What started slowly for Spurs on the night built to a crescendo that
almost saw as many goalscoring fireworks, as flares in the Croatian end
with Tottenham romping home to a 4-0 win, without really getting out of
A hat-trick for the
back to his best Darren Bent and a sparkling display from Tom
Huddlestone saw Tottenham get three points to get them back in the UEFA
Cup group after losing out in the first match against Udinese.
The early stages of the game saw Spurs
feeling their way with a slow start, while trying to use the full backs
on the overlap. Unfortunately, it was not the best of games for
either Bale or Hutton, who both seemed to have a heavy first touch, when
the simple ball might have opened Zagreb up earlier in the proceedings.
Apart from a few blocked efforts when
Zagreb got around the edge of the penalty area, there were few
opportunities for the visiting side and their best effort was from Bosko
Balaban, who made Gomes save a few minutes before the interval.
After that, it was in the final minute of normal time that Badelj headed
a cross just past the post from close in. As for Tottenham, the
score could have ended up much more than the four they did score.
In the eighth minute, Luka Modric took a
short free-kick taken by Tom Huddlestone, when the defence were not
prepared and the ex-Dinamo man curled a shot a foot wide of the goal at
the Park Lane end. Four minutes later, Luka struck a long range
effort, that was bobbling wide, but the keeper took no chances and
pushed it out for a corner, even though it was going about two yards
wide of the net. Playing against his former club, he looked keen
to score and only the frame of Michael Dawson prevented him putting
Spurs ahead, when the Croat's volley struck our central defender in
front of the Zagreb goal.
Then, in the 29th minute, Bentley's neat
flick sent Modric away down the left and his low ball back into the box
foxed two Dinamo defenders was missed by Hud, but fell kindly for Darren
Bent to hit the top of the net, with a helpful deflection that took the
shot past Kelava. That goal gave Spurs the taste for it and Tom
struck a fizzing shot that the keeper chose to push aside, but it was
only another minute after that when Spurs made it 2-0.
The 33rd minute witnessed Darren Bent do
what he does best. With Huddlestone playing in an advanced
midfield role, he took the ball outside the area, shaped up to shoot and
then fed a neat pass through the D for Bent to nudge the ball past the
keeper to double the advantage. It was a striker's goal and one
that would have been a trademark of his first season at Spurs if we had
played it that way.
2-0 up with the best part of 55 minutes
still to play, it looked like a question of "how many ?" As it
turned out, Spurs controlled the game without looking that comfortable.
Dinamo had the Balaban shot low to Gomes' left as he cut in from the
right wing, just before the break.
After the break at the other end, Kelava
pushed out a stinging Bentley drive, while he also had to respond well
to deny Modric again, this time from an acute angle.
Unfortunately, he did not know that from the corner he conceded, David
Bentley swung it away from a heavily loaded penalty area and found
Huddlestone running in and striking the ball first time on the volley
from thirty yards. The ball seemed to be drilled into the net at a
height of about a foot off the floor all the way. It was superb
With 66 minutes on the clock, Bent had
the ball in the back of the net again and thought he had claimed his
first hat-trick for the club. However, a linesman's flag denied
him the opportunity to celebrate just yet. It was a shame, as
Huddlestone's pass was neatly dinked over the goalie. The wait was
only three minutes anyway.
Huddlestone opened up the Zagreb defence
once more and slipped a pass through into the box, where Bent pushed his
shot past Kelava for the hat trick he had been waiting for. I was
pleased for him, as he does work hard and has played in positions and
formations and styles, which do not suit him. Some players might
have gone on striker, but Darren goes looking for strikes ... on the
Towards the last quarter of an hour of
the match, Bale crashed a shot at goal and the keeper pushed it away.
The ref was letting an awful lot go and a scything down of Bentley by
Biscan was a certain yellow and also a possible red, as he was late as
well as from behind. Lovren should have been booked at least twice
before he eventually was, meaning the ref could have been sending him
off for what were two worse tackles than O'Hara was sent off for in the
previous round of matches. The tackling that goes on in their
national game must be robust to say the least.
.The biggest cheer of the night was for
David Bentley going off. Well, that's what he thought and it
wasn't because he had a poor game, but the reason was it heralded the
arrival of John Bostock - a £700,000 signing ripping off Crystal Palace
chairman Simon Jordan in the process. Now the youngest player to
represent Spurs, Bostock showed he has the big match temperament.
A couple of early touches saw the visitors test his strength on the ball
and he was not found wanting; in fact he genuinely looked like he was up
for the physical battle. And when he took Aaron Lennon's pass, he
had no second thought other than to wallop it at goal.
Unfortunately for him the ball passed the wrong side of the post
otherwise he would have made an even more memorable entrance into
A late Zagreb header worried Spurs, but
the only excitement they truly brought to the event was their fans, who
somehow managed to smuggle in flares (the firework type ones, not the
trousers), whereas home fans can't even get in without having the top
taken off their bottles of soft drinks. The smoke obliterated the
view from the Police pod hanging from the South Stand roof, so anything
could have been going on, but they might have been glad of the cloud
cover when the Dinamo fans, as a man ... I don't think there were any
women, took their shirts off and sung and clapped until the end of the
game. There was some trouble when stewards move din to try and
stop the flares being lit, but it was only a minor incident.
What we should take form this win is the
clean sheet, the good finishing of Darren Bent, the fine all-round
performance of Tom Huddlestone and the energetic and dynamic display of
Luka Modric. Added to that, the introduction of a new young Spur
and the present and the future suddenly look brighter.
Now, if we can only move up the Premier
League table as quickly as we moved up the UEFA Cup Group D table !!