With Martin O'Neill smarting form Arsene Wenger's comments about his
side being a long-ball team, he came to White Hart Lane to record a 0-0
draw of stultifying blandness, with only one team willing to
attack and try to get something out of the game ... and that was not the
That the Midlands side
left the field to chants of "Boring, Boring Villa", for once Spurs fans
concurred with the Arsenal manager's opinion. What players like
James Milner and Ashley Young must truly think having to take part in
this sort of turgid clogging, I would love to find out. While
Spurs racked up their fifth straight clean sheet at home, there was
little threat on the goal, with only two shot son target from the
Villains in the first half, when Gomes pushed out a drive from Milner
and then got up to block Agbonlahor's follow-up. The second half
was little better for Villa, with two off target headers from Carew and
then the Norwegian striker had a couple of half-hearted shots, which
failed to worry the Spurs goalie. Oh, I nearly forgot. Two
soft free-kicks on the edge of the Tottenham box were awarded to Villa
and Ashley Young hit both well over the bar. The only notable
points surrounding the free-kicks were they were not as bad as later
incidents inside the area.
In stark contrast, Tottenham played with
an attacking attitude that made O'Neill look like a heathen in tactical
terms. Whether using the long ball to Crouch's head or playing the
ball wide to Bentley or Bale or moving the ball through Palacios and
Modric in the midfield, Spurs created chance after chance. Let's
look at them.
4 mins. - Crouch heads down for Modric,
but the little midfielder cannot get a lot of power in his shot and it
was easy for Friedel to save.
9 mins. - Palacios feeds Modric, who
moves forward, but puts in an aimless shot with the outside of his foot
that cleared the bar.
10 mins. - Crouch knocked on a ball
played up to him and Defoe collects, before passing to Bentley outside
him on the right. The wide man shoots across goal, but misses the
14 mins. Huddlestone finds Bentley
and his ball into the box is headed down and Modric runs onto it, but it
bounces too high and the chance is lost. He plays it wide and
Bentley's cross is blocked for a corner. From it, King gets a
header on Bentley's corner and it is straight at the keeper.
18 mins. - A ball up to Peter Crouch is
headed down for Modric on the edge of the box, Modric slips the
ball left into Crouch's path and as he is about to shoot, Dunne dives in
to block the ball and take it out for a corner.
24 mins. - Tom hit a 25 yard shot that
swerved and left Friedel grateful to push the ball out, but it only went
towards Modric, who was denied by Cuellar's dive in front of him.
30 mins. - A Bentley free-kick from the
left was fired in with some pace and Dawson flicked it on at the near
post, but took it just over the bar.
35 mins. - Bentley took a free kick that
went short to Gareth Bale, who knocked the ball up to hit a volley on
goal, that Crouch let go between his legs, but a defender got a touch on
it to take it wide.
42 mins. - Just before the break and
Tottenham come the closest to breaking the dead-lock. Bentley's
cross picked out Crouch's head and his header back from the far post was
flicked by Ledley King's foot and Friedel jumped to palm the ball out
and it was just a strong enough touch to take it beyond the post, as
Defoe stretched to knock it in. He was just too far wide and the
ball was on the up, so he could not keep it down.
60 mins. - Crouch's header found Defoe
and he touched the ball on to Huddlestone to drive at goal and Friedel
pushed the ball wide with a diving save.
62 mins. Bentley put a free-kick
into the box and it was headed out, but Palacios lobbed the ball back
in. It was cleared again, but Modric got onto it and his shot was
deflected away from goal.
72 mins. - Crouch heads Corluka's cross
onto the top of the goal.
76 mins. - Right wing cross finds
Michael Dawson free on the far post, but gets his header all wrong and
puts it wide, when it would have been better putting it back into the
six yard box.
77 mins. - Bentley came in off the line
to fire a shot at goal, which Dunne deflected wide.
79 mins. - Huddlestone's volley blocked
80 mins. - Defoe took a ball from Modric
inside the area and although he was denied a shooting opportunity by
Dunne, the ball fell to Crouch, who shot and the ball was deflected away
for a corner by going just wide of the post.
82 mins - Shot from Modric from the edge
of the box is stopped by Cuellar throwing a block.
85 mins. - Right wing move saw Modric
link with Corluka, who played in Bentley and he crossed for Crouch to
put a header wide of the goal.
87 mins. - Defoe takes a ball played to
him from Crouch's flick on, just inside the penalty area and as he goes
for his second touch, Petrov takes his legs from under him. But
Foy says no penalty. No surprise, the way he was refereeing.
89 mins. - Crouch knocks one back into
Defoe's path, but Friedel pushes it wide. From Bentley's corner,
the ball is headed on by Dawson and Crouch gets the ball stuck under his
feet, but gets a back-heel in, only to see the ball go a foot wide.
90+2 mins. - Crouch sets up Bentley on
edge of box and his drive takes a deflection off Dunne and goes wide.
Perhaps other teams might have seen the deflection take it in, but not
So, from beginning to end we bombarded
the Villa goal, but with ten men back behind the ball most of the time,
it was clear that Villa came to get a point and try and hit Spurs on the
break, but they didn't even have any conviction to do that.
It is bad enough when struggling teams
play like this, but a team who are going for a top four placing ?
Please. I trust they play a bit different at home, although they
didn't when we went up there, otherwise a season ticket at Villa Park
must be like a insomniac's dream ticket. O'Neill didn't even play
like this when he managed "lesser" clubs than Villa.
Realistically, if teams come to White Hart Lane to have a go, they stand
a good chance of winning. Wolves got the early goal and then shut
up shop, Stoke bored until we were down to ten men and then nicked one
at the end and Man United came and played very well against us,
deserving their win. Of the three I know which game I preferred
watching, even if it meant we we taught a lesson.
Of the Tottenham team, hardly anyone put
in a poor game. Bale was industrious on the left, both going
forward and in defence. Corluka did well on the right, while
Palacios only gave the ball away a couple of times in midfield.
Huddlestone had time on the ball to spray it around and Modric is
getting back to his old self, with some darting runs and intuitive
passing from the left side of midfield. Crouch won almost
everything in the air and Defoe looked sharp, as you would expect after
hitting a hat-trick in mid-week. Gomes had long periods of
inactivity, but was sharp when called upon and Dawson was a rock
in the middle of the defence.
Emile Heskey had started and limped off
after 20 minutes, while other England hopefuls Milner and Downing were
restricted to running up and down the line to close down Spurs players,
with little to show for their supposed talents that will take them to
the World Cup. Agbonlahor spent most his his time trying to back
into Ledley King and buy cheap free-kicks, which the referee - Chris Foy
- sometimes was lenient enough to give him. Unfortunately for the
Villa striker, King was just too good for him and Ledders spent a large
amount of his time taking the ball out of defence and joining the
Disappointing that a) Tottenham didn't
get all three points, with Liverpool winning and going into fourth and
b) that a side vying for that fourth spot decides to show that they have
nothing to offer in the way of out-witting the opposition. Half
the reason we don't win against the "established" top four on a regular
basis is that we try and play football against them (parking the bus at
Stamford Bridge aside). It is not the "Tottenham Way" and despite
the assertion on these pages a short while ago, I wouldn't want to watch
the trash served up by AV.