I am not sure how many more last minute goals or ones which will feature
in the Goal of the Month competitions I can take. Sebastian
Larsson's strike from 25 yards fell into both categories and condemned a
Tottenham side, by then reduced harshly to ten men, to another home
defeat, after a spirited come-back.
In what was a game that saw some see-saw
scoring, the pivotal point of the match was the red card decision by
referee Dowd to dismiss Robbie Keane from the field after he caught
Muamba on the ankle. Being too far away from it at the ground, it
was only on TV that I saw Keane play the ball and then make contact with
the ex-Gooner on his follow-through. Keane is not the sort of
player to put in the sort of tackle that would deliberately injure an
opponent, which makes it all the more confusing a decision, when some of
the Birmingham tackling was cynical to give them the benefit of the
doubt. Lennon was regularly halted when past his man, but Dowd
waited until nearly an hour had passed to caution Schmitz. His
inconsistency over time-wasting was also a frustrating issue, as it was
deep into added time that Birmingham scored the winner and his lecturing
of some player about kicking the ball away, was at odds with others, who
he let get away with it.
Not that the refereeing decisions lost us
this game on their own. Kaboul's challenge on McSheffrey looked
innocuous enough until Dowd pointed to the spot, with the Scot getting
up to hit the ball straight down the middle to give Birmingham the lead
with their first shot on target. Too many times Spurs are in the
ascendancy and one incident leads to them losing a goal and the impetus
is then taken away from them.
By that time, Tottenham might have been
2-1 up. De RIdder flashed an early shot across goal and when
Jerome dinked a cross to the far post, Muamba wasn't tall enough to
reach it. And that was all in the first five minutes. Keano
took a ball down on his thigh and smashed a volley at goal, but it went
well over and Zokora put a shot into his usual place ... row Z of the
Paxton. Berbatov took the ball as it dropped beyond Djourou and
hit a skidding volley off the turf, but straight at Taylor, while a
tenth minute link up between Bent and Keane put the Irishman in, but he
lashed his shot and it flew over without troubling Maik Taylor.
Too often this season, the Spurs forwards
have wasted the chances that have come their way and it is costing us,
as we have defensive frailties which need goals at the other end to
compensate for them. Two Lennon crosses, which actually found a
Tottenham head, saw Berbatov twice win the ball, one a weak one and the
other over the top. He did the same to a Bale corner later on too.
The Bulgarian is starting to frustrate the home crowd, as his touch
appears to have deserted him in front of goal. His build-up play
was good though and he put Bent in for a shot, but the Birmingham keeper
was out quickly to block his effort with his legs and the ball bounced
into Ridgewell's leg and went past his own post. You had the
feeling that if it had happened at the other end then it would have hit
a Kaboul and gone into his own net. That's the way things are
going at the moment.
Then came the Brum penalty and Tottenham
responded with a spell of pressure and corners, the last from Bale found
Chimbonda at the far post and as he headed it back into the six yard
box, it caused Ridgewell to slice it wildly over his own bar with the
ball going safe.
Too many times our final ball was lacking
in accuracy and quality and we resorted to the long ball as half-time
approached. The more measured build-up saw Lennon brought down for
the umpteenth time and Bale powered the resulting free-kick towards the
right hand post and Taylor did well to get across to and parry wide via
Going into the break a goal down, there
was a noticeable lack of booing this time. Perhaps the Spurs fans
had learned that there is not all lost at the break and there is still
time for something to be salvaged. But letting in soft
goals, as we continue to do, will not always be able to be recovered by
scoring more than the opposition. Ramos' introduction of Defoe and
Huddlestone for Bent and Kaboul saw Zokora move to defence and Bale more
advanced in what was a 3-4-1-2 formation.
It was another adventurous move by the
Spanish coach and when it comes off, like on Thursday, it looks great.
It almost did it today, but then the sending off and the injury to Bale
confounded any hope we might have had of getting anything out of the
Tom's passing more than makes up for his
supposed lack of mobility and he opened up the Birmingham defence on
many occasions in the second half. His first pass, through to
Berbatov in the left hand side of the penalty area saw Djourou bump him
over and as harsh as the first penalty was, this too looked a tough
decision, but at least that part of Dowd's performance was consistent.
Keane waited through Chimbonda's treatment for an injury to his leg and
coolly stepped up to put the ball the other way to Taylor's dive to make
Then two more moments to remember from
Hud. Firstly, he played a pin-point pass inside the full back to
Lennon, but he failed to get the ball to a Spurs man having been
released down the right wing. Then, from the cleared corner, he
bamboozled Muamba and lifted a pass over the City back line for Keane to
run on and hit a first time volley into the ground and into the back of
the net to turn around the situation in the space of five minutes.
What could have been, as in the very next
attack and with the Birmingham defence in a panic, Schmitz cleared a
cross back across his own are to Berbatov, who hit a low drive that
crashed back out off the post. Five minutes later, we were rueing
the opportunity not taken, as Chimbonda lost possession and Jerome was
put away, where he held off a challenge from Zokora before planting the
ball low past Robinson to equalise. it was a run that took the
England Under-21 striker a long way without a tackle on him and was
another cheap goal to give away.
Berbatov had a header at the other end in
the wave after wave of Tottenham attacks, but Kelly was on hand to knock
it away from the goal-line and in the next attack, Keane battled for the
ball, but Dowd saw it as a red card offence. Then Bale went off
and the side was even more unbalanced than before. Defoe almost
capitalised on a blocked effort, but Kelly was there to nick it away
from him, while, at the other end, Kapo's fiercely driven low cross saw
Forsell get there first, but hit the bar with his shot from a couple of
yards out, then Robinson made a fine save to thwart substitute Kapo's
As the corner came in, there was relief
when Berbatov headed it out, but it came straight back and instead of
clearing the ball up-field, he tired to control it, failed and Larsson
took it off him and hit a shot that arrowed into the top corner, whereas
his previous two efforts had ended up in the crowd. It was like
James Milner and Adebayour all over again.
This was a game which could have turned
our season in the right direction, but instead we find ourselves still
down among the dead men. Mistakes being made all over the field
are keeping us down there and the eradication of these errors must be a
priority, as we appear to be being punished for them more than we punish
those who err against us.
We have a tough programme coming up and
need to show what we are capable of, without the services of Bale and
Keane it seems.