In a performance that saw a number of players play well below the level
expected of them, Tottenham still proved good enough to win 2-0 against
a struggling Hapoel Tel Aviv side.
The passing and control of the ball proved poor throughout and some
players seemed less than determined to exert themselves against a side
who could have taken the lead early in the match, but once one of their
players was sent off five minutes after half-time, the game slowed even
further and Spurs failed to show the desire to punish the Israelis.
And there lies some of the problem. The lack of urgency in the
play left Hapoel able to get players behind the ball and stifle a Spurs
side, who lack a midfielder with a creative, defence splitting pass.
I truly hope that having got the game
won, they were playing within themselves to save something for Sunday's
game against Wigan Athletic, which is a must win match and one which
they must show a lot more effort, as the visitors will be putting in the
sweat to make sure they pull away from the bottom of the table.
One thing about the way we are playing at
the moment is the insistence in passing the ball around at the back.
It's fine when there is no pressure on the defenders, as it pulls
players to them and opens up space for others, but the loose passing
around the edge of our penalty area or across the pitch leaves opponents
a possibility to nick the ball away and have a chance of scoring.
And that just what happened when Chimbonda tried to pass to YP Lee,
Natcho took the ball and fed Pereira, who hit a shot that Chimbonda got
back to get it in the way of. A couple of minutes later, the
favour was returned when Pereira played in Natcho, but he pulled his
shot wide with a less than cleanly hit shot.
Aaron Lennon had a fine first half when
he was running at young defender Backshi, who gave him free rein to
attack him, but once past him, the Spurs winger failed to produce a
decent final ball to a Spurs striker. Not that he was alone, as
Steed Malbranque was the sole Tottenham player who hit some good balls
into the area.
When we were all looking for some
evidence that Dimitar Berbatov was going to back up his words with
actions, he seemed to spend a lot of his time thinking that other
players were inside his head, as they should have known exactly where he
was going to run/pass the ball. His shoulder shrugs, facial
expressions and animated pointing (perhaps the most animated he got)
told a different story to the ones that hit the media yesterday morning.
Having been annoyed that Keane had not run where he wanted him to, he
lashed a shot wildly high and wide from over 25 yards when the ball fell
to him later in the move. It was something that was noticeable
throughout the team as Spurs players seemed to be critical of each other
as the game wore on.
Natcho hit a long range effort straight
at Robinson before Tottenham finally broke the deadlock with a piece of
quality finishing. Keane gave the ball wide to Malbranque on the
left, the midfielder took on his man and dinked a cross into the middle
of the penalty area, where Keane had run on to hit a controlled low
volley past a static keeper. There was a certain amount of relief
after recent results and the game allowed Tottenham to press on, as
Hapoel's confidence crashed.
The wide open spaces in the Spurs end
made you wonder why the number of tickets released to Tottenham was so
limited, as although the trip was expensive, I am sure there might have
been more there had seats been released for them. They had
something more to celebrate five minutes later, when Dos Santos blocked
a shot by Berbatov', the ball flew to Malbranque on the left and there
was an action replay of his cross, but this time it was higher and found
Berbatov's head. The Bulgarian headed the ball down near the left
hand post, back where the keeper came from to bulge the net and give
Tottenham a 2-0 lead.
Spurs could have made it three minutes
later, when Berba broke through two players to hit a shot that Emeyama
saved, but Keane hit the rebound goal-wards, only for it to be deflected
wide off Dos Santos. Robbie claimed that it had been a hand that
took the ball away from goal, but the Polish ref wasn't really bothered
and a corner was all that was given. Just before half time,
Chimbonda rose unchallenged to head a corner narrowly over the bar, when
perhaps he should have done better and that was about the last decent
chance we had until the final minutes of the match, as Spurs appeared
content to knock the ball about - which was something they didn't always
do that well.
The first action of the second half saw
Hapoel almost fluke a goal with a cross that flew over Robinson and slid
across the goal and went wide, but then a rash challenge from behind on
Lennon saw Shish sent off for his second foul on the little Spurs man.
Tottenham then had even more space and possession, but failed to make
the most of either, as their opportunity to find some tempo and
confidence in a goal glut wasn't taken.
Malbranque was through on the right and
pulled his shot across goal, Jenas fired over from distance and when
Jermaine put Keane through, he also pulled his shot wide of the far post
rather than testing the keeper. Bringing on Defoe, Bent and
Boateng for Malbranque, Keane and Jenas, perhaps Ramos was looking to
give them more recovery time before Sunday's Premier League match, but
it did little to help Tottenham in this game.
As the game fizzled out, Hapeol got a bit
braver and had more time around the Tottenham box, with Chen hitting a
very long range effort off target, then Natcho looked to have a good
opening until Paul Stalteri produced a timely tackle. Thirteen
minutes from time, Paul Robinson brought out a good save as he rushed
from his line to thwart Fabio Junior. Spurs hit back with Zokora
coming as close as he ever has to scoring for Spurs, with a shot just
wide after a run through the Hapoel defence and the best chance fell to
Bent with two minutes left, as he was played in by Defoe and he took the
ball around the keeper before shooting with his left foot, which was a
weak effort that beat a defender in front of goal, but hit the post and
The performance was good enough to beat
Hapoel, but might not be to beat any side a bit better than them.