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Spurs v West Bromwich Albion, 03.01.12

(7.45 P.M.)

Defoe, 63

Attendance:- 36,062

Referee:- Mark Halsey
Assistants:- Mr. S. Bennett & Mr. G. Turner
Fourth Official:- Mr. R. East

Spurs (4-4-2):- Friedel; Walker, Gallas (Capt.)(sub Bassong, 67), Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto; Van der Vaart, Sandro (sub Livermore, 30) (sub Kranjcar, 77), Modric, Bale; Defoe, Adebayor
(Armband to Modric)
Subs not used:- Cudicini; Rose; Giovani; Pavlyuchenko

No Bookings

West Brom (4-1-4-1):- Foster; Jones, McAuley, Dawson, Shorey (Capt.); Scharner; Cox, Thorne (sub Tchoyi, 79), Dorrans (sub Morrison, 65), Thomas (sub Jara, 27); Odemwingie

Subs not used:- Fulop; Tamas; Mantom; Fortune

Booked:- Thomas (foul on Bale), Jones (foul on Bale), Dorrans (foul on Bale), Scharner (foul on Modric), Cox (foul on Bale)

One moment of Defoe magic wins it for Spurs

It was always going to take a moment of magic to win this, and Jermain Defoe (who is our top scorer in all competitions) provided it in the 63rd minute, when he received the ball with his back to goal, controlled, turned and placed his shot just inside Ben Foster’s left-hand post for the decisive goal that brought Roy Hodgson’s side out of their shells and made a game of the last half-hour. Spurs, who had started without King, Parker and Lennon, and suffered involuntary substitutions of Sandro, Gallas and Livermore through injury, looked somewhat ragged towards the end, with tired legs also having an effect at the end of the Christmas period, but they held on, and now hold third place five points above Chelsea and six above Arsenal. They play their game in hand next Wednesday night too!

West Brom were missing key players too, with Olsson, Long and Brunt amongst their absentees. That must have been a key factor in Roy Hodgson’s clear game plan to get 10 men behind the ball as soon as Spurs went on the attack. It wasn’t just the standard defensive dome either, but anytime Spurs, especially Gareth Bale tried to attack down the flank, there were three players trying to stem the tide of white shirts. Spurs will face such tactics time and time again now, and must find ways to break down such strategies. They certainly lacked tempo and imagination for too long last night.

Spurs did put the visitors under pressure from the start, with Walker passing inside to Defoe, who spread the play to Bale on the left. His final pass went to Modric whose attempt on goal was blocked. Spurs then had five successive corners, but could find no way to the goal, with the last of the corners being held by Ben Foster, who was not truly tested enough on the night. Defoe had a shot wide after Gallas started the attack with good long ball down the left, which Defoe picked up then exchanged with a team-mate on his way to shooting.

Modric gave Bale a chance after 13 minutes, which was saved, and after 22 minutes, Bale was the recipient of a great ball but cruelly fouled on the edge of the box by Jerome Thomas. Van der Vaart’s free kick was blocked. Thomas took an early substitution, perhaps partly because of the early yellow card. The West Brom strategy was clearly to stem Bale by hook or by crook, as four of their five yellow cards were due to fouls on the Spurs winger. Mind you, Bale turned up inside more than on the flank, with the full backs being given more of the responsibility in those areas.

Spurs were comfortable in defence with Odemwingie getting little support from his midfield, and as a result, Kaboul felt able to go on an occasional charge upfield. This he did to good effect three or four times in the game, and after a Sandro win in the middle, Younes continued the move down the left channel, passing to Bale. Bale crossed and Rafa van der Vaart hit a sweet left footed shot that Foster tipped over the bar for a corner. Sandro paid a penalty in the middle though, and had to be helped off, being replaced after just 29 minutes by number 29 – Jake Livermore.

Bale and Adebayor combined well to work the ball into the area, before finally Adebayor hit a shot that was comfortable for Foster. Foster punched out a Van der Vaart dipping free kick, but the referee had spotted an infringement anyway. Spurs were in control, and had good possession. Livermore hit a good pass to Bale who cut in from the left, before hitting a decent shot that was deflected out for a corner. An Assou-Ekotto cross was met by Adebayor’s firm header, but it was badly mis-directed. Just before the break, another Kaboul move forward ended in a pass to Adebayor, who teed up Van der Vaart, but his shot was comfortable for Foster.

In the very first minute of the second half, Walker passed inside to Adebayor, who made a lovely turn and pass inside to Defoe, but Jermain fired over. Incidentally, Defoe was sporting a blond hair-style for the occasion. Jones got the second yellow card of the game for another foul on Bale, and subsequently Van der Vaart found Defoe with a clever ball from the left. Jermain fired over the bar. Dorrans had gone into Mark Halsey’s book for yet another foul on Bale, and Scharner committed a similar foul on Assou-Ekotto, with no punishment other than a free kick, which Luka Modric hit over the target.

Adebayor had a lovely chance to feed either Livermore or Modric, but made the wrong decision with his pass, which was over-hit towards Bale on the left wing. The frustrations of the home crowd were to be eased though with Defoe’s goal. Van der Vaart had fed Bale on the left side of the area, and his pass inside was met by Defoe, with his back to the goal, and a defender close at his back. Jermain held the ball well, turned and fired home in one smooth move, leaving Foster well beaten and the Paxton Road stand in raptures.

Dorrans was replaced by Morrison, and at the same time Gallas was getting treatment in the Spurs area. He had to be helped off though, and was replaced by Bassong. Walker fed the ball inside to Gareth Bale who was occupying the right channel. Gareth tried a left footed curler which Foster stretched to save at his right hand post. Soon after that Livermore and Kaboul had a clash of heads in the middle, as Livermore raced backwards for a ball that was always Kaboul’s to clear. Panic and confusion reigned, as both men had to leave the field. Livermore raced down the tunnel, and Kaboul remained on the sideline. Spurs had to play with only 9 men for too long. It was during this spell that Rafa performed some heroics in the right corner, defending against Odemwingie.

Eventually, Livermore was replaced by Kranjcar, and Kaboul was able to return, wearing number 49 on his shirt. West Brom were coming forward now, and Roy Hodgson put on another striker (Tchoyi) for Jones. Following a poor ball inside at the half-way line by Walker, Cox sent Tchoyi away, and Friedel had to parry his shot. Bale got to the bye-line at the other end, and sent a cross to the near post, where Van der Vaart headed wide.

Spurs had to defend three successive corners as we entered 5 minutes of added time, but eventually we were able to play out time comfortably with some possession play in the corners.

It was rarely pretty, and rarely entertaining, but it was a welcome three points that keeps us in touch with the top two, despite Man City’s return to winning form against Liverpool.

I understand that Mark Halsey wore a black armband in memory of Gary Ablett, who died this week at the age of just 46, suffering from Non-Hodgkinson’s Lymphoma. Halsey is a survivor of the same disease. I also noted that the referee was greeted with some genuine affection at the end of the game by some players. There was also a personal tragedy in the West Stand in the first half, where a grandfather sadly passed away, due to a heart attack. He had been treated to the ticket by family, who were present. Once again, our beloved game of football is put in perspective by such personal sadness.

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