FA CARLING PREMIERSHIP
SUNDAY 14TH MAY, 2000
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 3 (1) SUNDERLAND 1 (1)
Anderton (pen), 10
Referee:- Mike Riley
Spurs (4-4-2):- Walker; Carr, Perry, Campbell (capt.), King; Leonhardsen (sub Sherwood, 41), Anderton, Freund, Ginola; Iversen (sub Doherty, 46), Armstrong
Subs not used:- Baardsen; Gardner; Clemence
Sunderland (4-4-2):- Sorensen; Makin (capt.) (sub Holloway, 72), Craddock, Butler, Gray; Summerbee, Thirlwell (sub Rae, 64), Roy, Oster (sub Kilbane, 61); Quinn, Phillips
Subs not used:- Marriott (GK); Dichio
Sent off:- Rae ( for violent conduct - elbowed Ginola in the face after 88 minutes)
In the box office hit film "Gladiator", Maximus is a heroic general in the Roman army, who hails from a foreign land. The old emperor, Marcus Aurelius bequeaths to Maximus the Governorship of Rome, superceding his son Commodus, who sets out to destroy and undermine Maximus, and also the old emperor. Maximus works his way as a gladiator to the Coliseum in Rome where he aims to exact his revenge. Proximo is a slave owner and gladiator tutor (played with gusto by the late Oliver Reed), who tells Maximus that he not only has to be the best to succeed, but also he has to make the crowd love him. Maximus vows "I will make the crowd love me".
Maximus - David Ginola
Marcus Aurelius - Spurs Heritage, represented by the likes of Blanchflower, White, Mackay, Greaves, Gilzean, Hoddle, Ardiles, Gascoigne, Klinsmann.
Commodus - George Graham
The Coliseum - White Hart Lane
The Crowd - The Crowd
The Coliseum was full on a spring day so warm that the sun seared the soil that Maximus so loved. The crowd was full of anticipation and expectation that Commodus would not dare to play this last fixture of the games without his main crowd pleaser, Maximus. They were not to be disappointed, but the conspiracy theorists might have argued that in an effort to undermine, he had chosen an inexperienced apprentice to play at left back. However, after a nervous start, Ledley King did not let the crowd down, nor his team mates, as he nearly headed home a Maximus centre, and even became the provider for star gladiator Anderton.
The visitors had enjoyed a good season, and to the despair of the crowd, had the audacity to finish above their heroes in the final table. The "Mackems", as they are known, had a couple of crowd pleasers in their side - Quinnus and Phillipus, but the remainder were not known for their flair. The visitors had a strong support, and the atmosphere was electric as both sets of supporters welcomed the protagonists. There was, of course, a special welcome for Maximus, who acknowledged the support. But he was not the only hero for whom the crowd had special affection. There was also the colossus at the centre of the defence, Solman, allegedly being tempted away to another stadium, and he was reminded regularly of the depth of support for him. There was also the "Gladiator of the Year", young Carr, who was to steal the show with an exquisite chip shot to seal the game.
The game was played at pace throughout, and both sides were determined to entertain. Armstrong had an early shot across goal that actually went out for a throw, but then a better effort was made by Maximus Ginola, when Iversen took a quick throw to release him. Ginola darted goalward and hit a curling shot that went just over the top corner of the woodwork. The defence had their work cut out against the threat of Oster on the left, and Phillips and Quinn, although the Colossus had Quinnus in his pocket for much of the game today. Quinn did get a header in from a Gray cross, which went wide of Walker's goal, with the keeper seemingly scrambling to reach the ball.
Then came a historic event. Spurs were awarded their first penalty of the season. Action replays confirm that the foul on Armstrong was in fact outside the penalty area, but Anderton stepped up to put the ball away, to the agony of the Sunderland supporters. It had been a super move to create the opportunity, as Freund and Carr buzzed around Phillips to dispossess him, and then Freund sent Armstrong away with a superb long pass. The "Butler" did it - i.e brought Armstrong down.
Sunderland were on level terms after 19 minutes as Phillips diverted a long ball from the right into the path of Makin, who had evaded all defenders and only had Walker to beat. He did not fail with his low shot. Spurs responded powerfully but irritated as they made some good approaches into shooting positions, but failed to capitalise.
Iversen had two chances but had his back to goal, and failed to turn and shoot. The Norwegian put Armstrong through with a piercing pass, and Butler this time made a good tackle to force a corner. From the corner, taken by Anderton, Solman headed across the goal, and Armstrong's finishing touch went just over. He claimed a corner, but was turned down.
Maximus brought the crowd to their feet in adoration as he won the ball deep in his own half, and left Summerbee, Makin and others stranded as he forged his path down the left, and put in a super cross that brought the visitors under pressure. Here was an example of turning defensive pressure into telling attack.
Leonhardsen was replaced before half time by Sherwood, and presumably was still suffering from his injury. Sherwood proved to be back to his best in the second half. Just before half time, Iversen sent a long cross over the defence from the right, and Armstrong was in the six yard box, apparently with the goal at his mercy. Sorensen had other ideas and won the ball with his feet, causing Armstrong to go down. The referee did not award a penalty, and had words with Armstrong, but did not book him for diving. Replays show that it was not a dive, but that Armstrong was fairly beaten to the ball.
Iversen was replaced by Doherty, and Anderton moved to the right to accommodate Freund and Sherwood in the middle. It's spooky how the team seems to play so much better when Anderton plays in his rightful spot and does not pretend that he has the necessary gumption for the middle of the park. Maximus fancied a free role, and had to be reigned to the left hand side by Commodus at one stage in the second half.
Soon after the re-start, Carr and Anderton combined well down the right, and it was Carr who crossed for Anderton's header to be blocked by Doherty inadvertently! Walker then had to hold a fierce shot from Summerbee.
The Germanic hero Freund (and he had his best game for Spurs, in my view, today) worked his way down the right, and Armstrong dummied under his cross. Doherty headed well, past Sorenson, and was unlucky not to score a debut goal as the ball rebounded off the post into the goalkeeper's hands. It is pleasing to report that the Armstrong chant surfaced for the first time this season, as he made a pacey run which culminated in a shot going just wide, following a good break out of defence led by Solman, King, Ginola, and Doherty.
Sherwood became more powerful as the game wore on, and Summerbee had to head off for a corner, as his cross would have landed on Armstrong's head. With 17 minutes left, Sherwood held both his hands up, depicting the tenth goal he has scored this season, as he got on the end of a Freund throw that was headed on by Sol Campbell.
On 82 minutes, came an exquisite goal, which in my opinion, matches the goal that Carr scored against Manchester United earlier this season. Carr has now scored three goals this season, and they have all been crackers! This time he won the ball 30 yards inside his won half, and beat two players before racing down the line. From a similar position to the ManU goal, he paused, and chipped Sorenson, who was only two or three yards off his line. Carr turned and punched the air with justified delight, and from that moment on, whenever he got the ball the crowd bayed "Shoot!".
There was a little more work for Walker who staggered a little at the power of Phillips' long range shot, but managed to hold the ball on the line. With two minutes to go, substitute Rae disgraced himself, and the game, with a lunged elbow into the face of our hero Maximus Ginola. The referee had no hesitation in waving the red card, and Rae was booed off the pitch. had this been the Coliseum for real, he would have got a hearty thumbs down! Rae has behaved similarly recently, and will face a considerable ban next season.
After a mediocre season, the crowd had been assuaged by an excellent display of football. If only there could have been more than just three similar performances (Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool). The players received a rapturous reception, as they threw gifts and kisses into the crowd. Maximus thought of his family and his home in the south of France, but knew that first he had a mission in Cambodia to campaign against the brutality of mines. Whilst his performance had been eclipsed by the goal of Carr, and the presence and performance of Solman, Maximus was pleased with his day's work, and pondered over some of the last words of Proximo, "I was an entertainer".
In truth the real hero of the day was Sol Campbell, who ended on almost a solo lap of honour, and perhaps was overcome by the roars of the crowd, and their affection ("You're Spurs and you know you are" "You've done your country proud"). It is difficult to assess the emotions of this powerful, yet shy man. He seemed to have his head down as he walked out of the stadium. Some interpret this as his last goodbye, others do not know what his future holds. I, for one, have a feeling he will be back next season, in the Spurs colours he so loves.
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