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Sunderland v Spurs, 29.12.12

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 29TH DECEMBER, 2012
(12.45 PM)
SUNDERLAND (1) (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (0)

Sunderland scorer:-
O’Shea, 40

Spurs scorers:-
Cuellar (own goal), 48
Lennon, 51

Attendance:- 41,168

Referee:- Mr. M. Atkinson
Assistants:- Mr. P. Kirkup & Mr. S. Burt
Fourth official:- Mr. M. Dean

Teams:-
Sunderland (4-4-1-1):- Mignolet; Gardner, O’Shea (Capt.)(sub Bramble, 68), Cuellar, Kilgallon (sub Campbell, 62); Johnson, Larsson (sub Wickham, 80), Colback, McClean; Sessegnon; Fletcher
(Armband to Cuellar)

Subs not used:- Westwood; Vaughan, McFadden, Ji Dong-won

Booked:- Cuellar (foul on Lennon)

Spurs (4-4-2):- Lloris; Walker, Dawson (Capt.), Caulker, Naughton; Lennon (sub Parker, 83), Dembele, Sandro, Bale (sub Sigurdsson, 90); Defoe (sub Dempsey, 75), Adebayor

Subs not used:- Friedel; Vertonghen; Huddlestone, Livermore

Booked:- Dawson (foul on Sessegnon), Dembele (foul on Gardner), Bale (alleged simulation)

Lennon works his magic again!

It’s always a special feeling when Aaron Lennon scores in a Spurs game, because by doing so today, he maintained his very pleasing record of never losing a Spurs game in which he scored. So, when he scored Spurs second goal in quick succession after the interval, cementing a deserved lead for the away side, this spectator smiled a smug smile, and relaxed in the knowledge we would not lose. I am not suggesting it was easy for Spurs in the end, as Martin O’Neill had four strikers on the field by the end of the game, but Spurs had bossed this game for long periods, and clearly deserved their win.

Referee Martin Atkinson will be the focus of some post-match headlines, as he became the fifth referee to book Gareth Bale so far this season in domestic games. Once again today, the alleged offence was simulation, when Bale allegedly dived in the penalty area under the challenge of stand-in right back Craig Gardner. Replays showed there was contact from Gardner both with his knee and an obstructing arm as Bale threatened to pass him, but Bale’s reputation precedes him, and Mr. Atkinson (from some distance behind the action) was convinced that a booking, not a penalty was justified. Thereafter the home crowd booed Bale, who will now have to miss the Reading game on New Year’s Day, as this was his fifth booking. It’s a shame you can’t appeal bookings in the same way that you can appeal a red card.

Regarding Mr. Atkinson, as I mentioned in my match preview, the last time Spurs won with him in charge was at home to Everton in January. Aaron Lennon scored on that occasion too!

Andre Villas-Boas’s rotation policy seems to be concentrated upon his defenders, and Michael Dawson and Steven Caulker replaced Gallas and Vertonghen. Vertonghen was on the bench, but he was getting a much needed rest, having started 18 of our previous 19 Premier League games, and played more minutes than any other squad member this season. With this third win in the last four games (six out of the last eight league games), AVB can afford to feel satisfied, especially as overnight at least, Spurs hold third position, above Chelsea, who will need at least a point at Everton tomorrow to regain third spot.

Martin O’Neill’s side must have felt confident going into the game with wins over Southampton and Man City to their credit, and with Sessegnon playing just behind Fletcher, and the flair of Johnson, Larsson and Mclean behind them, the Spurs defence could look forward to plenty of work. Dembele and Sandro were soldiers in front of the back four, both of whom also got forward to good effect in support of the attack. Indeed, when Scott Parker replaced Lennon late in the game, he took up an advanced position, rather than work behind Dembele and Sandro. Bale and Lennon were industrious throughout, but unfortunately, Defoe and Adebayor could not take their chances, not that too many direct opportunities arose.

Adebayor’s first effort after three minutes was a weak shot, after Bale’s supply. Another trait by Spurs, ultimately to prove costly before the break, was the concession of too many free kicks in dangerous positions, with the likes of Larsson and Johnson exponents of good delivery. Luckily, Lloris was also in top nick, and punched many high balls well clear of danger. There weren’t many openings in the first quarter of an hour. Walker hit a powerful cross from the right which was held by Mignolet.

Spurs had a good attacking play after 20 minutes, when a Walker ball fell for Defoe, then Lennon, as the Sunderland defence failed to clear their lines. The ball was worked wide to Bale, who passed back inside before Sandro fried from distance and had his deflected shot held at the second attempt by Mignolet. Spurs were now enjoying a period of domination. A Lennon ball from a central position reached Adebayor, whose effort was blocked and led to a corner. After 28 minutes, Bale headed a Lennon cross wide at the back post. Bale passed from deep to Defoe, who was on the left. Jermain crossed towards Adebayor and Cuellar actually missed the ball, no doubt to the surprise of Adebayor whose shot rebounded off the bar from close range. After a Spurs corner, Walker tried a shot from deep, which had power, but passed over the goal.

Spurs paid that penalty for conceding those free kicks, when firstly Cuellar headed over, and then after Larsson lifted a kick into the box from the left, Fletcher shot on target; Lloris saved, but O’Shea had an easy finish. Sunderland had scored from more or less their only chance of the game.

Spurs came out with intent after the break. Cuellar was in the story for three reasons. Firstly he got booked for fouling Lennon, as he advanced down the left of the area. Then he headed the free kick out for a corner. From the corner, taken by Walker, with Bale challenging, it was Cuellar who got a glancing header on the ball, to beat his own keeper. The stadium announcer gave the goal to Bale, no doubt to hide his embarrassment!

Three minutes later, Lennon scored a great goal. He was operating just outside the box, towards the right and received a ball from Sandro, further out towards the right flank. Lennon flicked the ball over another stand-in full back Kilgallon, the ball rebounded into Lennon’s path, as he passed O’Shea and fired past Mignolet. It was Lennon’s third league goal of the season, and we have won all three games! Keep it up Aaron! Kilgallon was covering for spurs loanee Danny Rose, perhaps watching with mixed feelings from the stands, or the comfort of his living room. Martin O’Neill would love to sign Rose permanently, and he would relish a move which would give him regular football, but perhaps AVB has other ideas.

Sunderland tried to get back on level terms, and Lloris made a save on his left from Johnson, where Joe Hart had failed on Boxing Day. Bale made a great run from deep down the left side and crossed to the back post, where Defoe delayed his shot, and Mignolet made a great save. At the other end, McLean put in Sessegnon, in space on the left, but he fired woefully wide. There was a fair amount of pressure upon Lloris’s goal thereafter, but little real threat. Larsson was getting too many chances with the dead ball for my liking, but Hugo punched the most difficult shot well clear.

The moment of controversy involving Bale came with 10 minutes of normal time remaining, and while Spurs deserved a penalty, they got only punishment from the referee. Adebayor had a good one on one chance, but was thwarted by the goalkeeper, who also saved from Bale after a good solo effort. Spurs saw out the five added minutes, and will approach the Reading game on New Year’s Day with relish and added confidence, but without Bale.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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