|DATE||Monday 7th April 2014|
|VENUE||White Hart Lane|
Sunderland will arrive at White Hart Lane as the bottom team in the
Premier League. Not that means much where Spurs are concerned.
While Tottenham have struggled to get points against the top six teams this season, there is a traditional reluctance to punish those who are already down (if not relegated) and the side often gives generously to the needy. Whether Sunderland can take advantage of such charity will be revealed on Monday night, but the hand-outs that our defence have given to teams at the top of the table have been gratefully gobbled up and the points claimed accordingly. Cutting out the errors will no doubt help Tottenham's cause, but Spurs have become the team that keeps on giving.
With goals hard to come by for our own eleven, Sunderland's struggles have been linked with the lack of a regular goal-scorer. Adam Johnson, a winger, had provided the last few strikes that have found the net, but the forward pairing of Connor Wickham and Fabio Borini have looked less than scary since the former returned from loan at Sheffield Wednesday, where he did find the net more often and Leeds United, where he didn't. A big strong striker, Spurs were linked with a move for him when he left Ipswich Town, but he chose the bright lights of Sunderland and has struggled ever since. However, with our team lacking centre-halves, it might be an opportunity for the youngster to impose himself on our defenders. Borini has scored some very good goals this season, while on loan from Liverpool, but not enough to keep Sunderland above the relegation water-line. He is a mobile forward who possesses a powerful shot, but also can find himself in the right spot to finish balls into the box.
With Steven Fletcher having been injured for a lot of the season (as he is now), that leaves January signing Nacho Scocco from Argentina as their back-up forward. Having made only four substitute appearances and not having scored yet, he is still very much settling into the English game. Jozy Altidore is another forward that Gus could pick, but he has found it as hard this time round in the Premier League, as he did when he first came over from America to join Hull City. His one league goal came in the 3-4 home defeat by Chelsea and he managed one against MK Dons in the League Cup. Big and a bit of a battering ram, he has not found Premier League defenders as easy to score against than their Dutch counterparts.
In goal, ex-Gooner Vito Mannone has the gloves, courtesy of Kieran Westwood's shoulder injury. he is a good shot stopper, but has had plenty of practice, although a goal difference of -20 would be grater without him. However, he has a habit of getting his angles wrong and also enjoys coming up for corners towards the end of a match, so Spurs could capitalise on that should the set-piece break down and we can get the ball forward quickly enough. Again, with our strikers not exactly prolific this season, we need to get shots in on the keeper and with the defenders keen to keep the ball out, there might be a deflection off a desperate out-stretched leg or two.
Those defenders have not
exactly helped out their keeper, with only seven clean sheets, with
two of them, ironically against Manchester City and Everton.
Former Manchester United men, Phil Bardsley, Wes Brown and John
O'Shea have made up the bulk of the back four for most of the
season, with Bardsley more noted for his goal-scoring this season,
having netted three times. Their lack of pace has been exposed at
times, with both having been responsible for goals conceded – either
through own goals or losing their man, so there may be opportunities
to get around them, but with only one forward, it will need a lot of
support from the midfield to pile the pressure on visitors. The same
has been true of Carlos Cuellar, who has not been a regular this
season. Bardsley is a solid enough full back, but likes to attack,
so can get caught out of position, as can Andrea Dossena, the former
Liverpool left back. The options for Poyet are Marco Alonso and
Velantin Roberge, but neither have been outstanding in a poor side.
The Black Cats were poor
against Hull City in the FA Cup, then Arsenal, Hull (again), Norwich
City and West Ham United in the League, unlucky against Liverpool
and showed a bit of spirit against Manchester City in the League Cup
final, but with games running out and the goals drying up, will Gus
be able to lead a survival mission at the North-East club ? If
he is able to and as a good young manager I hope he can, I just hope
that it is in their remaining seven games and not this one.
Their final few away games are against Manchester City, Manchester
United and Chelsea. They also have to play Everton at home, so
I hope they will be able to pick up points from their few matches
against teams around them (and maybe screw Chelsea's chances up too)
to give them a lifeline, but I am hoping Tottenham are galvanized
enough to pip them to the points in this match.
|PREDICTION||Tottenham Hotspur 3 Sunderland 1|
|Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , an alternative history, etc.|
HOTSPUR TEAM NEWS :
Spurs are glad to have Emmanuel Adebayor and Vlad Chiriches back, having lost Jan Vertonghen and Roberto Soldado in the last game to injury. Erik Lamela (back) and Etienne Capoue (ankle) are still out long term, while Kyle Walker's pelvis condition rule shim out of selection
SUNDERLAND TEAM NEWS :
Forward Steven Fletcher is out with an ankle injury and goalkeeper Kieran Westwood with a shoulder injury, but the rest of the squad are fit for the match.
available on BBC radio, it can supposedly be heard
in these countries on these stations ...
Sunderland 1 (1)
Monday 7th April 2014 Kick off 20:00
White Hart Lane
Alonso (foul on Lennon) 21
Cattermole (foul on Kane) 42
|Crowd : 34,410||Weather : Wet, mild|
|Referee : Lee Mason (Bolton)||Assistant Referees : Mr. I. Hussin; Mr. S. Bennett|
|Fourth Official : Mike Dean||-|
|Sunderland kicked off and played towards the Paxton Road end in the first half.|
|Game time : - 90 + 6 minutes|
|Tottenham Hotspur :||kit||Sunderland :||kit|
Andros TOWNSEND 84)
31 Franco BORINI
|Manager : Tim Sherwood||Manager : Gus Poyet|
|Sponsor : Hewlett Packard||Shirt sponsor : Bidvest|
|Kit Supplier : Under Armour||Kit Supplier : adidas|
What looks on paper an exciting game with lots of goals was little more than an exercise in what will be among the last rites for a Sunderland side lacking in much of anything. Even being handed a goal start did not prompt any gumption from a relegation haunted side that failed to put up much resistance to Tottenham's attacking which wasn't even a clinical closing of a game, but a performance that brought a 5-1 win, with shots at goal being badly defended.
Tim Sherwood was the main subject of discussion before the game, with reports that he will be axed at the end of the season. Not a surprising story, despite all Sherwood's claims of his endeavours, but yet another chapter in the long running story of disruption to the running of Tottenham Hotspur. The defeat by Liverpool, the rainy night, the fact that the game was shown on Sky TV and the prospect of Sunderland probably all contributed to the large number of empty blue plastic seats scattered around the stadium. With news of a 56,000 capacity ground being built a few hundred yards away in 2017 (with the prospect of travelling up to Milton Keynes in the preceding season) games like this can only make you wonder why they are bothering.
With Nabil Bentaleb on the bench, Paulinho and Chadli must have been impressing in training, with Vlad Chiriches coming back into central defence after his prolonged injury. Sherwood went with youth up front, as Harry Kane partnered Emmanuel Adebayor. Not that there was too much choice in the matter, with Roberto Soldado injured and Shaquile Coulthirst on loan at Torquay United. As for Sunderland, I didn't recognise a lot of their players, which is testament to the signing policy of cheap South Americans and some of the home-grown players not making the first eleven. Having said that, it was only on the train home that I realised Carlos Cuellar had started the match and played for 72 minutes !!
Tottenham started with a pace perhaps helped by the slickness of the turf with heavy rain falling before and during the game. Lennon looked dangerous, without getting the ball across the face of goal and Spurs won a corner when Eriksen put in a cross that took a deflection and Vito Mannone had to push the ball over the bar as it dropped almost vertically. The closest Spurs came to threatening the goal in this phase of play came in the 12th minute, when Kyle Naughton put in a deep cross from the right and Kane nodded it back towards goal. His high ball was met by Paulinho, but as he tried to control it, Wes Brown nipped in to head the ball wide for another corner. When the visitors won a corner shortly after, Brown was in action at the other end, winning a header that should have down better than drifting it wide of the goal.
Not that it mattered. The Tottenham defence generosity knows no bounds. Having gifted goals left, right and centre since Christmas, the season of giving continued, with Chirches and Lloris getting in a muddle with a throw-in routine that went wrong and then Vlad played a square ball across the face of goal 25 yards out, but not to Younes Kaboul, it's intended target, but to Lee Cattermole. Vlad might have thought he would not know what to do with a ball at his feet in such a position, but he took a touch and with Lloris way out of his goal, slotted it into the left side of Hugo's net to hand struggling Sunderland a goal that they might have had difficulty in scoring otherwise. The Tottenham section of the crowd slunk down further in their seats as the rain came down even heavier.
What would be the response, following the gubbing we took at Liverpool ? The embarrassment of losing to Sunderland might have been too much for many fans, so it was hoped the players might extract the digit and get back in the game.
Chadli hit a volley from 25 yards when the ball ballooned out of the penalty box, but while it was never going to trouble the keeper, it did fall to Harry Kane's feet. In such situations, he never looks entirely comfortable, not being able to sort his feet out quick enough to get a decent shot on goal and his dug out effort was taken easily by the goalie. Halfway through the first half, Alonso got a yellow card for up-ending Lennon and when Eriksen lined up the free-kick, it looked like we might have a chance to score. That proved to be the case, but not in the usual manner, as he paid the ball square for Naughton to drive low at goal from a central position and the ball frizzed just inches wide of the left hand past of Mannone's goal. Then Adebayor hit a curling shot that was just too high, before Lloris had to be alert to push away a Borini shot from outside the box which might have crept inside the post to his right hand side.
In the 28th minute, Tottenham levelled the score with a well worked goal. Kane was involved, with Eriksen delivering a killer ball bent around the defenders and away from the keeper, that found Adebayor coming in at the far post and he just let the ball hit his stomach to direct it into the net from five yards out. With the goal, all the fight went out of Sunderland. The remaining hour was all Tottenham's, leaving them with a final tally of seven corners, 28 attempts on goal (with 11 on target) and nearly 62% possession.
Kane forced a low save out of Mannone, Rose came off the left wing to curl a shot that finished a yard wide of the far post and Eriksen had efforts from two free-kick - one into the wall and the other curling a yard wide of the target.
Ledley came out at half-time to promote his testimonial game on 12th May (the day after we play Villa in our final game of the season), but the real issue was what Spurs would do in the second half, with Sunderland desperate and Spurs often causing despair. Little did we expect the 45 minutes ahead of us.
The Black Cats started with some intent, with Johnson firing a hopeful shot wide, when he might have done better trying to pick a colleague out rather than hitting a tame effort off target. Spurs then fashioned a move that put Kane into the box, but under challenge from Cuellar, the young forward hit the ground with a claim for a penalty, but it was hopeful more than anything and all he got was a corner. From it, the ball was cleared but only to Chadli. His shot was charged down, but the ball kept coming back, as there were few Sunderland shirts outside the box. Lennon got away down the right and picked out Christian Eriksen at the far post with a cross, but Phil Bardsley got there just in time to knock the ball away.
Working a good position on the left wing in the 59th minute, Christian put another dangerous low cross into the area, right in the centre of the goal, where Harry Kane had run to nudge the ball wide of the static keeper from about two yards out to hand Spurs the lead. I think Kane may be one of those forwards who is best when he doesn't have to think about what he has to do and reacts instinctively. It was a well taken goal and coming on his first start in the Premier League, one which will give him confidence. Shortly after, Brown and Kane clashed heads in the box, as they were moving into position, while both watching the ball, which left them both flat out and both needing lengthy treatment. Kane ended with his head bandaged and Brown sported a huge swelling on his right eye. That didn't stop him heading away a cross into the box with his first action after returning to the field.
Borini was poor and had a weak shot on goal that Lloris fielded easily before Paulinho and Kane had shots blocked by defenders. Sunderland made two substitutions, with forward Nacho Scocco hitting a low shot that flew into the side-netting, giving Spurs a fright. It wasn't as frightening as his attempt to win "Dive of the Season" with a flop that was worse than many Spurs players have been booked for. As it was, there was little to worry about, as Spurs took the ball up the other end to add to their lead in the 78th minute. It was Eriksen involved again, with Chadli playing the ball to his left and the Danish midfielder driving a low left-footer across Mannone from outside the box to make it 3-1.
The way through the Sunderland defence was becoming easier to find, as they lost shape and heart, with Kane and Adebayor having shots but straight at the keeper, but four minutes from time, Spurs made it four. Wes Brown headed a long ball straight up in the air and Kane made the ball his with a burst to it that took him past two defenders. he opened his body up to get a shot on goal, but while the ball was going under Mannone, he got a big bit of the ball and slowed it down. It was rolling towards the goal, but Ade ran in to tap it in from a foot out to make sure that it hit the net and Spurs were clear of any possibility of throwing the game away.
Such was Sherwood's confidence, he brought in another of his young NextGen team of a couple of seasons ago, giving Milos Veljkovic his debut in place of Paulinho. he didn't have much time to get too involved, but he did OK, benefitting from the experience. He was n the pitch to celebrate Tottenham's fifth goal, with an Eriksen corner from the left wing not being cleared as it swung in under the bar. It hit Kaboul at the far post and dropped for Adebayor, who looked like he might set up Veljkovic, who was just to his right, but played it back to the captain and his low ball into the six yard box was struck high into the net from a couple of yards out by substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson.
That was about it and the team obviously enjoyed their victory, staying out for quite a while, in comparison to recent defeats, when they have scuttled off the pitch very swiftly. But it wasn't too much to get excited about. Gus Poyet's side look Championship bound and with Chris Hughton having been sacked the previous night, it was a bad couple of days for ex-Spurs who had gone into management. Without being unkind to the visitors, but in their current position, this is the sort of result and performance that Tottenham should be putting on against them. The fact that we only beat them 1-0 last season and that thanks to a Gareth Bale goal, in the last minute of his last game for the club in the Premier League, shows just how far each team has come. This might be the end of a Premier League run for Sunderland, but is it the start of a new era for Spurs ?
It is clear that the club are thinking it will be without Sherwood, although nothing came out to the effect that he only has five more game sin charge. But then, nothing is clear or surprising with Spurs. You wouldn't have imagined a 5-1 score-line when we were gift-wrapping an opening goal for Sunderland. But these are the things that keep us coming. Not always with such an outcome, but then again, there are no guarantees in life and certainly none with THFC.
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|What you thought|
|Other scores during this week :|
|Cardiff City||0||Crystal Palace||3||Saturday|
|Hull City||1||Swansea City||0||Saturday|
|Newcastle United||0||Manchester United||4||Saturday|
|Norwich City||0||West Bromwich Albion||1||Saturday|
|West Ham United||1||Liverpool||2||Sunday|
|11||West Ham United||33||10||7||16||37||44||37||-7|
|16||West Bromwich Albion||32||6||14||12||37||48||32||-11|
Position before match :
Position after match : 6th
Position after the weekend : 6th
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