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West Bromwich Albion v Spurs, 03.02.13

(1.30 PM)

Bale, 67

Attendance:- 24,978

Referee:- Mark Clattenburg
Assistants:- Mr. S. Child & Mr. L. Betts
Fourth Official:- Phil Dowd

West Brom (4-4-2):- Foster; Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Popov; Dorrans (sub Rosenberg, 81), Morrison, Yacob (sub Fortune, 82), Brunt (Capt.); Lukaku (sub Ridgewell, 52), Long

Subs not used:- Myhill; Jones, Tamas, Thomas

Booked:- Dorrans (foul on Parker)

Sent off:- Popov, 47 (Spitting at Kyle Walker)

Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Lloris; Walker (sub Gallas, 78), Dawson (Capt.), Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon (sub Sigurdsson, 86), Dembele, Parker, Dempsey; Bale; Defoe (sub Holtby, 39)

Subs not used;- Friedel; Naughton; Huddlestone, Livermore

No Bookings

Bale’s quality goal wins it for Spurs, after Popov’s spitting shame.

To say it has not been a good week for West Bromwich Albion is a gross understatement. They lost at Everton on Wednesday night; then on transfer deadline day their striker Odemwingie drove himself to Loftus Road to try and complete a transfer deal that only he thought was happening. Odemwingie is on “gardening leave” until further notice. Today, West Brom were competing well with Spurs until within minutes of the re-start, after a verbal spat with Kyle Walker after a bye-line challenge, left back Goran Popov got a deserved straight red for spitting at Walker. Mark Clattenburg was most decisive, and to his credit, West Brom Head Coach Steve Clarke made it clear that Popov had brought shame upon the club, and let down the club, his team-mates, and the West Brom fans.

After that sending off, Spurs were more or less in total control, although they were reliant on Gareth Bale’s superb goal in the 67th minute, which was a powerful rising shot from the edge of the area, which beat Ben Foster completely.

The home fans decided that the victim of Popov’s offence was worthy of persistent booing for the rest of the game, and also directed boos towards Bale, who they considered had over-reacted after one of several physical challenges.

West Brom had set up in a 4-4-2 formation, with Lukaku alongside Long. In the midfield four, Yacob seemed to have been given the more defensive role, supporting his back four. The West Brom centre backs were Gareth McAuley and Jonas Olsson, both of whom have considerable height, so perhaps to counter that, AVB had put Bale in a central position from the outset, with Dempsey on the left. Spurs were almost in a 4-3-3, but of course, in any formation, Gareth Bale has licence to roam. In this particular case, the chants which were heard from some Spurs fans of “He plays on the left” were not really justified, because of the clear strategy. The Spurs starting line-up was unchanged from Wednesday.

There were several versions of a chant about Odemwingie, voiced by Spurs fans, and the early, less offensive ones were applauded by home fans. There were one or two errors in the early stages on the right side of the Spurs defence. West Brom’s first opportunity did not arise from such behaviour though, as Shane Long latched onto a ball from the West Brom deep, and had a chance, which he over-hit, firing well wide of the target. At the other end, Jermain Defoe fed the ball to Bale on the right channel. Gareth got almost to the bye line before hitting his cross, which went for a throw on the far side of the goalmouth.

Lloris was down well to a low shot by Lukaku, before Spurs responded with Bale’s control, a pass to Lennon, whose cross went to the back post, where Dempsey headed down and just over the bar. Spurs survived a Dawson error, managing to clear from West Brom’s attack. Defoe challenged for a long ball by Assou-Ekotto, and the ball went back to Bale in a central position. He headed the ball forward to give Defoe a run, but Foster beat him to the ball.

Walker failed to cut out a West Brom cross from their right, which gave Long a shot on goal, saved well by the ever-alert Lloris. Parker released Bale for a good run, but nothing but a throw came from this attack. Dempsey had a decent right footed effort from 25 yards, which was just outside Foster’s right post. Dawson sent a great diagonal ball to Aaron Lennon, who passed inside to Defoe, who carried the ball along the edge of the box, shaping up for a shot. He was fouled and we thought it might be a penalty, but there was no argument from Spurs about the referee’s decision to award a free kick. Bale took it, and fired over the far post.

Soon after this Defoe was injured and the Spurs support chanted “We should have bought a striker” Ultimately, Defoe had to go off and he was replaced by Lewis Holtby. Dempsey reverted to a central role, supported by Holtby, with Bale nominally moving to his left wing.

Lukaku just got goalside of Dembele and headed for goal, but hit his shot well over the bar. In first half added time, Gareth Bale had a great solo effort, working his way in from the right before unleashing a good shot which Foster was happy to palm over for a corner.

Just after the break, Walker and Popov had their contretemps, which led to the moment of shame which will cost Popov three games, and may have cost West Brom at least a point. You could say that Popov gobbed off, then got sent off. Initially Brunt covered at left back, but Steve Clarke made the decision to sacrifice Lukaku, rather than Long, with substitute Ridgewell taking over at left back for the rest of the game. Holtby was now settling well into the game, and hit a good shot from the left of the box, which goalkeeper Foster managed to smother. Holtby met a Bale cross at the near post, and again Foster made the save, conceding a corner. The Spurs fans now started regaling Lewis Holtby with a chant identical to the one given by Liverpool fans for Suarez.

Benoit Assou-Ekotto chipped a ball for Bale, and again Foster got in the way, but not too comfortably. Then, in the 67th minute, Foster was finally beaten by Bale. Holtby and Walker had been involved in the build-up from the right, but all the credit for the goal belongs to Bale who gave Morrison the slip, before hitting a great rising shot from the edge of the box into the roof of the net.

Spurs played controlled football thereafter, and perhaps could have tried a little harder to go for the kill. Unsurprisingly, Clarke tried his best to boost West Brom’s attacking options with his substitutions, and at times he was playing a 4-3-2 to try and get back in the game. The real chances fell to Spurs though. Dempsey had a left footed shot saved after being put in by Dembele. Long did get a shot on target, but Lloris was equal to that. Holtby released Lennon with a great ball on the left of the area, but Lennon’s shot as he cut inside was blocked well.

This was a valuable win for Spurs who are within spitting distance, or should I say one point of third placed Chelsea. We have re-inforced the gap between us, Everton and Arsenal. Next week’s home game against Newcastle will be just as precious to us. Parlez-vous Geordie?

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