For Tottenham to take no such cynical and lacklustre opponents one week
before the season's start was a brave and a baffling decision.
Having avoided relegation from Serie A by a single point last season and
set to be put into the shade by their returning neighbours Juventus,
Torino lack punch up front, but not in any other aspect of their play as
they slipped to a 0-2 defeat at the Lane.
With Spurs risking injury from the heavy and
illegal tackling of the visitors, there was the risk that they would
lost players for next Saturday's opener against Sunderland. There
were plenty of incidents when the referee could have showed strength to
keep the dangerous tackles under control, but his lack of decisive
action allowed the Italian side's players to go through their repertoire
of shirt-pulling, ankle-taps and off the ball confrontation. This
correspondent for one hopes we don't see too much of Mr. Probert
That aside, it followed on from Wednesday
night's win over Leyton Orient and the team kept possession and kept
Torino penned in their own half for long periods of the game. So
much so that the Granata had to wait until the 78th minute until they
had their first shot on target.
Much of this was due to the hard-working
Spurs midfield, who managed to run the Italian side to ground, with
constant harrying and movement that caused problems for the whole of the
Particularly impressive in this respect
were Didier Zakora and Jermain Jenas, ably assisted by Steed Malbranque
on the left wing, who tormented the Torino right back and Teemu Tainio
on the right. Malbranque has been a bit of a revelation in
pre-season, showing great determination and pace, along with the ability
to set up goals for the front men. His versatility might yet find
him a starting place in the side.
With a fifteen minute delay now becoming
the norm for our pre-season games, Spurs started well with some fearless
tackles, which were responded to with cynical late challenges or trips.
Both Natali and Zanetti were guilty of three bad fouls each in the
opening half hour, with the referee failing to impose any sanction on
them other than a finger wagging.
Di Loreti almost put a header back to
Sereni past him, with the goalkeeper called into action again when
Chimbonda's far post header to Zokora's free-kick saw Sereni get a hand
to knock the ball away from Berbatov's head. The Tottenham keeper,
Paul Robinson was required to grab a through ball before Nicola Ventola
got there and then he slid in to kick clear after Kaboul's clearance was
When Malbranque became another victim of
Natali's rough treatment, the free kick was lined up by Berbatov.
With Kaboul alongside him, the Bulgarian striker touched it aside for
our new centre-half to shoot. However, the Torino wall had broken
early and a defender was less than 10 yards away when Kaboul tried to
chip it forward and the ball ballooned up into the air, leaving him to
win the header and as the ball dropped, Robbie Keane took the ball on
the volley to crash his shot against the angle of crossbar and post,
with the ball going in off the opposite post for a fine opening goal
after 16 minutes. It was a poorly executed free-kick, much thanks
to the ref for allowing the encroachment, but the finish was exquisite.
The Tottenham defenders obviously fancied
it today, with the unusual sight of Ricardo Rocha forcing his way
forward to curl an effort over the top from 25 yards out when it opened
up in front of him. On 25 minutes, Keane lifted the ball into the
air for Dimitar to strike a full-bloodied volley that Sereni pushed away
and then Jenas struck a low shot that fizzed not too far away from the
goal. As the ball was almost exclusively heading for the Torino
goal, Paul Robinson launched a pass two thirds of the length of the
pitch to Keane's feet and he laid it wide for Tainio to play a low near
post cross into the area. Steed did well to get there first, but
could not get enough weight on his shot as it ran across him to greatly
trouble Sereni. The Italian goalie was scurrying across his goal
just after the half hour, when Chimbonda's far post header at a free
kick drifted over Keane, but went close enough to the goal to need a
last minute dive to make sure it was going wide.
Spurs supremacy almost bore a second goal
just two minutes before the break, as an innovative scoop up over the
defence by Teemu Tainio set up Malbranque for a shot that Lanna had to
dive in to block, as it was heading in. There was one further
opportunity just before the added period of time, when a foul on Keane
saw a free-kick awarded centrally for Berbatov to dip one over the wall
and force Sereni to a full length dive to push the ball away.
The second half saw a couple of changes
for Torino, but the Spurs line-up stayed the same. The new legs
threatened to spark the visitors into a bit of action, with Barone's low
cross being stopped by Dawson, who was up quickly to block Stellone's
follow-up shot. Robbo had a nervy moment, when he back-peddled to
the far post to deal with a cross, but missed his punch and luckily,
Bjelnovic was off balance enough not to be able to capitalise.
Meanwhile, Berbatov was waiting his
moment at the other end. With a long ball deceiving Di Loreti,
Berba turned and ran at goal down the right hand side of the penalty
area, to smash a shot over the bar. It was a lot closer than Jenas
came, when he hit a shot miles wide after the opening was created by
Steed and Robbie.
Something that has not been done before
almost happened, when Zokora strode forward and fired in a 25 yard
effort that ended up being too straight. It was the prelude to the
second Spurs goal, which was a well worked one.
In the 65th minute, Chimbonda's first
cross from the right was blocked, but the ball came back to him to knock
a chip to the far post. Steed Malbranque was on the end of it and
taking it down, he could have shot home first time, but went left,
outside and round Sereni to the dead ball line. The Frenchman
looked up to see Berbatov centrally placed in the six yard box and his
low ball left Dimitar the simple task of knocking it over the line for
2-0. Malbranque's unselfishness created the goal, but it was a
good bit of thinking from Chimbonda to pick him out.
The goal saw Darren Bent replace Berbatov
and he nearly scored immediately, after latching onto Jenas' return
pass, his shot was beaten out and then held by Sereni in the 70th
minute. Robbo, meanwhile, had to do something in anger for the
first time, as Stellone darted in and the man between the sticks had to
dash out to be there first with just 12 minutes left. He had to
field his first direct shot on goal, which came from substitute
Stellone's replacement Oguro, with 88 minutes on the clock, but it was a
tame effort from 25 yards out.
In between, Keane hit a rasping 84th
minute volley from the edge of the Torino area, which Sereni did well to
keep out, but could only knock out to Chimbonda. He denied the
Spurs defender, before getting another bite of the cherry and lifting a
far post cross for Darren Bent to head at goal, only to be denied when
Franchescini blocked it away for a corner right on the goalpost.
Another late substitute, Adel Taarabt cut
down on the step-overs, but beat Lazetic on the left of the box and hit
a powerful low drive that Sereni did well to save at his near post and
concede a corner.
it was the last meaningful action, as the
whistle blew on another useful preparation game, with another win and a
100% pre-season record. While tougher challenges than this will
lay ahead in the coming months, it is a game which Tottenham might look
back on as one in which they showed patience and a good attitude in.
Lots of hard work, taking the knocks and waiting the chance to hit the
opposition where it hurts ... in the back of their net. Nobody
would claim that Torino are world beaters and indeed they may struggle
again in their domestic competition, but for Spurs, it was another step
along the path of learning towards success.
THE HEATHROW SPUR