Middlesbrough (Home)
Premier League

Wednesday 4th March 2009

Following the energy sapping League Cup Final of Sunday, Spurs face yet another cup final in the shape of a league game against Middlesbrough.  It is a game both sides need to win and while Spurs were losing to Manchester United, Middlesbrough had beaten Liverpool the day before to join Tottenham in the select band of teams who have triumphed over the Scousers this season.

With three games coming so close to each other the side might be differently arranged, with Ledley King definitely out and doubts over Aaron Lennon, Michael Dawson and Jonathan Woodgate, but the return of Wilson Palacios will add some vigour in midfield, while Robbie Keane's inclusion up front will add some movement and encouragement.  The game will revolve around the way the sides finish at each end of the pitch, with Middlesbrough having had trouble scoring all season and Spurs not taking enough of the chances provided to leave them safe in games, so it will not be a goal-fest of that is what you are looking for.

Having beaten West Ham in the Cup and then Liverpool in the Prem, Boro will be in better spirits than in previous months, but both results were at home and their away record is just worse than ours.  Having only scored eight goals away from home, Spurs need to be tight at the back and then try to take the game to the visitors, using whoever is fit to run at them.  Zokora will be one who can do that, while Lennon will be a vital weapon after his very good performance on Sunday.  Justin Hoyte is a quick full back, but one that Lennon would have the legs on and has when he has played against the defender, when he was at Arsenal. 

The majority of the Boro defence are hulking great centre-halves, like Huth, Wheater and Pogatetz.  Playing the high ball to whoever plays alongside Robbie up front will not be the right tactic, as it will play into Middlesbrough's hands.  Hopefully, we will see something more like the performance we put in against Stoke City, who were also a team with tall, strong players, utilising Modric's ability to manoeuvre in tight spaces to get around them.

The attacking threat comes from the wing, where Stewart Downing and Adam Johnson are both adept at running with the ball.  I was going to say and crossing, but Johnson is the better crosser of the two, although Downing is good from dead-ball situations, so we must try not to conceded too many, which we succeeded in doing on Sunday.  Assou-Ekotto played Ronaldo well and hopefully, would be able to replicate that performance at the Lane against Boro, while the make-shift back line might feature Huddlestone, as it did in Europe to good effect, allowing him to use his passing to open up the other side from a deep position.  I am not sure that Harry would start with Tom there, but Chimbonda is more likely to come in with Corluka moving into the middle.

Jenas will hopefully be fit, as he was another who put in a good shift at Wembley, meaning the spare place up front will be between Bent and Pavyluchenko.  A groin strain might keep Pav out, but perhaps Harry is playing mind games there.  Bent was disappointing against United and I suspect that Redknapp would prefer to play Roman if he can to have a big 'un and a little 'un up front.

Whoever plays, it is necessary that they give their all and while there is another game on Saturday, this one is even more vital with Boro sitting in 18th place, two points behind us.  A win for them puts them above us.  A win for Spurs, takes us five points clear and another three closer to the safety total Harry has set.  It is never a game for the connoisseurs, but this Spurs v Boro match will not be pretty in any shape or form and might determine the future of one or both of the clubs.

PREDICTION : -  Tottenham Hotspur  2    Middlesbrough  1

For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.


TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : -  Jermain Defoe (foot); Alan Hutton (foot); Ledley King (knee); - (-); - (-); - (-); 

MIDDLESBROUGH :  -  Didier Digard (knee); Chris Riggott (knee); - (-); 


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Tottenham Hotspur   4    Middlesbrough   0      (Half-time score : 3-0)

Premier League
Venue : White Hart Lane  
Wednesday 4th March 2009
Kick Off :  8.00 p.m.
Crowd :   35,761
Referee :  Howard Webb (Yorkshire)
Middlesbrough kicked off and played towards the Paxton Road end in the first half.
Weather :  -   Dry. chilly
Teams : - 
Tottenham Hotspur :

  1  Gomes

  4  Zokora
39  Woodgate
20  Dawson
32  Assou-Ekotto

  7  Lennon   
  8  Jenas  (  6  Huddlestone 64)
12  Palacios
14  Modric  (24  O'Hara 73) 

  9  Pavlyuchenko    (10  Bent 53)
15  Keane (c) 

Unused subs: 
23  Cudicini
21  Chimbonda
22  Corluka
  5  Bentley

Middlesbrough :

22  Jones

  6  Pogatetz (c)
14  Huth (  3  A. Taylor 46)
31  Wheater
  2  Hoyte (28  Johnson 70)

  4  O'Neil
20  Arca
26  Bates
19  Downing

17  Tuncay
10  Aliadiere (23  King 53)

Unused subs: 
21  Turnbull
41  Walker
11 Emnes
12 Alves

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of http://www.colours-of-football.com)
Tottenham Hotspur

Scorers : -  
Tottenham Hotspur

Keane 9
Pavlyuchenko 13
Lennon 40
Lennon 79



Cards : -  
Tottenham Hotspur  




Pogatetz (foul) 29   


Match Report : -  
A game which seemed like one which looked difficult on paper proved to be less than that, as Spurs took an attacking game to Middlesbrough and ended up 4-0 winners to put some distance between them and their opponents at the bottom of the table.

Stan Collymore's assertion on TalkSport that Tottenham would be one of the clubs relegated seemed as accurate as his prediction a week ago that Middlesbrough would get only two more this season, but knowing the North-East team's poor form away from home, it was easy to see why they haven't picked up many points on their travels.  Not that they played badly and they showed more than some other sides who have visited the Lane this season.  In fact, the opening stages of the game were very open and chances were carved out at both ends.

Jonathan Woodgate's shaky start almost handed a goal to Boro after three minutes.  Having mis-directed a couple of weak defensive headers, his square pass across the face of the penalty area was picked up by Stewart Downing and the winger struck a low left-footer that had Heurelho Gomes diving to his left to palm away. Although the ball did not go far wide, BAE was there to clear the danger.  Then, Spurs moved to the other end of the field and when a right wing cross from Jermain Jenas cleared the last man, Aaron Lennon snuck in behind him to stretch and meet it with a volley, but he could only guide it a foot wide of the post where the ball had just come from.

However, it didn't take long to establish the lead, as Keane almost got on the end of Didier Lennon's cross from the right, but was beaten to it by Hoyte, who put the ball out for a corner.  As Modric played the ball in, Michael Dawson got to the ball first at the near post, glanced it into the six yard box and it found Robbie Keane standing alone to volley home his first goal back at Tottenham.  It was a finish Spurs fans know to be typical of the Irishman, but for some reason he didn't find hmself in those positions at Liverpool.

The early goal should have settled Spurs, but Boro kept coming forward and a close offside call robbed Tuncay of a goal when he took a Downing pass down and smashed a shot in off the underside of the crossbar with one move.  Then with 13 minutes gone, Spurs took a 2-0 lead.  A neat bit of passing saw Keane slide the ball onto Luka Modric and with a sway of his shoulder and without touching the ball, he left Robert Huth on his backside and ran into the penalty box.  As he looked up, he saw Roman Pavlyuchenko running into the middle of the goal and squared it for the Russian striker to toe the ball into the net ahead of Justin Hoyte.

A two goal lead was a comfortable start, but the visitors till came forward and Hoyte's right wing cross found Tuncay inside the area and he fired in a shot that looked like it would beat Gomes, but Michael Dawson threw a great block in front of the Turkish forward and kept the ball from getting past him.  It was to be the last chance Middlesbrough had until they got Aliadiere on the end of Hoyte's cross, but put his header across Gomes and wide of the post in injury time.

As for Spurs, they continued to press forward.  Palacios put in a low cross and it hit Bates, with cries for handball, but it was not given, as Howard Webb failed to give very much to Tottenham.  It was a major surprise when Lennon was bundled over by Pogatetz and a yellow card was waved in his direction.  Lennon's low cross was cut out by Wheater just before it got to Keano and then a loose ball across the back line was intercepted by Modric, who went forward to put Keane in on the left side of the area, but Jones rushed off his line to block the captain's shot.

It was in the 40th minute that Tottenham got the third goal that made things at the half time interval even more comfortable.  Spurs had been passing the ball around in their own half and Palacios passed from left to right, where Robbie slipped the ball through Huth's legs and onto Aaron Lennon, who was into the area and passed the ball past the on-rushing Jones to nestle the ball in the bottom of the net.  At 3-0, surely even Tottenham couldn't blow it now.

Southgate made a couple of changes within the first five minutes of the half, but little changed, other than Spurs started to slacken the pace and this handed a bit more of the ball to Boro.  Stewart Downing, trying to impress his prospective new employers, failed to have a game to remember.  He did hit a powerful shot with his wrong foot, which flew wide of the goal and Arca missed by a similar distance with a 25 yard effort.  Having given the ball away, Jenas made ground to track back and nicked the ball away from substitute Marlon King as he prepared to shoot from inside the penalty area  It was just after that when Jenas left the field to applause after another energetic performance, but the exertions of Sunday were catching up with him. Tom Huddlestone came on and showed that he is a player who can hold the ball in tight situations and also a fine passer of the ball.  One fifty yard pass from left of the centre circle to Aaron Lennon on the right wing was right on the little man's toe.  The winger cut inside his marker and curled a cross along the six yard box, but neither Bent nor Keane were far enough forward to get on the end of the very good ball in.

Middlesbrough's closest effort came in the 73rd minute when a ball was played into Julio Arca about 25 yards from goal and he shifted the ball onto his right foot and let fly.  The ball dipped as it flew at goal, but luckily for Spurs, it skimmed the top of the net as it was over the bar.  At least the Argentine meant it, as a cross from the right from Tuncay skewed off his foot and landed against the far post and was kicked away.

With just over ten minutes left, a ball up to Bent saw him have to check and play the ball inside to Keane.  As the Spurs skipper wriggled into the area, Lennon was alongside him and Robbie played the ball into his path.  With only the keeper to beat, Aaron did just that with a neat lift of the ball over him and it was 4-0.  The three points were Tottenham's.

But there was still time for Boro to push forward and Tuncay, the most dangerous Middlesbrough forward found space to hit a low skimming shot off the turf that Gomes did well to get down to and push wide for a corner.  When that was cleared it fell to Downing, who hit a drive that ended up in the crowd.

Near the end of the game, O'Hara played a one-two from a short corner with Lennon and drove his shot too high and in added time at the end of the game, Tuncay had the ball in the net again, but this time his header from Gary O'Neil's free-kick was deemed to be offside once more.

So, an impressive response to the Cup Final defeat, but one which promises much and hopefully, will make Harry Redknapp reassess the Tottenham futures of some of the players who were so influential tonight.

the heathrow spur


Reaction : -



Well that was a nice surprise !  An empathic 4-0 win - our biggest of the season - against a fellow struggling team.

Keane, outstanding, had a hand in all four goals and looked up for the game even before the start ... excellent.

Yes we got a lucky break with their goal given offside, but aren't we due a bit of luck after letting in so many late goals ?  It has also done our goal difference no harm at all, which is worth an extra point on all the other clubs below.

Sunderland next and this is just as important.  We need something out of this game ... hopefully all three points, as Aston villa and Chelsea are next, so defeat against Sunderland could put us back in the mire.

Keep it up Spurs ... still along way to go.


What is usually a dour fixture burst to life with Tottenham's early goal and the best feature of the Spurs display was the passing.  Only rarely did we give the ball away and most of that was in the second half, when perhaps tiredness from Sunday kicked in.  The way that Keane, Modric, Lennon and Palacios linked was a joy to see and the passing move that lead to Aaron Lennon's goal five minutes before half time was breathtaking.  So much for all those who were urging Spurs to hoof the ball forward.

With good finishing and some solid defending the only worrying part of the game was our willingness to drop back to 25 yards in front of our own goal, which only seemed to invite Boro onto our defence.  Against better teams such a tactic might be doomed to failure.

Still, the bright, inventive passing and movement was not expected after the gruelling 120 minutes of the League Cup Final.  I think that this is the Tottenham way and at the moment would be the best way to face our games, as it gives us the opportunity to keep the bal away from our own goal.

ambrose wood


I failed to see why we had paid so much for Wilson Palacios in the transfer window, but seeing him week in, week out, I realise what a good job he does for the team.  

Unspectacular, but a bits and pieces player who does a great deal of the dirty work and uses the ball to keep Spurs going forward and linking the defence and the forwards. 

The amount of work he does is prodigious and his tackling is tough, although if he misses, we might have to do without him for a few weeks.

He is the ball-winner we have needed in midfield for some time and hopefully, he will be crucial to the club's success.  Many more performances like last night and we should be going in that direction.

east stan

I fully agree with East Stan, Palacios is the man at the moment, very impressive.

I believe we have been missing this type of player since Edgar Davids lost his way and left the club a few years ago.  Some people forget that Davids was a big reason Spurs were fourth after 37 games in 2006 and Palacios has many of his qualities, not least the tough-tackling.

As ever, I wonder about Jenas, who seems to turn it on only when Capello is watching from the stands.  If he can keep up his last two displays, than a formidable midfield partnership will blossom between he and Palacios.  I would like to see Palacios go on to become a goalscoring midfielder for us also, like Lampard maybe.

Time will tell, but it's looking good at present.

Here's hoping for a revenge win over Sunderland this weekend.

s j wightman


To read Wyart Lane's view on the game on the Times Fanzine Fanzone, click here.


Other scores this mid-week :
Liverpool 2 Sunderland 0 Tuesday
West Bromwich Albion 1 Arsenal - Tuesday
Portsmouth 0 Chelsea 1 Tuesday
Blackburn Rovers 0 Everton 0 Wednesday
Fulham 0 Hull City 1 Wednesday
Manchester City 2 Aston Villa 0 Wednesday
Newcastle United 1 Manchester United 2 Wednesday
Stoke City 2 Bolton Wanderers 0 Wednesday
Wigan Athletic 0 West Ham United 1 Wednesday



League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Manchester United 27 20 5 2 48 12 65 +36
2 Chelsea 28 17 7 4 48 16 58 +32
3 Liverpool 28 16 10 2 45 20 58 +25
4 Aston Villa 28 15 7 6 42 29 52 +13
5 Arsenal 28 13 10 5 41 27 49 +15
6 Everton 28 12 9 7 36 28 45 +8
7 West Ham United 28 11 6 11 34 34 39 0
8 Manchester City 27 10 5 12 45 34 35 +11
9 Wigan Athletic 28 9 8 11 27 27 35 0
10 Fulham 27 8 10 9 24 23 34 +1
11 Bolton Wanderers 28 10 3 15 30 40 33 -10
12 Hull City 28 8 8 12 34 50 32 -16
13 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 27 8 7 12 32 32 31 0
14 Sunderland 27 8 7 12 27 35 31 -8
15 Stoke City 28 7 8 13 27 44 29 -17
16 Newcastle United 28 6 10 12 34 45 28 -11
17 Portsmouth 27 7 7 13 29 44 28 -15
18 Blackburn Rovers 27 6 9 12 30 43 27 -13
19 Middlesbrough 27 6 8 13 20 36 26 -16
20 West Bromwich Albion 28 6 4 18 25 54 22 -29


Position before the match :  14th
Position after the match :  13th


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