BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
TUESDAY JANUARY 1ST, 2013
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 3 (1) READING 1 (1)
Referee:- Howard Webb
Assistants:- Mr. D. Cann & Ms. S. Massey
Fourth official:- Mr. P. Dowd (not as per programme)
Spurs (4-4-2):- Lloris; Walker, Dawson (Capt.), Vertonghen, Naughton; Lennon, Sandro, Dembele (sub Parker, 69), Sigurdsson (sub Dempsey, 75); Adebayor (sub Livermore, 88), Defoe
Subs not used:- Friedel; Caulker; Huddlestone, Falque
Reading (4-1-4-1):- Federici; Gunter, Pearce, Mariappa, Harte; Leigertwood; Kebe, Karacan (sub Robson-Kanu, 57), Guthrie, McAnuff (Capt.) (sub Le Fondre, 73); Pogrebnyak (sub Hunt, 84)
(Armband to Leigertwood)
Subs not used:- Taylor; Morrison, Cummings, Tabb
2013. What a cracking year it's been for Spurs!
Spurs started the New Year with a result that rounds off a great Christmas haul of three consecutive wins, and 10 points from their last four games. Overnight, they once again occupy third place, likely to be re-claimed by Chelsea who play struggling QPR tomorrow.
Spurs' great December form of five wins in seven games has continued.
Despite giving lowly Reading a goal start when veteran left back and dead ball expert Ian Harte took a free kick from just outside the box, hitting the bar, but leading to Pogrebnyak's follow-up goal, Spurs won comfortably, replicating the 3-1 scoreline of this season's away game.
The score could and should really have been more. Despite dominating possessing and rattling up loads of attempts on goal, too many of them were off target, and others found goalkeeper Federici in good form, or at least sufficient to keep Spurs at bay for much of the game.
With 17 Premier League games remaining, Reading need to accumulate twice as many points as they have gained so far to even have a chance of survival. I can't see it happening, but they did have a lead, and when they came back out to attack Spurs after the hosts had taken the lead, they did give the Spurs defence a couple of worrying moments.
The simple change for Spurs today was to insert Jan Vertonghen for Steven Caulker. There was no sign of Gallas on the bench, which makes me wonder if his last manager has come a-hunting for an experienced wise head to lead QPR'S effort to escape relegation. Maybe Gallas was just getting a rest. Gareth Bale was taking an enforced rest of course, and Gylfi Sigurdsson got his first start since 22nd November in Rome.
Reading played a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Leigertwood in front of his defence. Their earl goal came after referee Howard Webb decided that Dembele had unfairly challenged Pogrebnyak just outside the Spurs area, after the ball had been fed in from the left. Reading put a couple of players in the Spurs line, and Harte's free kick beat Lloris, rebounding off the bar to the Russian striker who stooped to head home. The Reading fans were in fantasy land.
The goal gave their team the excuse they wanted to fall back, although Spurs' persistent advances gave them little option, and Lloris was very rarely threatened after that moment.
The ball was gifted to Aaron Lennon on the right after 6 minutes. He crossed deep, but Adebayor headed wide. It wasn't long before Spurs were back on level terms though. Another Lennon cross led to a corner taken by Sigurdsson from the south-east corner. Skipper Michael Dawson met the ball at the near post to glance a header beyond Federici.
The list of Spurs opportunities after that is endless really. The ball was worked through the middle to Jermain Defoe who hit a left foot shot over. Then Sigurdsson tried a right footer from 22 yards, which Federici saved well, conceding a corner.
Michael Dawson needed some treatment to a blood injury, possibly a nose bleed, and had to change his shirt for the usual Spurs stand-by, number 49.
Sigurdsson was showing some good skills, having the confidence to play some skilful passes, and in the middle, Dembele was featuring prominently, carrying the ball at will. After 20 minutes, he was having his shirt pulled, but Mr. Webb allowed an advantage. However, Dembele hit his shot wide of Federici's right post.
Spurs were now putting Reading under constant pressure, but did not get enough to show for it, failing to find that killer shot. After more pressure, a Defoe shot was partially blocked, then easily picked up by the busy Reading keeper.
After an attacking throw on the left, taken by Naughton, Sandro turned and found space for a right footed effort, but this passed wide. A free kick by Sigurdsson was cleared; then a Lennon effort was blocked, before Defoe worked space for a right footer that also passed the wrong side of the post.
Reading were marking tightly and packing their defensive third of the pitch. Defoe squeezed a left footed shot that was held by the keeper.
Dembele had a shot parried and Adebayor was thwarted in his attempt to follow up. Finally, Federici saved well with a dive to the left from Sandro's deflected shot.
Spurs had a bright start to the second half. The first shot on target was by Defoe, but held by Federici. After several efforts to find space, Aaron Lennon passed the defence on the outside, got to the bye-line, then lifted a cross towards the back post, where Adebayor rose to head home for a welcome and much-deserved lead.
Lennon was superb today, and after the second goal he turned up on the left of the pitch, but he was appearing all over the field of play, even playing effectively as the last man on the left on one occasion, when Naughton had got forward. He enjoyed the sort of freedom today usually afforded to Bale.
Dembele fed the ball to Sandro, who just about kept his balance under strong challenge, before hitting a shot that passed wide of the keeper's right post. Lennon received a wall pass from Adebayor, before hitting a shot on target that was deflected over for a corner.
After a slow build-up, Naughton tried a shot which the keeper held.
Kyle Walker made a good challenge to pick up the play in the middle, feeding the ball to Lennon in the middle, who in turn fed Defoe lurking on the left of the box. Jermain fired wide again.
Dembele was replaced by Scott Parker, who got great applause, and who again played a more advanced midfield role than usual, to good effect.
After a Spurs throw on the right, Walker hit a powerful pass to his former Sheffield United buddy, Kyle Naughton, who tried another shot, but it was over the target. Adebayor fired wide after good work by Parker and Sigurdsson on the right.
Suddenly Reading showed some intent through Pogrebnyak, who hit a shot from inside the box on the right, a saved by Lloris.
Clint Dempsey replaced Sigurdsson with 16 minutes to play, but before he made his impact, there was a moment of real panic for Spurs, when Klebe broke through the middle, and Dawson was on the wrong side of him to prevent his advance upon Lloris's goal.There was a scramble and Lloris was helped by a great saving tackle by one of the Kyles. I'm sorry, I couldn't tell you which, as I was at the other end, and I've seen conflicting accounts. Spurs also had to deal with some pressure from the ensuing corners.
However, the much-needed two goal lead was achieved with a goal by Clint Dempsey, similar to that which he scored at Goodison Park last month, which was looked at by the dubious goals panel. Dawson floated in a free kick from the right; Adebeyor won the ball and fed it back to Dempsey, who took it on, hitting a shot that was deflected by Leigertwood, looping over the helpless Federici. I think this goal will stand any closer examination and also be awarded to Dempsey.
Reading were now beaten, and Spurs found an extra gear. How they didn't find another goal, I don't really know. Defoe found himself with the ball in the box, and opted for placement, rather than power with his shot, which gave the defence time to clear for a corner.
Federici then made a great save, diving to his left to deny Parker's powerful drive for a good 25 yards. Dempsey and Walker also had good chances as the match drew to a close.
Arsenal were held is evening to a draw at St. Mary's Stadium, so they are five points behind us in fifth. Even if Everton win at Newcastle tomorrow we will have a three point gap below us, and we will be secure in fourth place going into our next League match at Loftus Road. Depending upon FA Cup results this week, that QPR game could be played on Monday 14th or Saturday 12th January.
In the meantime, bring on Coventry for our FA Cup Third Round game this Saturday!
What a cracking year it's been for Spurs so far!
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