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Spurs v Sunderland, 24.07.13

BARCLAYS ASIA TROPHY
(Hong Kong National Stadium)
WEDNESDAY 24TH JULY, 2013
(Kick off delayed till 11.30 BST – 40min halves)

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1) SUNDERLAND 3 (1)

Spurs scorer:-
Sigurdsson, 28

Sunderland scorers:-
Cabral, 34
Brown, 64
Karlsson, 80

Referee:- Mr. Liu Kwok Man
Other officials not known

Attendance:- Not known

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-1-1):-
Gomes (sub Friedel, 41); Walker, Dawson (Capt.), Caulker (sub Vertonghen, 41) (sub Fryers, 49), Rose; Lennon (sub Defoe, 41), Parker, Huddlestone (sub Carroll, 69), Sigurdsson; Dempsey (sub Townsend, 69), Adebayor

Subs not used:- Lloris; Assou-Ekotto, Naughton

No Bookings

Sunderland (4-4-2):-
Mannone; Gardner, Brown (sub Roberge, 77), O’Shea (Capt.), Colback; Johnson (sub Karlsson, 62), Larsson (sub El-Hadji Ba, 62), Cabral, Giaccherini (sub McLean, 78); Sessegnon, Altidore (sub Wickham, 74)

Subs not used:- Pickford, Westwood; Vaughan, Mandron

No bookings

Bog standard Spurs

What significance can be drawn from this defeat played after a 30 minute delay (and with 40 minute halves) upon a rain-sodden pitch, when Spurs played without at least seven players who may well feature in Andre Villas-Boas’s first choice line-up, when the season proper begins in over three weeks’ time?

Those non-participants were Bale, Sandro, Kaboul, Dembele and Holtby, all of whom are injured to some degree. Bale is likely to play in what will now be a third/fourth place play-off on Saturday. Sandro and Kaboul are presumably not yet match fit. Dembele has a sinus problem, and I don’t know what kept Holtby out of contention. Then there are the two new signings. Chadli has travelled to Hong Kong to train with the squad, but was not registered in time for this tournament, and Paulinho of course is still on holiday, following his Confederations Cup exertions. Then there is the issue of an as yet unsigned striker, such as Soldado.

Spurs started with their number three goalkeeper, Heurelho Gomes, who last played a competitive game for us in May 2011, against Blackpool. When we suffered the loss of second half substitute Jan Vertonghen after only 49 minutes, with what looked like a nasty knee injury, Spurs were left with an inexperienced looking back four against what looked like Sunderland’s first choice strike partnership of Sessegnon and the powerful American Jozy Altidore, signed from AZ Alkmaar where he has scored 38 league goals in 67 games over the last two seasons. Zeki Fryers took over from Vertonghen, and allowed Wes Brown to get goal-side of him to head Sunderland into the lead from a corner. At left back, Danny Rose made some powerful runs in the very difficult and stamina-sapping conditions, but Sessegnon (with whom he played on loan last season) was too clever for him at times.

With puddles all over the middle of the pitch, and the ball sticking beyond that area, it didn’t look as if we were going to get a decent game of football. The Spurs groundsman had worked hard on the pitch, but there had been some very, very heavy rainfall, which did not go away completely in the first half.

Dempsey played behind Adebayor, and won an early free kick, taken by Sigurdsson from about 25 yards, which curled nearer and nearer to Mannone’s left post as it passed the goal. In the early farcical conditions, an attempted pass back by Scott Parker for Steven Caulker got stuck and Sunderland nearly took advantage before Spurs managed to block the attack. The ever-valiant Michael Dawson might have been the only one who enjoyed the early stages of the game!

It was Dawson who came to the rescue after Caulker was caught out by the ball actually bouncing, and reaching Sessegnon after 6 minutes. Sunderland began to look more lively and speedy than Spurs, and a Johnson ball reached the feet of another new signing, Emanuele Giaccherini, who fired wide of Gomes’ left post. Walker then won a little battle against Giaccherini, but the ball still fell to another Sunderland player, who also fired wide.

The rain was getting heavy again. Adebayor was dragged back, and Dempsey took the free kick, which went straight into the Sunderland wall. Rose made a powerful run in the Sunderland half, but his cross was blocked. At the other end, Rose effectively gave chase and caught up with Johnson, who was threatening down the flank.

Without threatening Mannone, Spurs had started to play some good football, and they took the lead following two good passes by Tom Huddlestone, both to the feet of Kyle Walker. After the second pass, Walker got to the bye-line and cut the ball back for Sigurdsson, whose shot took a deflection and beat Mannone.

At the other end, Gomes had to be brave and smothered the ball from the feet of Altidore. It wasn’t long though before Sunderland were level. In the sticky conditions, Huddlestone passed short and gave possession to Sunderland, who scored through midfielder Cabral, another new signing, who last season played for FC Basel, but was only a substitute in our home game against the Swiss team. Gomes did not look so good when he could only parry Gardner’s 37th minute free kick.

Aaron Lennon had not been making much headway in the mud, and was replaced at half-time by Jermain Defoe, whilst Vertonghen came on for Caulker. Friedel replaced Gomes, and was called upon to make three really good saves.

Huddlestone was again involved in a mix up at the back, where he took a swing at the ball and missed. The ball was headed in to Altidore, who was surprised to find himself in front of goal, with the ball at his feet. The ball went wide. Johnson’s clever play in the box was only thwarted by Scott Parker, who conceded a corner.

Vertonghen fell badly after 45 minutes, and was stretchered off, in a sitting position. It looked as if he had suffered a nasty knee injury, but the word after he left the pitch was that he was actually asked if he wanted to come back on. This was after Fryers had taken his place, but the suggestion was that he was not as badly injured as feared. Kyle Walker tried to win a goal kick near the line, but the ball actually rebounded to Altidore in the middle, but he missed the target.

Adebayor had an excellent effort on goal tipped over by Mannone, after Dempsey had fed the ball from the middle. Defoe had his best chance of the game after a cross by Rose, but again Mannone (once of Arsenal of course) made an excellent save.

Paolo Di Canio now made his first substitutions, with Karlsson replacing Johnson, and El-Hadji Ba replacing Larsson. Ba is a 20 year old French midfielder, signed from Le Havre. Di Canio has already signed 9 new players. Sigurdsson crossed well from the right, and Defoe was in with a chance. Mannone was brave and got to the ball, but Defoe was offside anyway.

Michael Dawson headed clear for a corner, after more good play on the right by Sessegnon, but this was when Brown was allowed in front of Fryers, and headed home for a Sunderland lead in the 64th minute.

With little over 10 minutes left, AVB put on Townsend for Dempsey, and Tom Carroll for Huddlestone. Townsend almost got in a shot after his first touch, but all his efforts were blocked. Carroll didn’t get a look-in, and the “Black Cats” looked as if they had far more energy. Rumour has it that the manager has already been working his boys hard. After Townsend had been dispossessed, Sunderland made a break, and Fryers and Dawson just about got behind Sessegnon. However, the striker was able to find the feet of Altidore, and Friedel made a very good save from the shot. Brad was also alert to a Cabral effort from the corner.

Altidore was replaced by Wickham, who tested Friedel to the full with his first touch, a sharp header from an angle on the edge of the 6-yard area. Friedel made a great aerial left-handed save, conceding a corner.

As full time approached, Sessegnon deceived Rose with a clever overhead pass which gave Karlsson a run and an easy finish past Friedel.

The 3-1 scoreline does not look good. To answer my initial question, little significance can be drawn, surely. However, as I write, it looks as if Sunderland will contest the final of this tournament on Saturday with Manchester City, which will give us South China to play in the third place play-off. Hopefully, the team, and the conditions, will be better.

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