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Sunderland v Spurs, 31.10.99

FA CARLING PREMIERSHIP
SUMDAY 31ST OCTOBER, 1999
SUNDERLAND 2 (2) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0)

Sunderland Scorer:-
Quinn, 10,21

Spurs Scorer:- Iversen, 63

Referee:- M. Riley

Attendance:- 41,904

Teams:-
Sunderland (4-4-2):- Sorensen; Makin, Bould, Butler, Gray; Summerbee ( sub Williams 87 ), Schwarz, Roy ( sub Ball, 72 ), McCann; Phillips ( sub Dichio, 61), Quinn

Subs not used:- Marriott; Rae

Bookings;- None

Spurs (4-4-2);- Walker; Carr, Vega, Campbell, Taricco; Leonhardsen ( sub Sherwood, 77), Freund, Clemence, Ginola ( sub Dominguez, 46 ); Piercy ( sub Perry, 46 ), Iversen

Subs not used:- Baardsen; Fox

Bookings:- Taricco, Campbell, Iversen

Let me first of all declare that this report is based upon the limited view I had of the game, via the Jumbotron at White Hart Lane. I now regard such an event as a bad omen, as the last time I did this was on the first day of the season, when Spurs lost their last away league game at Upton Park. Judging by the (lack of ) quality of service that the paying customers got today, I shall think very carefully about forking out the princely sum of 15 ( for Myself, and son ) for poor pictures; and either no sound; too little sound; too much sound, and second rate commentary. The stewards alleged that the poor pictures ( during the sunlit first half ) were what Sky was delivering, but when I saw the same pictures later on TV, the quality was much improved. I intend to write to the club about this issue. Anyway - to the game:-

The signs were not so good when we learnt that George Graham was obviously protecting Perry and Sherwood for the UEFA cup game next week, as he decided to field a side featuring two reserves ( Clemence and Piercy ) for what was going to be a very tough game in the cauldron they call the "Stadium of Light". Sunderland are clearly not in a false position near the top of the league, and they over-powered us throughout the first half; quickly stemming any hint of creativity from the hardly effective Ginola ( for once correctly substituted ), and putting us on the back foot with two early volleys from Niall Quinn that found Walker's net, and gave us a mountain to climb.

It could have been so different though, as Ginola did lay on a good chance for Iversen within 5 minutes. Iversen should have converted the chance, but his shot was blocked. He had another chance with only the keeper to beat soon after, but Sorensen saved at his feet. In between these chances, Phillips felt aggrieved as referee Riley ignored his claims that Vega had pulled him back on the edge of the area. Only 10 minutes had gone, when Quinn gave the 40,000 baying home fans the first goal. Gray crossed from the left; Campbell missed his header, and the ball landed at the feet of Quinn, with Taricco behind him, and helpless to prevent the swift shot into the net.

The lead was doubled after 21 minutes. This time the ball reached Quinn from the right, and he volleyed home with the Vega and Carr either side of him. Taricco got booked for holding back Summerbee, and the pressure was maintained, as Ginola stumbled, and Iversen and Piercy could not get into the game. Walker made a telling save from Phillips who beat Sol Campbell to a long through ball, and only had the keeper to beat. Next, Walker was racing out of his area to get a vital tackle on Phillips, again advancing perilously towards goal.

Spurs improved towards half time, but they nearly lost the ball after an ineffective short corner. After a lengthy build up, Piercy made his one telling contribution with a lofted pass to Leonhardsen, who fired well over the mark.

Graham made two half time substitutions, replacing Ginola with Dominguez, and drafting Perry into defence, pushing Vega up front to replace Piercy. Vega ain't no striker, but he did have some effect on the path of the second period. After an early shot for Summerbee, Vega won a free kick, but Clemence shot well over the goal. Even from my distant viewpoint, I could see that Clemence had a somewhat disastrous game, with many important passes falling short of the target. It was depressing to say the least to see him lining up to take free kicks.

Quinn had a hat-trick chance, with Perry floundering in his wake, but this time he shot across the goal and just wide of the stretching Walker.With nearly an hour gone, Iversen put Vega through, but he was just too far to the right of goal, and his shot was easily blocked. Vega conceded a free kick just over the half way line, which was taken quickly, reaching Quinn yet again, this time shooting over the bar.

Sol Campbell was getting a hard time in more ways than one, with the partisan fans on his back, particularly after Phillips had to leave the field through injury after a Campbell challenge. Sol got booked shortly afterwards for another challenge, as the referee obviously decided that he had given him enough rope.

Spurs got a deserved goal after 63 minutes. Leonhardsen sent a long ball to Vega on the right of the area. Ramon sent a simple pass to the left for Iversen to coolly finish the job, and score his seventh Premiership goal of the season. The pressure was building against the home side, and Spurs looked worth an equaliser at least. A wonderful interchange between Carr and Leonhardsen led to Carr being 10 yards from goal, with a clear shooting chance. He clearly thought the angle was too tight; crossed for Vega, but the ball was just too far in front of Vega at the far post.

Tim Sherwood replaced the injured Leonhardsen, and nearly scored with his first touch.He tried to chip the goalie, who just got a touch to the ball. Vega tried a desperate overhead kick, and the ball fell to Sol, only 6 yards out. Somehow Campbell managed to scoop the ball over the bar.

At the other end, Sherwood lost the ball to Dichio, who forced another diving save from Walker, although the ball was going just wide. The frustration was getting to Spurs, as Iversen got booked for dissent when he thought the referee should have given a corner in the closing minutes.There was one more chance for Spurs, and it did come from a Dominguez corner, reaching Carr in a central position outside the box. This time, the hero of last week's victory over the Champions shot too wide, and Spurs' recent winning spell was over.

To give a personal view here, I do think that George Graham under-estimated the opposition, by resting key players, for the benefit of securing UEFA victory next Thursday. It seems to me that the club's priority is to gain as much progress ( and pennies ) in that competition, and on today's evidence, that strategy is risking our league position. Some will say that we were unlucky not to get something out of today's game, but if we had played to our strengths from the start, I think we would not have been going home empty-handed.

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