whose left foot shot took a touch under a Swansea arm, but hit the net. We’d have taken the 1-0 at the end of the game, but that was not to be.

Kaboul broke forward early in the second half, released by Modric, then as he advanced to the area, exchanged with Adebayor, before hitting a shot that Vorm saved at the near post to concede a corner. Bale had a run down the left and crossed to the near post, where Adebayor pushed his shot wide. Swansea responded with vigour though, and Spurs didn’t manage many decent chances after that early passage. Moore had a header go wide, after a cross from the right.

Spurs wasted a good opportunity after 65 minutes, after Adebayor won the ball in his own half, turned and ran, with Van der Vaart just about managing to keep pace with him to his right. Van der Vaart got the pass he wanted but could have taken a moment more with his shot, which was on target, but saved by Vorm. Spurs had a good spell again, with Bale hitting a shot just wide across goal. Former Spurs boy Mark Gower was replaced by Agustien. Spurs had another chance after a Swansea corner, with Van der Vaart heavily involved in moving the ball forward, with Kaboul’s assistance. Van der Vaart’s final pass to Adebayor was not well used by the Spurs striker.

At the other end, Friedel saved another effort by Luke Moore, and from the corner, Rangel’s effort went wide. After 75 minutes, Walker failed to prevent Sinclair’s cross, and substitute Graham headed wide. The pressure was mounting though on Spurs, and Kyle Walker cleared one ball over the bar to concede a corner, and subsequently, Luka Modric blocked a shot by Dobbie at the post, to concede a corner with ten minutes remaining. One more Spurs break gave us a chance. Walker made a run from right to left. Defoe passed the ball across to Bale, whose cross was met by Adebayor, forcing a save from Vorm and a Spurs corner.

Swansea got an equaliser which caused great celebration, including a run down the touchline by manager Rodgers. Rangel’s cross was deflected but not stopped by Assou-Ekotto, and somehow the ball passed across the central defence, and the goalkeeper, leaving Sinclair an easy finish in front of goal. The game was up for Spurs, despite a couple of late efforts through a Bale free kick that was held by the keeper, and an Assou-Ekotto cross, that led to a Sandro header, also held.

Only Man Utd have left The Liberty Stadium with all the points so far this season, and perhaps the next visitors here, Arsenal, will also struggle to win. Spurs had a chance to gain on United, who surprisingly lost at home to Blackburn, and to stretch the gap above Chelsea, who also had a surprise home defeat to Villa. It’s Arsenal now who are our closest contenders in fourth place, three points behind. We’ve got that game in hand, and we must now take maximum advantage of our forthcoming run of three home games. In the scheme of things, perhaps we gained a point rather than lost two at Swansea.

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