game in which a win would have seen Tottenham go into next season's UEFA
Cup saw the team fight back for a point and suffer a fit of pique from
one of their own players as Jermain Defoe's goal took the side into the
last game still requiring a point.
Blackburn worked hard in the first half and their movement and passing
had Tottenham struggling after easing to a win over Charlton Athletic
just three days before. With Spurs having problems putting passes
together and the strength of Benni McCarthy and Jason Roberts up front,
it was a half when they fought to keep in the game. Rovers
displayed their normal physical approach allied with time wasting that
started as early as the eighth minute. In my opinion, they really
are one of the most objectionable sides in the Premiership.
Having said that, you had to admire their
first half display. The goal came when Tottenham did not close
down Pedersen on the left wing and his far post cross saw Ledley King
underneath it and Anthony Gardner was too far off McCarthy, who found
the space to head back across Robinson and into the other side of the
goal to give Rovers a 32nd minute lead. Before that Pedersen
played a corner short to Roberts and hit the return pass low, but well
wide of the goal as he cut in from the right. Interestingly, a
couple of Blackburn players tried too hard to foul Spurs men and ended
up coming off worse. Berbatov showed the way to avoid such
challenges, as he performed a quick drag-back to leave Tugay heading in
the wrong direction !! However, Mokoena picked up a yellow card
(and should have had a possible two more in the match) for a bad tackle
from behind on Malbranque, which ended the Frenchman's involvement in
the game. After Steed had limped on for a number of minutes on
came Hossam Ghaly for a somewhat tepid cameo.
From the ensuing free-kick, Tottenham
played a highly complex free-kick, which ended up with Friedel grabbing
the ball high under his crossbar after a couple of passes saw Pascal
Chimbonda get in behind the defence, but only volley it high into the
danger area. When Spurs did open up a good chance, Defoe's far
post cross from the right found Anthony Gardner coming in and his
stooping header did not carry enough power to threaten Friedel's goal.
Another headed opportunity to Chimbonda ended up straight at the
American keeper too.
Then came the away goal and Roberts hit a
low shot that our Robbo got down to well on a wet surface, while some
diffident defending let them in again and McCarthy's shot had to be
blocked by Ledley. As crosses started to come into the goalmouth,
Dawson and King headed them out and Robinson had to come for one and
chose to punch, while taking Samba out with him. As in similar
games, Spurs failed to get Lennon into the game and he looked unwilling
to get stuck in and was muscled out of a few runs. Ghaly's passes
were lacksidaisical and under-weighted, leaving him the object of some
derision from the crowd. More of which was to come. However,
he did manage to hit the target with Tottenham's best chance when a ball
was blocked and flew into the air, allowing him to volley it at goal,
making Friedel save. Too often, the Egyptian and others tried to
play a difficult ball over the middle of the defence, but on a wet
pitch, there was no hope of getting any back-spin on the ball.
The appearance of Nayim in the half-time
break brought shouts of "Nayim from the halfway line" as he talked about
his time at Spurs and that goal against Arsenal. Last time he
caused such a stir at the Lane was when the cameras focused on him when
we were playing Bolton one Christmas with the chance to go fourth in the
table. With fifth possibly at stake on this and Sunday's results,
it was a case of deja vu.
Into the second half, Tottenham had to
press more and whether Blackburn ran out of steam or whether it was just
them being pushed back, Tottenham enjoyed more territorial domination
and used the flanks a lot more. Aaron cut inside from the left to
hit a low shot that Samba blocked and Ghaly nearly played in Defoe, but
he was given offside. With the pressure building, Rovers got
reckless with some of their challenges and when Pedersen brought Defoe
down as he prepared to shoot, he got a yellow card and Spurs got a
free-kick. As Berba shaped up to take it, we all hoped he would
reproduce the West Ham dead ball, but Friedel managed to push it up and
then grab the dropping ball.
Having played a couple more directionless
balls and not shown much effort to gat back and win the ball, Martin Jol
decided that Robbie Keane was the man to spark a revival for Tottenham,
at the expense of Ghaly. The Egyptian trudged towards the dug-out
and then produced his most incisive piece of action of the night when he
ripped off his shirt and threw it onto the running track. He went
off down the tunnel, with Jol standing stonily looking in the opposite
direction and the half-naked sight of his back will probably be the last
we see of Ghaly, as sections of the crowd sang "You're not fit to wear
It almost looked a bad move as a long
free-kick to the far post saw Samba creep in behind Gardner on the left
to head against the bar from a narrow angle. Luckily for Spurs,
the ball bounced to a place where no Blackburn player strayed.
Pedersen also fizzed a low cross into the Spurs goalmouth, but there was
again no Rover making his way into that zone. For Spurs, it was
fortunate, which was borne out a minute or two later, when the equaliser
came. Tainio was instrumental in winning the ball and Keane opened
up the defence with a ball into Berbatov on the right side of the box.
He made a yard by shimmying past the defender and struck a low shot from
a tight angle, which Friedel could only parry as it shot off the wet
turf, leaving Defoe sniffing it out and the easy task of putting it into
an empty net.
With 24 minutes left, Tottenham started
to go for the winner. Michael Dawson made his way into the
opposing penalty area and headed one and shot one wide, while Robbie
Keane was making inroads into the Blackburn area. He dinked a neat
pass through to Defoe and as Friedel came out to him, he took the ball
away and tried to set up Dimitar, but he was crowded out. It did
leave Rovers with the chance to break and Pedersen had two chances with
a volley that he tried to replicate van Basten's European Championship
final goal, but hit the West Stand instead, then he was denied by
Chimbonda's header as he came in behind the Spurs right back.
As the game moved into added time, there
was a frantic finale. Chimbonda moved forward on the right, cut
inside and played Robbie Keane in. Standing inside the area, he
turned unmarked and struck a shot past the Blackburn keeper, only to see
it hit the post full on and bounce back out into Friedel's arms.
It was definitely a case of if only !!
With seconds remaining, Jason Roberts
made a rash tackle on Defoe from behind and earned a yellow card.
He kicked the ball away, but Rob Styles did nothing about that (as he
had failed to do from the early stages when the red shirted visitors did
that on regular occasions). As the wall lined up, I am not sure if
Roberts knocked the ball away again or whether he said something out of
turn, but either way, it was an ill-advised thing to do, as the yellow
came out again for the second time in a few seconds and was followed by
a red card.
Arguments ensued, so when the time came
for Berbatov to take the free-kick, the moment had gone and the ball
floated over the top and with it the chance to seal a win.
With both sides hitting the woodwork and
having the best of a half each, perhaps a draw was the fair result and
it keeps the interest going into the final game.
With the crowd taking the total number of
fans through the turnstiles at White Hart Lane past the one million
mark, it will take a few more on Sunday to see if the team can make it
back into the UEFA Cup. With 102 goals scored this season, we
might need a few more Sunday too.