Games like this are sometimes too easy to predict, with Spurs returning
to their inconsistent best, after beating Inter Milan in midweek.
Bolton provided a different challenge, but one which the players put out
in a Spurs shirt should have been able to cope with, but sloppy play
lead them to a 2-4 defeat and a missed opportunity to cement their place
near the top of the table.
goals were gifted to the Trotters and they could have had three more
with mistakes presenting them golden opportunities to beat Gomes in the
Tottenham goal. However, it took until Spurs were 0-3 behind to
get going and by then it was too late. Coming from behind is
becoming a habit and one which is getting harder to maintain a good
ratio of results from.
When Assou-Ekotto got caught on the ball
and lost it on the left, Lee knocked it inside, with the ball instead of
finding it's way to Johan Elmander, it ran onto Matthew Taylor, who was
running onto it just inside the D, but his shot went well over the top
inside the first minute.
As might have been expected, there was
plenty of energy from Bolton closing Spurs down and lots of high balls
into the area and little time on the ball for Gareth Bale, including
some crude efforts to stop him from Steinsson and Kevin Davies.
While the striker may have racked up 90 yellow cards, he appears to get
away with a lot, including about five fouls in this game, one of which
deserved a yellow, when he caught Hutton late on the ankle.
Spurs were trying to get Bale into the
game, but Bolton were doubling up on him and when he did manage to get
away, the defenders made sure they got across in front of our players to
clear the ball. At the other end, Assou-Ekotto presented Elmander
with a chance to shoot and he took it early, but with insufficient power
of aim to trouble Gomes, returning in goal after the nightmare of Old
Trafford. While Peter Crouch was getting his usual buffeting from
defenders without any sympathy from the officials, when the ball came to
his head in the box, he was trying to lay it off for colleagues.
However, when he tried to set up Palacios and Modric, white shirted
Bolton defenders made the move first and hacked the ball away.
Twelve minutes in, Tottenham had their
first shot on goal, with Bale pulling the ball back for Palacios, who
rolled it behind him into the path of Sandro, but the Brazilian
youngster sliced his effort well wide. Meanwhile, Taylor had three
shots on goal at the Tottenham end, with one hitting an offside Elmander
and the other going wide, while the third flew straight at Gomes, who
took it neck high. Elmander also got away on the right wing and
his low ball in saw Hutton do enough to put of Taylor, so that the
midfielder missed the ball.
The game had chances, but none
particularly clear cut up to this time, but it all changed in the 30th
minute, when Steinsson got some space on the right and bent a cross in
towards goal with the outside of his right boot, missing out all the
bodies in the box, but making Gomes plunge to his right and push the
ball out for a corner. When that set-piece broke down, Tottenham
had the ball at the back and it was played in to Sandro's feet about 25
yards out. Nobody gave him a call as Muamba came into take the
ball away from him and it was moved into Kevin Davies, who was a yard
offside (but once again a linesman's decision goes against Spurs), but
accepted the gift and slotted the ball quickly past Gomes before the
keeper could set himself.
So, 0-1 down and not playing particularly
well, Spurs looked a different proposition to the one that came off the
field on Tuesday. They did take control of the game before
half-time, dominating possession, but having little to show for it.
Modric scuffed a shot wide from inside the area and Kaboul found the
ball at his feet at the far post following a corner, but his heart took
over and his hurried shot went way too high. In between, with
about five minutes remaining in the half, Peter Crouch twice came close
to scoring, when Jaaskelainen could only push out William Gallas's shot
from the right corner of the penalty box and the England forward was
just too far away to reach the rebound and he was also inches away from
Bale's left wing cross, low through the six yard box.
Half-time came with some relief that
Tottenham were only 0-1 behind, but not so much relief that we had to
put up with some weird music and dance troupe "entertaining" us during
the interval. Not sure what folk in these parts do the rest of the
time, if they regarded this as entertainment.
The fare served up in the first half had
been lukewarm, with Bolton not able to take the chances they had and
Spurs not being able to create their own. The midfield two in the
middle for Spurs of Sandro and Palacios had not really been that
effective in making much of the ball and it was Palacios, who had a poor
game, who was substituted, with Pavlyuchenko coming on to partner Crouch
Eight minutes into the half, Paul
Robinson dived into a tackle on Sandro, as he brought the ball forward,
but caught his shin and not the ball, earning Spurs a free-kick and the
defender a yellow card. Just right of the box and 23 yards out,
Gareth Bale stepped up and curled a shot that had Jaaskelainein rooted
to the spot, but the ball thumped off the angle of the woodwork and flew
over. An equaliser at that stage could have made the final outcome
very different, but in truth Tottenham barely deserved it,
Bolton, for all their huffing and puffing,
posed significantly different problems for Spurs than Inter did.
And the concentration that was there throughout Tuesday night's game was
left back at the Lane, as Spurs proceeded to throw the three points at
their hosts. A couple of minutes later, Gomes had to make a dive
at Elmander's feet to block him as Taylor's low ball in was invitingly
placed in front of the Swede and then luckily the ball flew a yard wide
of the goal after Cahill turned Crouch and smashed a shot that curled
away from, rather than towards, the goal. It was only a little
while until Bolton went further ahead, as it had been coming, but nobody
quite expected the goal-scorer to be the man who was supposed to have
such a torrid afternoon.
With Spurs having a number of players
back for a set-piece, it was a little disappointing that nobody
challenged Steinsson when Elmander cut the ball back from the right and
a slight deflection took the ball into the path of the full back, who
struck an angled shot, from just inside the box, across Gomes and into
the right hand side of his goal.
Five minutes after the goal, Tom Huddlestone came on for Sandro, who had
just missed a chance from a Hutton cross, to try and provide some
impetus to spark Spurs going forward, but it failed to stop Bolton
attacking and a break saw a ball through the middle free Elmander and he
was strong enough to hold off Gallas and Kaboul until he got to the box,
when Gallas just got to the ball and the ref waved play on as the
forward crashed to the ground looking for a penalty.
Bolton continued to press forward and
Elmander got across Bale to a near post corner and got his foot to the
ball to flick it into the side-netting, then Taylor struck a volley from
Huddlestone clearance against the foot of Gomes' left hand post in the
74th minute before Muamba was out through and he sliced his shot into
the side netting with only Gomes to beat as he came in from the right.
The only response had been when Pav held the ball up and laid it off to
Niko Kranjcar, but his hurried shot flew way too high. For someone
who was making noises about not having played enough, Niko really let it
show, with a performance that showed little of his energy or attacking
While Elmander had not
been successful in winning a spot-kick earlier, Spurs handed Bolton the
opportunity top go 3-0 ahead from the penalty spot in the 75th minute,
when Gallas cleared the ball to nobody in particular and Davies quickly
fed the ball into Lee on the edge of the box. He controlled it took it
into the box and then stopped, allowing Assou-Ekotto to crash into him
and knock the little Korean down for the ref to point to the spot.
Kevin Davies did the rest and Spurs looked like they were down and out.
Once more Gomes denied Elmander, before
Redknapp replaced Kranjcar with Bentley and he did make a bit of a
difference, getting the ball into the area and also making a good run to
take players away from Alan Hutton after Luka Modric had passed to him
on the right wing. The Scot's 79th minute run took him inside and
he ran across the face of the area, until he was just right of centre
and he curled a left footed shot beyond Jaaskelainen and into the top of
the net to reduce the arrears to 3-1. it was a fine finish and one
more attributable to a striker than a defender.
Then, seven minutes later, it looked as if
there might be a late flourish as Spurs pulled it back to 2-3.
From a free kick given for a foul on Hutton by Holden, Gareth Bale puts
the ball in with some pace and Jaaskelainen comes for it without ever
getting near the ball and the ball is headed wide to beyond the far post
by Steinsson, but it was where Roman Pavlyuchenko was waiting and he
kept his eye on the ball as it dropped before unleashing a vicious
volley past the keeper and the players on the goal-line to rip into the
Spurs sensed a glimmer of an
opportunity to get back into the match and it almost came when a ball
was played forward to find William Gallas as the furthest man forward
for Tottenham. Unfortunately, he could not gather the ball and
within a matter of seconds, it was in the net at the other end of the
ground. Cahill's long clearance was headed on by Kevin Davies and
Martin Petrov won the race for the ball, striding forward to just inside
the area, when he nudged the ball past Gomes as he came out to meet him.
It was the killer blow and there was no coming back form that goal.
So, from the high of Tuesday night to the
low of Bolton. How Spurs cope with the travails of Champions
League midweek and Premier League at the weekend it still to be worked
out. It could have been Ok, had the players coming in - Sandro,
Palacios and Kranjcar - performed to the level they are capable of, but
whether it is the old failing of Spurs not fancying it up North - after
all we are still to win at the Reebok in the Premier League - or whether
it is the players thinking it was all going to fall into place without
too much effort after beating Inter, I don't know. It just looked
that some of them didn't have the appetite for it today and that is not
the attitude to take into any game against Bolton. Their players
might not be as high profile as those of the European Champions League
holders, but they will play every game as though their lives depended on
The old adage of earning the
right to play rings true against Bolton as much as it does against
Spurs need to remember that
over the next few weeks.