With goals at each end of this match, the middle part of the action was
as disjointed as the scoring, thanks to a swirling wind, which made play
of any skill difficult. Perhaps this is why Sunderland employed
the long high ball to Kenwyne Jones, but with Ledley King back in the
side, Spurs were better equipped to deal with such tactics and earned a
Barely had Tottenham had
time to get used to the windy conditions when King went it to a
challenge with Steed Malbranque, who got in the way and the ball popped
up kindly to Kieran Richardson to go through on the right side of the
box and round Heurelho Gomes before slipping the ball into the net to
give the home side an early lead. Conceding within three minutes
is not a great way to start a game, but Spurs like doing things the hard
The goal really got the crowd on the
Black Cats' side and the large Tottenham contingent tried to gee the
Lilywhites up to get back in the game. The first sign of this was
in the tenth minute, when Aaron Lennon got away on the right wing and
fizzed a ball across the face of goal, but just too far ahead of Darren
Bent's head. A minute later and Aaron was at it again, this time
picking out a Tottenham head, but Keane couldn't get enough on his
header to trouble former Spur Marton Fulop in the Sunderland goal.
With the inability to play as Spurs might
have liked, Luka Modric had little influence on the game in the first
half. Moves kept breaking up and control of the ball was tricky as
the wind sometimes held the ball up and other times blew it away from
the players, just as it was coming to them. Tottenham were awarded
a free-kick outside the penalty area and Darren Bent wanted to take it,
striking it cleanly, but without enough power behind it to prevent Fulop
diving and holding the shot to his chest as he landed.
Richardson had already had a bad
challenge on Lennon before he twice made tackles from behind within a
short time and referee Phil Dowd had had enough, showing him a yellow
card. George McCartney soon followed for a cynical foul on Lennon
and then Woodgate for an equally knowing offence, when he tripped Jones.
While all this disciplining was going on, another Spurs free-kick was
blasted at goal by Jenas, but it hit Andy Reid and dropped invitingly
for Ledley, who was about four yards out from goal. As he struck
it, Fulop spread himself and the effort hit him and he kept it out.
It was a big chance to level things, but the keeper did well.
At our end, Gomes gave fans one of those
moments he has become noted for. Coming for a cross that he then
looked to be underneath, dropping the ball as he over-stretched and
getting the bounce of the ball for a change, when it came off Wilson
Palacios and he gratefully grabbed it. Jones was proving a handful
and he was doing well holding up the long balls to him, with King and
Woodgate having trouble getting to him, but as the game went on that
tactic bore less fruit.
The half-time interval gave the manager a
chance to speak to his players, who had done well after falling behind
so early on. He probably said keep playing the same way, but get
Lennon into the game more. Even though he was double marked, he
was proving to be the key man.
However, straight after the re-start,
Sunderland had a chance, when Cisse was released down the right hand
side of the box and with players available for a cross, he chose to
shoot and could only hit the side netting. At the other end, a
free kick floated into the box by Modric was about to be claimed by
Fulop until Jones headed the ball away and luckily r him, it dropped for
Malbranque to clear it away to safety.
Lennon's importance as an attacking force
was shown as he was freed down the right by Robbie Keane and only his
final ball was lacking, as it hit Ben Haim with players breaking into
the box. Spurs were starting to apply some pressure to the
Sunderland defence, who could not get the ball clear. A couple of
minutes before the hour, Darren Bent was through on goal after Dean
Whitehead had missed the ball and with only Fulop to beat, the Spurs
forward slashed wildly at the ball and it flew way over the Sunderland
goal. Then within a minute, Keane played him in again and he hit
his shot too hard and too far wide of the target. Two great
chances to get back on par, but Bent's lack of confidence showed with
his finishing not up to the standard he usually demonstrates.
The other side of the hour mark and
Sunderland could have gone two up. Andy Reid, yet another
ex-Tottenham player, got away and played a low ball across the six yard
line and it is amazing that Cisse couldn't get anything on the cross, as
a contact of any sort would have produced a goal for the home team.
Harry brought off Jermaine Jenas, who had
been working very hard and replaced him with Tom Huddlestone. A
different kind of midfielder and within a minute, Hud was showing what
he is all about with some sprayed passes over long distance.
However, it took the presence of King to avoid Spurs going a further
goal behind, as his touch on Jones' header from another Reid cross took
the ball away from goal.
When Harry brought on Bentley for
Palacios, you might have thought Spurs would lose something in midfield,
with the Honduran's energy removed from the engine room. But there
was a reshuffle with Bentley not playing too wide and tucking inside.
With fifteen minutes gone, the Spurs players and officials all went up
for a penalty when Aaron crossed the ball and Bardsley appeared to
control the ball with his hand, but it didn't appear that way to the
match officials, but as play unfolded and the ball was cleared out of
the area, Modric struck a shot from outside the box that dipped a little
too late and landed on the roof of the net. It was all Spurs, with
Huddlestone's 60 yard pass picked out the run of Robbie Keane and the
Spurs captain got to it as Fulop came out, but could not control the
lob, which dropped over the top.
A brief flurry from Sunderland saw Murphy
drill a shot at goal, but it went wide from 25 yards out and Huddlestone
almost drew Spurs level at the other end with a header from Chimbonda's
cross, but he put the chance straight at the Sunderland goalie.
The last throw of the dice came with eight minutes left and Redknapp
chose to put on Roman Pavyluchenko. not for Darren Bent, but for
Vedran Corluka, as he went flat out for a goal.
It paid off a few minutes later, when
Sunderland were left claiming a penalty at the end where Spurs were
defending, as Kenwyne Jones went over Ledley King's leg inside the area.
Mr. Dowd was not impressed and as play swiftly changed ends, David
Bentley played Bent away down the right wing. Putting in a low
cross, it was met by Robbie Keane as he ran in and the ball was tucked
away into the net with Fulop helpless to stop it.
It was sweet to score at the end, with so
many goals having been scored against us in that period of the game and
also, with the penalty claims equalling out the penalty Spurs appealed
for but were turned down for. The board with the information from
the fourth official went up straight away. Four minutes to be
Would there be another twist in the tail
? Could Spurs grab defeat from the jaws of victory ? Well,
not this time, as Sunderland tried to push onto the Tottenham goal, but
the only threat was from Whitehead's free-kick, which Tom headed clear.
All said, it was a very good performance
and Spurs always tried to play their football, while they had to be
robust enough to withstand the Sunderland charge to send their fans home
As it was, they all left with boos on
their breath and were no doubt off to get booze on their breath.