FA PREMIER LEAGUE
WEDNESDAY 9TH SEPTEMBER, 1998
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2(1) - BLACKBURN ROVERS 1(1)
Referee: Paul Alcock
Spurs:- Baardsen; Carr, Vega, Calderwood (capt), Tramezzani; Nielsen, Berti, Clemence; Fox, Ginola; Ferdinand
Subs used:- Sinton for Clemence, Saib for Ginola (89 minutes)
Subs not used:- Walker (GK); Edinburgh, Allen
Booked:- Calderwood ( 86 )
Blackburn:- Flowers; Kenna, Henchoz, Peacock, Davidson; Flitcroft, Dailly, Mckinlay, Willcox; Gallagher, Sutton
Subs used:- Duff and Perez for Kenna and Willcox (70 minutes)
Subs not used:- Filan(GK); Andersson; Davies
Booked:- Sutton (42), Perez (84)
David Pleat maintained the previous incumbent's faith in Espen Baardsen for his first game as temporary (?) manager. Ginola will probably win the headlines for his pinpoint crosses which made the scoring of Spurs' two goals relatively easy, but Baardsen should take equal credit for one magnificent save from Willcox in the first half, and an overall commanding presence in goal. At the risk of sounding boring, he is going to take some shifting now, and the defence should get more and more confident. I would also highlight young Steven Clemence, introduced to the first team (this season ) by Pleat as giving a particularly good performance.
This was, in the end, a battling performance by Spurs, but in truth, they never looked composed in defence, and were tested on many occasions by the likes of Gallagher, Sutton, and Flitcroft, and Dailly.
Many empty seats were evident. This is a sure symptom of the loss of faith the fans have in the team, but if they can build on this result, the crowds will be back. The crowd was fully behind the team tonight, and once we equalised, the atmosphere reached noisy levels, with particular appreciation for Ginola and Baardsen ( "Tottenham's number one!").
The game was played in a swirling wind, and occasional heavy rain. The first ten minutes were fairly quiet. Blackburn were playing the prettier football. Their forwards were able to control the ball and find their team mates with telling and clever passes throughout the game. Although he probably gave one of his better performances, Vega was always struggling against the pace of Sutton, and the trickery of Gallagher was a big test for Colin Calderwood, who was made captain in the absence of Sol Campbell. Blackburn caught us on the hop several times with quickly taken throw-ins or free kicks. Tramezzani also struggled when defending, and I felt that over the course of the game, most of the Blackburn attacks were coming down Tramezzani's flank. The Italian did look useful going forward though, and he, Clemence, and Daveed often worked well with triangular passing movements.
The opening goal for Blackburn (dressed in a bright yellow kit - which made it difficult to distinguish players' names) was not against the run of play, and came after 11 minutes. Peacock sent a long ball forward from his own half; there seemed to be a hint of offside by Sutton, but the (voluntary) England reject headed the ball back into the centre of the penalty area, for Flitcroft, who headed on to Gallagher, who lurked just outside the box on the left hand side of the "D". With one sweeping controlling motion, Gallagher brought the ball down, and volleyed it into the corner of the net, leaving Espen no chance. This was a well taken striker's goal, as many of you will have seen on MOTD by now.
Blackburn endeavoured to build the pressure, and Baardsen (with his defence struggling to contain the attacking side) was forced to make several saves. There was one at the feet of Dailly, where he once again proved he was not afraid to get to strikers' feet, but there was another which was a simply magnificent save, from Willcox. The ball was fed into Spurs' area from the goalkeeper's left, and Espen was committed towards his left side in tracking the play. Suddenly the ball was passed quickly across the box to Willcox, who briefly had an open goal in front of him. Now, whilst Willcox might have taken a little too long over his shot, all credit must (and was) be given to Espen for quickly shifting his direction and flinging himself to his right to make one of the best saves seen at the Lane. A standing, and prolonged ovation was given, and for the rest of the game Espen received adulation.
Les Ferdinand had already gone close with a header from Steven Clemence's cross, but he it was who equalised with a header from a superb cross from Ginola. Daveed started quietly, but even with two or three defenders tracking him was able to penetrate the defence, almost at will. Having been brought down, he copied Blackburn's example, and took his own free kick rapidly. He easily found Sir Les to set the home crowd buzzing.
Pleat played a three man defensive midfield behind Ginola and Fox on the wings. Fox had a pretty quiet game. This was not one of his frustrating efforts. It's just that we didn't see much of him. Nielsen and Clemence took turns to move forward, whilst Berti was assigned the more defensive role. Nicola was somewhat out of touch tonight, with ball control and passing skills lacking. I've always said he takes a while to warm up, and in the second half he was feeding the ball out of defence successfully more often. Both Clemence, and Nielsen had several chances on goal, and of the two, I was more impressed with Clemence who passsed well, fought well,and was creative going forward.
The goal that turned out to be the winner was a real cracker. Allan Nielsen sent a long pass to Ginola on the left, and continued his run forward. Ginola didn't hold onto the ball for long before he fired a really powerful lowish cross into Nielsen's path for the Dane to send a powerful header below Flowers.
After that, although Ginola had several flurries forward, and two or three close shots, we had our backs to the wall for much of the time. There was a bit of needle between Ginola and Flowers. I think Ginola was moaning because Flowers did not put the ball out of play when Les Ferdinand was lying injured in his area. However, what Daveed did not remember was that he was carrying the ball down the left wing when Les was already on the floor, and had an opportunity to do the decent thing! This exchange got quite heated, and I thought Daveed was lucky not to get booked. He is going to have to watch his disciplinary record, because he is SO vital to any success we might have.
Ginola and Clemence were substituted shortly before the end. Perhaps this was done to enable some worthy applause. One of the disappointments of this game was that Saib still could not get selected for the start of a game. How long will his patience hold out, I wonder?
At the final whistle, a couple of Blackburn players raced towards the ref. I don't know what their gripe was. Maybe they were upset at an offside decision against them, a minute or so before the end. I should also mention that a Blackburn player (unidentified by me ) missed an easy chance in the second half from the 6 yard box, but somehow contrived to send the ball towards the corner flag, to hoots of derision (and of course - relief) by the Spurs fans.
In conclusion then, this was a hard fought win, and perhaps unbelievably, we are 8th in the league, closer to the leaders than the bottom, and still above ManU, and Chelsea. We must not get carried away. There are still plenty of signs of problems at the back, and whilst we play only one committed striker, some lack of fire power. But this result will naturally build our confidence.
Looking ahead to Sunday's game, I would not be surprised if Pleat took a more attacking stance, and puts someone up front with Les. We shall see!
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