With this 1-1 draw, which suited neither Spurs nor Blackpool, it showed
all that is wrong about the Premier League at the moment.
Too many teams who are hell-bent on survival
to the extent that they have little interest in playing and spend too
much time trying to run the clock down or spoil the entertainment that
can be had. This was surprising, as all we had heard about
Blackpool was how refreshing their approach was to the game having won
promotion to the top flight. How they went out to attack and
didn't try to clog. Well, the reality is quite a different story.
I guess the fallacy that has grown up
around Blackpool came from their start to the season, but as it has worn
on, with other teams realising their weaknesses, they have become ever
more reliant on more prosaic methods to keep their Premiership place.
How Tottenham came out of this game with more cards than the visitors, I
am yet to work out. I am not even sure that referee Lee Probert
could explain how that came to be as his control over the game slipped
from his grasp within a few minutes of kick off.
Starting with winger Danny Rose at left
back, with Gareth Bale in front of him, Tottenham had pace to burn on
that side of the team and Blackpool knew it. A couple of "heavy"
challenges on the little man saw the referee speak with the Blackpool
players, who were trying to intimidate Rose at the very least, but there
were no cards for these bad fouls.
Tottenham had started brightly enough,
but there was no tempo about their game and they looked sluggish despite
not playing for a week. Dawson hit a powerful shot a foot over the
bar from 25+ yards with six minutes on the clock and then a shot from
Bale's low effort from outside the box brought a dive to his left by
Matthew Gilks to push the ball wide with 13 minutes gone. Four
minutes later, Modric fired in a drive from just outside the area and a
deflection left the keeper rooted, but the ball flew wide for a corner.
It took until 22 minutes for the ref to
book Eardley, while others had got away with some dirty play, but his
was particularly cynical, just chopping Rose's legs from under him when
he easily went past the lumbering defender. The "physical" side of
the Blackpool game was troubling Tottenham, who didn't want to dwell on
the ball too long before being clattered. Frankly, the Seasiders
play was decidedly Championship and I, for one, would be happy seeing
them back there next season, if this is the rubbish they intend to serve
They did have an attack, where Kornilenko
got put through, but Gallas got back to put in a sliding tackle that
stopped his shot, although the ball ballooned into the air and dropped
kindly for Charlie Adam to hit a volley at goal. Heurelho Gomes made a
fine one-handed stop down to his left to keep the ball out and Dawson
got in the way of Campbell's follow-up. From that corner,
Kornilenko rose unmarked for a free header, but he failed to get behind
the ball and it came off one of the corners of his bonce and went over.
In the 25th minute a neat passing move
between Modric and van der Vaart ended with the Dutchman taking a shot
from inside the D, but he was stretching and falling, so couldn't get
full power behind his effort and Gilks flopped behind the ball to his
left to make an easy save. Just after the half hour, Spurs found
some joy down the left with Bale getting to the line, which he had been
stopped from doing previously, but his fizzing low cross that flashed
through the six yard box only needed a touch with VDV and Defoe just too
far away to make any contact.
Tottenham's frustration with the
referee's approach ended with Gallas going into the book for taking Adam
out on the touchline and then the Blackpool midfielder popped up 25
yards out to hit a powerful strike on goal, that Gomes had to get both
hands behind to beat away. Straight from that attack Spurs went up
the other end and when Rafael played a short pass through to Defoe for
the striker to pile the ball past Gilks, it was only the linesman's flag
that ruled the goal out for offside.
Two more low balls across the face of
goal went untouched by Spurs players and the only thing left in the half
to note was a booking for Kornilenko, who took Bale late and off the
pitch, leaving the Welshman needing treatment (and it was not to be for
the last time).
At half-time, the disappointing
Pavyluchenko was replaced by Aaron Lennon, rumoured to be on his way out
of the club after some behind the scenes bust-ups with Harry Redknapp.
It was a chance for the winger to show what he could do.
Unfortunately, he got some of the same treatment as Bale and Rose, but
when he had the chance to run at players, often he could cut inside into
crowded parts of the last third and then find a wall of orange in front
Whether it was the substitution or the
50th anniversary of the Double celebrations at half time that gave Spurs
a bit of edge at the start of the second half, but whatever it was, it
was how they should have played form the start. Keeping the ball
on the floor and moving it quickly to a player in space gave Blackpool
three minutes into the half, Lennon
played in van der Vaart and he got a shot away under pressure from Evatt,
making him out it too high, then Bale shot over after Rafa had pulled
the ball back form the dead-ball line. Luka, who was having a
quiet game, danced into the penalty area on the left and just managed to
get a toe poke back to VDV, but his attempted chip over Gilks lacked
sufficient height to beat the keeper.
Blackpool could not get into the Spurs
box and Adam tried his luck from 25 yards and had Gomes scrambling
across his box, but the ball went a yard wide. Tottenham were
looking the likelier to score, but like the away game, chances were
going begging, with Bale cutting in from the left to the corner of the
box to curl a shot wide and then Kaboul's header back into the box from
a cross wouldn't come down enough for Defoe to get a proper contact and
his attempted overhead kick went over the bar.
Then Blackpool's plan to disrupt
Tottenham's formation came to fruition.
I don't expect more protection for our
players than any other and I mind if teams get stuck in, as long as it
is fairly and that potentially damaging challenges are punished
appropriately. Unfortunately, that did not happen and when Adam
stepped down on Bale's ankle, it looked bad from where I was on the
other side of the pitch, but looked even worse on TV. Probert
didn't think it worthy of a free-kick and that summed up this excuse for
a referee's attitude. Booking Lennon for kicking the ball away is
fine ... it is in the laws, but why not try and stop players getting put
out of the game ? Adam had already had a strop and tried to kick
the ball out of the ground when a drop ball didn't go his way, then let
go a volley of abuse at the ref. Action taken ? None.
And when the game was coming towards full time, did he take any action
every time a Blackpool player kicked the ball away ? No, of course
not. Consistency should be the very least we expect from referees,
but it never happens.
van der Vaart tried to curl a shot in,
but Gilks read it comfortably, while a corner fell at the far post to
Dawson, but the captain's shot went into the side netting.
Blackpool infrequent sorties into the
Spurs half usually came to nothing, but just after the hour, a ball in
from the right wing by Vaughan to Dudley Campbell's feet saw him hit the
ball first time. Heurelho was already going further across his
goal, but managed to stop himself and then the ball from entering the
goal by getting a foot on it to divert it wide for a corner.
When a penalty was given to Blackpool
(and when I say given, I mean gift-wrapped) for handball by Michael
Dawson, the fact that he had been pushed in the back before making
contact with the ball went completely un-noticed by Probert and his two
blind men ... sorry, linesmen. But we should not have been
astonished by this, as missing pushes on Spurs players throughout the
game was the only consistent thing about the officials' performances.
The reason Spurs are where they are in
the table is because we have seen too many times this season games where
Tottenham dominate and don't win. So at 0-0, a penalty against us
was about par for the course. And the hype around Adam, who was
poor on the day (and to get poorer), made you think it was a formality
that he would stick the ball away. He hit the ball low to Gomes'
left and the ball was heading for the bottom corner, until the Brazilian
keeper dived to get his hand behind the ball and push it wide for a
Much jubilation and back-slapping ensued,
but with a quickly taken corner, the Spurs defence was still hyped up
when the ball came in. Gomes went to punch, the ball didn't go
far, so he tried to get it again and in a crowded penalty area, he
knocked over the considerable frame of Gary Taylor-Fletcher to concede a
second penalty within just over a minute. This time, Adam put the
ball the other side and beat Gomes to give Blackpool a somewhat
undeserved lead. As befits a team playing like Blackpool, their
first thought after taking the lead was to take off a forward and bring
on a defender.
They needed him as Spurs pressed forward
and Sandro failed to repeat his goal of last week with a shot that found
the back of the lower Paxton, then Defoe made a yard on the edge of the
box, but he was surrounded by Blackpool players to take the sting out
his effort and make it easy for Gilks. With Spurs pushing up and
Gallas moving further forward, it left them open to the break and when
Campbell pulled across for substitute Jason Puncheon, it looked like
that would be it for today, but the striker scuffed his shot well wide
and the home crowd breathed again. The same player had a good
opening, but put in an innocuous curler that Gomes grabbed and set Spurs
on their way again.
With just over a minute of normal time
remaining, but loads to add on for the Tottenham trainer being on the
pitch and for Blackpool's time-wasting, Luka Modric played the ball to
Jermain Defoe on the edge of the box and moving the ball out of his
feet, he hit a shot with little back-lift that rocketed into the right
hand side of Gilks' goal from a central position and Tottenham were
level. I had gone along with the wave of praise for Blackpool
earlier in the season, but seeing the darker side to their "character",
as Adam calls it, I would be happy if it was the goal that robbed them
of two points that means they go down.
In injury time, Blackpool managed to
injure Danny Rose so that he could not carry on, but there was only one
more opportunity for Spurs as they piled forward. Kaboul crossed
from the right to Crouch at the far post and his downward header was met
by Defoe, but again, with a crowd of defenders, midfielder and attackers
in front of him, he could not get proper purchase on his shot and hit it
into the ground, with Gilks right behind it.
At the end, their players probably
regarded it as a point well won, but their fans might need to sweat a
bit more with games against Bolton and Man U to come. For Spurs,
Man City await on Tuesday and what would have been another decider for
Champions League football looks like a straightforward task for City,
even though it is only four days before a FA Cup semi-final.
All the above is in my humble opinion,
but it is what I feel should be dealt with by the Football Association
and while I would wish them to review Adam's tackle, I know full well
that Probert will say he saw it and thought that it wasn't a foul.
I would only guess, but there may be
many, many more present there and who have seen it on TV who would