While not too much should be read into this performance by Spurs, it did
show that there will be a flow and a tempo to their play this season,
which might take some teams by surprise in the coming months.
Beating a lacklustre Roma team and who
appeared frankly disinterested in playing their part in this match will
mean little come next Saturday, but a 5-0 victory gave the team
confidence to play their game and to get a few players with some
on-pitch time under their belts. Using all the subs was a good
idea and allowed Tottenham to keep their pace up through the 90 minutes.
Looking fresh and fit, the players appeared to be in good sprits and
willing to show for the ball, none of them hiding among the open spaces
left by the Italian side.
For all the historical praise given to
Italian defending, this was a poor showing of the art as the Roma side
went into self-destruct and failed to show any impetus to attack
Tottenham, while seeming content to kick the Spurs players rather than
One such early foul out on the left wing
saw David Bentley cross the pitch to swing it in and Darren Bent went
for it at the near post, but failed to get a touch, although he did
enough to distract the Roma keeper Artur, who failed to react to it
going across the goalmouth and in at the far post. It was a dream
start in the third minute for Bentley, who wondered what it would be
like to score a goal at the Lane and he soon found out in his first game
at home. Within a couple of minutes it was 2-0 with Bent getting a
touch on the ball this time. Mexes compounded a pathetic start,
which saw him commit some rash (to say the least) tackles from behind
and then pass back to either his defensive partner Juan or his
goalkeeper, but he only succeeded in finding Darren Bent, who, in his
current scoring form, had no trouble tucking the ball under Artur to
give Spurs a flying start.
One point of note of the first half
performance was the attacking intent of both Zokora and Assou-Ekotto,
who both got forward at every opportunity, with Didier especially
showing a great turn of pace that took him through the Roma midfield
Phil Dowd finally lost patience with
Mexes in the 18th minute, when he went through Bent, having done the
same to Berbatov and dos Santos previously. Cassetti followed soon
after, with a string of fouls, some more cynical than others.
Berbatov headed over when found well by
Giovani's cross in the 23rd minute, then Benoit Assou-Ekotto slid a good
pass beyond the right back to find Jermaine Jenas running on and he
struck a shot on goal, but the effort went over the top and he might
have been better off pulling the ball low across the goal.
Roma's first serious attack came in the
37th minute and it was a well-worked piece of passing which went around
the Spurs defender son the edge of the box, leaving Aquilani through in
the area, but his weak effort was easily smothered by Gomes. The
only action the big Brazilian had before then had been to race out to
clear as Vucinic raced through, but he was offside and Heurelho made
sure he got some of the player too, as well as the ball !! Three
minutes after, Cassetti showed he can play, when he put in a cross to
the far post and with Vucinic having a free header, he put in a tame one
that was low, but straight at our goalie.
It was little to worry about, as a spat
between Mexes and the Park Lane section of the crowd saw the French
defender being heckled, which upset him and his colleagues, leaving his
ball to De Rossi on the edge of his area giving the midfielder little
option about what to do with it. He sprayed it across the face of
the penalty area and it was intercepted by David Bentley 25 yards out.
The new signing took it forward a couple of paces and smacked a drive
past Artur's right hand and into the corner of the net for the third
Tottenham goal in the last minute of the first half.
Normally, it would be a good time
psychologically to score, but Roma had been lacking mental resolve
almost from the time they walked out onto the pitch. Both sides
made two changes at the break, with Gareth Bale coming on for
Assou-Ekotto and Lennon for Berbatov, moving Bentley to the left wing
and dos Santos moving into a more advanced position just behind Bent.
The changes worked better for Tottenham
than they did for Roma, as the lead was extended in the 50th minute.
A prod down the left wing by Bentley released Giovani, who jinked inside
two defenders and squared to the edge of the box where Aaron Lennon ran
onto the ball and side-footed it down the middle of the goal, beating
the keeper's dive and a defender's stuck out leg. It was a well
crafted goal and dos Santos did very well to take on two strapping
defenders, but used his skill.
Four minutes on and a penetrating run by
Zokora ended in a corner being earned and David Bentley took it.
Some tussling in the box saw Jonathan Woodgate throw a Roma defender to
the floor and win the header on the cross, which fell to Darren Bent at
the far post to bundle over the line to make the score 5-0.
Bent had a chance to rack up another
hat-trick, but when Modric put him in, the striker hit his shot straight
at Artur. Some subs came and went, but then Cassetti, who seemed
up for a fight all afternoon, was pushed over by Zokora in the corner
and was involved in a spat which saw the Spurs defender booked and the
Italian let off with a lecture from Phil Dowd, who realised that any
action would have resulted in the player's dismissal. Mexes might
have gone before half time and with two petulant and cynical fouls on
Lennon in the same number of minutes, Aquilani saw red, leaving Dowd
with no choice after chasing the Spurs winger for 30 yards to take his
legs away from under him.
Before that Bent once more broke through
and hit the side netting, while Gomes had to dive out at sub Okaka
Chuka's feet, showing he is brave as well as tall. His only
weakness at the moment is looking uncertain of his bearings when high
crosses come dangerously close to the goal. Such was the comfort
of the victory that Ramos gave rookie keeper Oscar Jansson 15 minutes at
the end and although he only had a couple of crosses to catch without
pressure, he would benefit from playing in front of a big crowd and them
getting behind him.
So, what was learned from this exercise ?
Giovani looked good on the ball and links the attack and midfield, with
Modric the same. The full backs (all four that played) look to get
up in support of the attack, while Gilberto looks fitter than last
season and he and Ledley felt calm enough to try out some of their
tricks in their own penalty area. Bentley is a good user of the
ball and a good striker of it. Woodgate and Dawson were strong in
the middle of defence and Jenas held himself back in midfield, allowing
others to get forward. Gomes looks a secure keeper. Bent
looked a sharp goalscorer again, while Berbatov looked interested in the
45 minutes he played.
With Huddlestone, O'Hara and Lennon all
looking comfortable on the ball and fit and full of energy, they changed
the way the midfield played when they came on.
I think that Ramos has a good number of
options in personnel and the way the team will play in the coming
season, leaving a variety of difficulties for the other sides we face to
cope with. Goals will also be a signature theme of the team, as
they can now come from a number of sources.
It will be an interesting ride !!