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
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
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