West Bromwich Albion's play belied their lowly position, but went some
way to explaining how they are where they are. Jermaine Jenas'
single goal settled the match, but there could have been lots more goals
each way, with Spurs failing to kill the game off and Albion not taking
the chances that came there way, although they suffered a lack of luck
in the process.
With a chance
missed at one end and a minute later the ball ending up in the Albion
net, it showed how they might end up back in the Championship just one
season after gaining promotion to the Premier League.
Within the first minute, Robbie Keane
tried a shot on goal, but failed to get a decent hit on the ball after
Corluka had played him in and it was to be a game of chances at both
ends, which was typified in the next attack when Albion broke on the
right and Fortune could not turn his near post effort on target.
With a fifth minute free-kick awarded to Spurs coming after Modric had
been the victim of a second heavy tackle by Mulumbu and Martis, the ball
was teed up almost in the middle of goal, but Roman Pavlyuchenko struck
it and it went about a yard and a half wide.
Spurs had the better of the first 15
minutes, with Modric influential on the left, but the closest Tottenham
came to a goal was when the Croatian dinked in a cross from the left
wing and with no Spurs player in the vicinity, Greening nodded out for a
corner with Carson wanting to claim the ball behind him and a slightly
lesser contact with the ball might have resulted in it ending up in the
net. Unfortunately, the corner was not a good one and was cleared.
Lennon got the ball infield and released Corluka in the box, but his
nervousness in these positions lets him down and the failure to shoot or
cross lead to the WBA defence getting the ball off him.
Chris Brunt lined up a shot, but Ledley
King got in the way, but from a subsequent corner, the Northern Ireland
international put in a corner into the six yard box, where Olsson rose
and headed towards the far post. Gomes reacted well and dived to
push the ball wide, with no Spurs player on the far post and the score
remained 0-0 in the 22nd minute. Once more, play switched ends and
Jermaine Jenas cut in from the left wing and put in a low cross-shot
which looked comfortable for Carson, but he let it slip out of his
grasp, allowing Pav to have a shot, but he was not fully alive to the
situation and the ball came out to Aaron Lennon, who put his shot wide
of the goal.
Back to the Spurs end, where Marc-Antoine
Fortune hit the deck, as Benoit Assou-Ekotto challenged and the Baggies
fans in that corner of the ground howled for a penalty. After last
week, perhaps we should have expected the worst, but unlike Howard Webb,
referee Rob Styles was on the sort of mood to give nothing today,
although the advantages he played were good in keeping the play going.
Modric turned his man expertly on the halfway line and put Pavlyuchenko
away down the left in the 33rd minute, but with help arriving in the
middle, he decided to have a shot from a difficult angle and the ball
went well wide. The Russian striker had another go at goal a
minute later, when Lennon pulled the ball back to him and his shot was
closer this time, but still off target.
While Albion passed the ball well and
some of their one touch play was very good, they lacked a penetrative
passer, who could open up the Spurs defence. It happened only
rarely and some of their chances arose from set-pieces, but lacking a
seemingly natural goalscorer, they could not break through.
Lennon had moved to the left early on in
proceedings to see if he could get any joy there, but back on the right,
he was finding room, but wanted to come inside a lot of the time and got
crowded out. Tottenham also seemed to want to over-elaborate
around the box rather than getting shots in on the unreliable Carson in
goal. When Lennon did get the ball back low across goal, it was
behind Modric, but would have fallen to Robbie Keane, had he not taken
an air shot at the ball. Aaron came closest for Spurs, with
Pavlyuchenko taking defenders away from the winger with his run,
allowing him to hit a shot that might have crept in had Olsson not got
something on it to take it our for a corner. Following that
corner, the ball dropped for Lennon, who hit a fine low shot, but Carson
made a good diving save to push it well away from goal in the 40th
This was followed almost immediately by
West Brom's best opportunity. Zuiverloon made a break on the right
and while Assou-Ekotto's tackle held him up and knocked him over, he was
up quickly to cross to the far post, where Fortune struck a fierce
volley, but it was too high and if it had been on target, Gomes might
have been behind it as it was struck fairly central on goal. When
you are down the bottom, things always seem to go against you and for
Albion this must have seemed to be the case when Spurs scored a couple
of minutes later. A good passing sequence found Corluka on the
right, with his pass to Jenas just outside the D on the edge of the
Albion area. There were a number of players in front of him, but
he moved the ball onto his right foot and curled the ball into the
bottom left hand corner of Carson's goal beyond the keeper's dive in the
43rd minute. Perhaps Carson was unsighted by Styles who was in
line with Jenas, but it was a precise shot that he probably wouldn't
have got to anyway.
1-0 to the Tottenham.
The only other chance of the half came in
added time, when Palacios hit a free-kick that the defence blocked out
for a corner and Spurs went into the dressing room with their noses just
Albion had to come forward to get
something from the game and at the start of the half, Greening's
diagonal pass set Fortune away on the left and as he cut in he let go a
low shot that Gomes held securely. Heurelho was a little luckier
in the 51st minute, when Fortune got away when a ball was played over
Woodgate and took the ball slightly left of central in the box and shot.
The ball flicked off Corluka as he slid in to tackle and the ball went
past Gomes, but luckily for Spurs, it bounced out off the post and
across the face of goal with no yellow shirt to put it into the net.
Five minutes later, Lennon was put away
as Robinson took Keane down from behind as he laid the ball off to the
little winger. Running at speed, Aaron took on his man and put in
a low shot that Carson was well behind, although a couple of minutes
later, the keeper was helpless as Lennon's low cross cut him out and
just evaded Keane's stretch inside the six yard box.
Albion took off Paul Robinson and brought
on Simpson up front but the loan Gooner failed to make much of an
impact. the ball almost fell for Assou-Ekotto to get his first
goal for Spurs, as the ball was agonisingly passed endlessly around the
edge of the area, but the Cameroon international's shot was kept out by
Harry decided to make a change and to
introduce Jermain Defoe, but rather than the disappointing Keane, it was
Pavlyuchenko who made way, explained afterwards as a lack of training,
which swayed Redknapp's decision.
Another Lennon run on the right ended
with him crossing and shouts from the crowd for a penalty as
Zuiverloon's arm was struck, but Styles wanted an easy day and waved
play on. in the 69th minute, Albion had a corner and Martis rose
unmarked at the far post, but could not get over his header and it
sailed too high. However, the next corner in the 71st minute
almost brought a goal for Albion, with it being met at the far post
again by Martis and this time he got it on target. Luckily for
Spurs, Jermain Defoe was stationed on the post and got his body in the
way and as it spun up, Gomes reacted well to knock the ball away from
the goal. It was an inspired substitution by Harry after all !!
As the game went on, Spurs soaked up the
WBA pressure and hit on the break, but Modric was tiring and his passing
was not as accurate as usual, leading to good opportunities being
wasted. One break soon after Defoe's goal-line heroics saw him
bursting through the middle with Modric on the left, but the
midfielder's pass was easily picked off as it lacked sufficient weight
to beat the last Albion defender.
With ten minutes left, Gomes pulled out a
save that was top class. Played in on the right side of the area,
Robert Koren hit a shot that looked to be going into the bottom right
hand corner until Ledley King challenged and it popped up and suddenly
bounced up off the ground and was heading into the top corner.
Gomes was off his line and changed direction, throwing a hand up to
knock the ball away to be cleared away by Corluka.
Spurs settled and began passing the ball
better, but Keane and Modric wasted good situations, with Luka also
hitting a shot a few yards wide across the goal in the last minute of
normal time. Things were still a bit nervy, as a second goal would
have wrapped up the game, but going into added time, you felt one bit of
fortune could have got Albion something from the game.
As it was, the fortune did favour WBA,
but it was at their end, as Lennon was given the opportunity to shoot at
goal and his bobbling effort went past Carson, but hit the upright and
went across goal and was kicked upfield. Shortly after, Jenas made
a good run from halfway on the left and as he cut infield, with Keane
making a run into the edge of the box, he hit another curler that looked
like it might creep inside the far post until Carson's full length dive
touched the ball wide for a corner. Nothing came from it, but West
Brom pushed forward and got one of their own and Carson came up for it,
with the clock running down. The ball was heading for the keeper's
noggin and a possible legendary equaliser, but luck intervened once
more, with Olsson taking it off the goalie's head and the ball sailed
harmlessly out for a goal kick. And that was it, as Styles blew
the final whistle.
West Bromwich Albion are far and away not
the worst team that I have seen at the Lane this season and I wish them
well for next season, even if they are still in the Premier League.
Tony Mowbray is sticking with his beliefs about the way the game should
be played and I hope that Albion stick with him. And their fans
were noisy and good-humoured considering their current position and I
would welcome them back to the Lane any time.