In weather more suited to Greece than N17, Spurs took to the field
against Olympiakos with three new faces playing their first games there
for Tottenham and a fine second half performance of pacy passing and
good finishing earned a 3-0 home win.
White Hart Lane was only about 2/3 full, but
the attendees were treated to a good performance against a weak
Olympiakos side, who had qualified for the Qualifying round of the
Champions League by playing a preliminary round against Slovan
Bratislava in midweek. They are therefore no mugs and on occasion
showed their contempt for the way Tottenham were playing with some
full-bloodied tackles, but Steve Bennett failed to do much about it
resulting in Modric having to leave the field just over half an hour
after coming on, as he was caught by a late tackle that got his heel.
But then Spurs showed their willingness
not to be walked over any more, with some crunching tackles form
Assou-Ekotto, Huddlestone and Naughton. The way Spurs passed the
ball around was well suited to the conditions and to the opposition, as
it was almost like a European style, with long, diagonal passes to
Crouch on the edge of the area to mix things up a bit.
There were two early balls to Crouch's
head, one nodded into Robbie Keane's path and the second at goal, but
too high, which was something that became a familiar pattern.
Maybe the idea of starting with Bentley in the side and Crouch as one of
the strikers was to get the ball in and for him to challenge for it.
The tactic worked again, but Crouch headed wide, but some short passing
produced a shooting opportunity for Jamie O'Hara, but his effort was
well over the bar. It might have been the old story of spurned
chances leading to Tottenham being made to pay, as Dud was allowed to
move forward from halfway with the ball and his shot bent inches past
Gomes' left hand post from 30 yards out.
Danny Rose was staring on the left of
midfield and he is showing that he is a bright young man with a
willingness to take players on. One early cross went over the
penalty area, but his second in the 13th minute was pulled back low for
Keane to shoot, but a defender got something on it to take it wide.
His next cross hit Crouch and his header was on target, but not good
enough to get past the George Clooney look-a-like keeper Nikopolidis.
Just before that some neat play between Huddlestone and Crouch on the
edge of the area lead to a shot from the new man that went wide of the
With Sebastien Bassong only arriving a
few days before the game and his two match suspension keeping him out of
the opening fixtures, it was just as well this friendly came along to
give him a chance to play in the team before the action starts for real.
He won a lot in the air, showed that he can time a tackle well and gave
Ledley King a strong partner, who will not be shoved off the ball.
Like King, he also showed a liking to bring the ball out of defence and
his 50 yard dribble in the 24th minute took him to the edge of the
Olympiakos penalty area, where he set up Hud for a 20 yard shot that
thumped into the advertising hoardings at the side of the goal.
The opposition had played their Champions
League qualifier in mid-week, but looked as though they lack a cutting
edge. Whether this is the case when they play for real, I don't
know, but there were only a few moments in the game when they threatened.
Five minutes before the break, a quick free-kick, given for Dudu hitting
the deck after a slight challenge, freed Diogo to shoot from outside the
box, but a deflection by Ledley King took the sting out of it, allowing
Gomes to recover his position after the ball changed direction.
The same player had their best chance of the game to that point when he
hit a ball pulled back from the dead ball line wide, after defender Domi
had made good ground with a run that saw him easily get past Naughton.
It was a bit of a howler, as any shot on target with that power would
have left Gomes standing.
A half-time parade by some surly
Under-16s who won the Puma tournament in America was carried out in the
sweltering sun and then the traditional friendly match changing of the
guard took place, with Tottenham making seven changes. By
contrast, Olypmiakos' two changes seemed modest.
The Tottenham tactics seemed to have
changed with the new personnel coming on. There was now a short
passing game that moved the bal quickly on the floor, with Modric
dictating the pace of the game and Pavlyuchenko and Defoe holding the
ball and taking defenders away to make space for other Spurs players to
fill. One early example saw Modric feed Defoe wide on the edge of
the box and he turned his man well to play the ball across the six yard
box, but, to Jermain's disgust, Pav hadn't read his intentions and was
hanging back for the ball to be pulled back to him.
The Greek substitute keeper was kept busy
and he looked a bit shaky, with a lot of pushing the ball out rather
than trying to hold onto it. His first save three minutes into the
half saw him moving forward quickly as Defoe hit a shot from outside the
box, but the keeper managed to stop his forward momentum and drop on the
ball to smother the effort. He had an easier task a couple of
minutes later when he caught a tame volley from Lennon after
Huddlestone's shot had been blocked up into the air.
The midfield and the forwards seemed to
be linking better and this provided shooting chances for both units of
the side. This is something we need to improve on, as goals from
midfield can make a real difference to results. However, with 57
minutes gone, Olympiakos came the closest to scoring as a cross from
Zairi was met well by Leonardo's head and Cudicini had to fly to his
right to grab the ball that would have crept inside the post.
Shortly after, a low ball in from the right was skied over the top by
the same player, when he should really have hit the target from about 15
As Tottenham's play was earthbound, the
speed of thought of Modric and the speed of foot by Lennon became more
important. The two linked on 65 minutes to send Lennon racing into
the box, where he was bundled over, but the ref was not too quick to
blow his whistle and with Aaron touching the ball sideways, Roman rifled
the ball into the top of the goal with Pardo left helpless. it was
a goal that came against the run of play a little, but overall, Spurs
were good value for their lead.
A minute after the goal, Bassong nearly
marked his first game with a goal, as his header from Modric's corner
was kicked out from in front of goal by one of the many Papadopolouses -
this one was K. The pressure was really on Olympiakos now and when
substitute Kevin-Prince Boateng hit a low shot that Pardo pushed to his
left and Chimbonda ran onto it with the goal yawning in front of him,
but his shot did not reach the open goal, as Olof Mellberg came out of
nowhere to slide in and block the ball out for a corner.
However, from the corner, the ball was
headed onto the far post by Bassong and for once, we had someone there.
Pav got the ball and blasted a low ball into the six yard box, where
Corluka knocked the bal into the net from close range to make it 2-0.
Spurs were now rampant and the movement
of the players and the ball was excellent. A neat passing move
opened the Greek defence up again and Boateng slipped Pavlyuchenko
through on the left to hit a shot that was too hot for Pardo to hold and
it flew across the box to Defoe, who tricked Domi, who took his standing
leg. For all the world it looked like a penalty, but neither the
nearby linesman nor the referee agreed, so Defoe was left to remonstrate
with the lineman about his decision.
This clearly riled Jermain and he was
desperate to get the ball at the very next opportunity. He did and
his pace took him ahead of Mellberg to smack an unstoppable shot past
Pardo from the 18 yard line for 3-0. His first act after scoring was to
go to the linesman and wag his finger at him for denying him the penalty
before being swamped by team-mates.
Modric had taken a kick on his heel from
the same player who went straight through the back of Assou-Ekotto,
which prompted Bennett to have a word with him, but when Pascal
Chimbonda showed dissent for a soft free-kick given to Olympiakos,
Bennett threatened to get him substituted. I know there is this
Respect campaign to make things easier for referees, but they would earn
more respect if they stopped injury causing tackles or at least dealt
with them more harshly than dissent.
Into added time, Defoe cracked an effort
wide of the goal and then set up Pavlyuchenko to hit a shot at goal that
Pardo did well to get across to and palm away, when it looked like it
might be 4-0.
These friendlies are not meaningless in
the build-up to the new season, but the quality and effort put in by the
opposition is always questionable, so nothing should be taken from the
result. However, the early signs are that the two partnerships
tried out can work, while the passing game worked particularly
effectively in the second half. Some good performances and the
fringe players all did well, but it might have left Harry with a few
more selection problems ahead of next Sunday's game with Liverpool.