BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
TUESDAY 31ST JANUARY, 2012
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 3 (2) WIGAN ATHLETIC 1 (0)
Bale, 29, 64
Referee:- Lee Probert
Assistants:- Mr. S. Burt & Mr. A. Watts
Fourth official:- Mr. N. Swarbrick
Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Friedel; Walker (sub Sandro, 75), Kaboul, King (Capt.), Assou-Ekotto; Kranjcar, Parker, Modric, Bale; Van der Vaart (sub Livermore, 31); Adebayor (sub Lancaster, 78)
Subs not used:- Cudicini; Dawson, Rose; Pienaar
Wigan (5-3-2):- Al Habsi; Stam, Boyce, Caldwell (Capt.), Figueroa, Beausejour; McCarthy, Watson (sub Crusat, 87), Moses; Di Santo (sub Sammon, 74), Gomez (sub McArthur, 70)
Subs not used:- Pollitt; Gohouri; Jones; Rodallega
Booked:- Crusat (foul on Parker)
Bale makes hay
It was cosy for Spurs, and Gareth Bale made hay with two goals against a Wigan side which came to play football, but once again suffered defeat to remain rooted to the bottom of the table. It was a more than satisfactory night on the football field for Spurs, who gained ground on Manchester City, who lost at Everton, and also widened the gap between us and fourth placed Chelsea, who scored a last minute equaliser to draw at Swansea. Many Spurs fans were dismayed by the transfer deadline day action by Spurs though, as substitute Pienaar went back to Everton on loan, Corluka went to Bayer Leverkusen on loan, and Bassong also departed on loan to Wolves. Pavlyuchenko is going for a fee back to Russia. The replacements of Louis Saha and Ryan Nelsen do not excite Spurs fans, although their task will be to under-study and play as much first team football as have those departing.
The absence of Pavlyuchenko and Bassong from the Spurs bench was telling, although Pienaar was named, but un-used. Academy graduate Cameron Lancaster did get a cameo appearance though, and did himself proud with some great touches and a show of strength coupled with skill. Lancaster drew cries of “Who” from some present, but he has been an unused substitute on our Europa League travels, and he will be getting more exposure on the form shown in this game.
Spurs started as they intended to go on really, and without over-exerting themselves were totally in control, until they did take the foot off the pedal when Gareth Bale’s second goal put them three up after 64 minutes. That allowed Wigan to come forward more and with good effect as their goal was more than a consolation, preceding a good chance to get back to just one behind.
Bale was given the freedom of the park again, and made an early run down the left, hitting a cross which Van der Vaart fired at the goalkeeper with a neat first touch shot. Al Habsi was busy after five minutes after a corner taken by Luka Modric and headed goalward by Younes Kaboul. Al Habsi managed to paw the effort away from danger. Bale, Assou-Ekotto and Adebayor combined with skill down the left, before Bale’s cross was cleared by the Wigan defence. Wigan were playing a fluid defensive formation, with both full backs defending when necessary but right back Stam getting forward whenever possible. Gomez sat behind Di Santo up front. Stam put a cross into the Spurs 6 yard area after 8 minutes, but Friedel was easily able to pick up.
After 15 minutes, an Assou-Ekotto cross reached Van der Vaart, who threaded the ball to Adebayor in a central position. Adebayor passed to Kranjcar to his left, who carried the ball away from goal, but got it back to Modric, whose shot was wide. Kranjcar was making his first league start since September, and like Bale, also enjoyed an element of freedom of movement. His passes were bearing fruit too, particularly in the early stages of the game.
Adebayor received the ball in a central position, and could have created a shooting opportunity for himself, but chose to play the ball out wide to Walker, who returned it for Adebayor who headed wide. Kranjcar had a shot on goal after a Modric pass, but Al Habsi was equal to the effort. Modric and Assou-Ekotto combined well down the left before the ball was passed inside to Adebayor, who fed Kranjcar. His shot was deflected for a corner, taken by Modric and from which a Kaboul header was cleared from in front of the goal line.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic though and there was still a job for Parker to do, which he did to the acclaim of the crowd as he chased back a counter-attack terrier-like and retrieved the ball in a super tackle. Bale had a shot go wide from the right hand side, before Spurs finally took the lead. Modric exchanged a pass with Kranjcar on the left about 30 yards out, before lifting a beautiful ball over the defence, where Bale collected by chesting the ball down, before firing past Al Habsi.
Van der Vaart had to go off with a twinge, and was replaced not by Sandro, but by Jake Livermore. A great ball from Kranjcar deep on the right reached Bale, now on the left side. His shot was parried by Al Habsi and only half cleared. In the follow-up Spurs were caught offside. A second goal came after 34 minutes, following another cross by Assou-Ekotto, which was only half-cleared as far as Modric, who jinked to the right and hit a shot just inside the keeper’s right post.
Bale and Modric were involved in a nice move for Spurs which ended in a shot by Livermore, which was easy meat for Al Habsi. Bale had been running off a knock too, but he appeared after the break, picking up the ball in midfield before setting off on a run down the right channel, hitting a right footed cross which Adebayor headed over.
A Kranjcar ball intended for Walker fell short and Moses was able to make a run and have a shot that passed wide of Friedel’s goal. Spurs defended well against Di Santo after a Stam cross, and after 58 minutes Moses passed inside to Di Santo, who it a shot on target, which Friedel held with ease. Spurs increased their lead following a great cross-field ball by Modric to Assou-Ekotto, who passed inside to Bale, standing on the left side of the area. Gareth shimmied to one side and picked his spot, drilling a perfect low shot beyond Al Habsi into the far corner. My seat offered the perfect view of this super goal.
A series of substitutions followed, including Di Santo for Sammon, after Di Santo had fallen victim to an Assou-Ekotto challenge, which went un-punished by referee Lee Probert. Wigan connections were upset and claim this should have been a red card, but Benoit and the referee clearly thought otherwise. Walker went off, replaced by Sandro, and Livermore moved to right back. Ben Watson hit a useful curving shot, but Friedel was perfectly placed to make the save look routine. Adebayor was replaced by 19 year old Cameron Lancaster. The worrying thing for Spurs is that all three substitutions were apparently as a result of injuries and not a decision to rest key players for next week’s clash with Liverpool. We must hope they are all fit to play next Monday!
The foot off the pedal syndrome by Spurs gave Wigan more territory, and they were rewarded with an 80th minute goal, which came from a cross from the left by Moses, and a shot by substitute McArthur. Wigan sniffed a chance to get back in the game, and there was danger as Stam crossed but the ball passed across the area, where Sammon was lurking. Bale and Livermore combined on the right flank, before Bale hit a good shot that Al Habsi parried, and in the follow up, Kranjcar’s effort was cleared. Lancaster showed strength and skill to win the ball in midfield and send Bale away on a run which ended in a shot into the side netting. Cameron might have even got on the score-sheet in the closing stages, as Bale shot from the left at an angle, Al Habsi saved and Lancaster was beyond the back post, where he fired wide.
Next Monday’s game at Anfield will be a lot tougher. Liverpool are in great form, and Spurs will have to be at their best to get a positive result.
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