While West Ham claim that they were under-strength for this London
derby, it was a reasonably comfortable win for Tottenham with few major
scares along the way, despite the narrow 1-0 scoreline.
It was an inspired substitution that brought
about the change with Roman Pavlyuchenko scoring the winner less than
ten minutes after his entrance into the action and while Heurelho Gomes
made a couple of good saves to protect the Spurs goal, it was Irons
keeper Robert Green who was the busier of the two glove-men this
Spurs started inventively, with Luka
Modric probing down the left, but missing Wilson Palacios in midfield,
they had Tom Huddlestone spraying passes around from just in front of
the back four. This role did not stop him getting forward and
although his passing was not quite as assured today, he was busy and got
forward to twice test Green's shot-stopping abilities.
The first chance came when Corluka linked
well with Lennon on the right wing and the little winger blazed too high
when well positioned for a shot on target. At least his shot went
off for a goal kick, as West Ham's first effort on goal came from David
di Michele, who tried a van Basten style volley from a tight angle on
the left following Stanislas' long cross, but the ball went across goal
and out for a throw-in on the other side of the pitch. Obviously,
di Michele is no di Canio.
The game was blighted by both teams
giving the ball away at this stage and Hud had a shot skew off the side
of his foot and go well wide, before a number of Spurs players claimed a
penalty when Robbie Keane hit Lennon's cross down and as the ball
bounced up, it hit James Tomkins on the hand in the 21st minute.
Referee Martin Atkinson could obviously not have been watching last
week's Spurs game, otherwise he would have known it was a penalty, but
he waved play on ... something he was very prone to do this afternoon.
To be honest, I thought Tomkins had his back to the shot, so it might
have been harsh to get a spot-kick out of it, but two minutes later
Robbie Keane slipped past Tomkins and Boa Morte, but the ex-Gooner
brought the Tottenham captain to the floor with Atkinson still waving
his hands to continue the game.
In the 24th minute, Modric and Jenas
worked an opening for Keane to curl a shot on goal, but he put it too
high when anything on target may have left Green struggling, then Tom
Huddlestone could not quite get enough on a Benoit Assou-Ekotto cross
and the ball flew out wide. Heurelho Gomes had not had too much to
do until ahigh ball came in from the right and Boa Morte failed to jump,
leaving the Tottenham goalie to cone over the top of him to try and take
the ball. However, Gomes went over and landed heavily, but got up
to play on and the Irons winger, who had been spoken to by the referee
for three previous fouls, got away with it again and then had the cheek
to go down and receive treatment. When he was allowed back on the
field, he caught Hud late and still there was no yellow card. He
really is one objectionable player.
On the half hour, Tottenham's best chance
came, with Tom Huddlestone picking up the ball 30 yards out, stepping
forward with the ball as Irons defenders backed off, then unleashing a
fierce shot that Green had to dive to tip wide with the ball travelling
a yard off the floor all the way. The keeper also denied Keane,
when Hud's shot was blocked a few minutes later. This time, the
effort was not struck as cleanly and it went into the ground and Green
had to dive to his side and up to beat the shot away. To round off
a good couple of minutes, BAE crossed from the left to see Bent get his
head to it, but, unfortunately, the striker got the back of his head to
the ball and it went wide of the goal by a couple of feet, whereas, if
he had met it with his forehead, it might have given Green more
Following this, West Ham created their
best opportunity, when Noble's free-kick saw Corluka win a header, but
the ball dropped kindly for di Michele. The Italian's full-blooded
shot looked goal-bound until Gomes dived to get two strong wrists to the
ball to beat it out. Then shortly afterwards, in the 37th minute,
di Michele went for the glory shot from 25 yards out, but, with Gomes
diving one way, Woodgate got a block on the ball to take it the other
way and wide of the goal.
As half-time approached, Huddlestone
tried his luck once more and the shot fizzed past Green's post without
the keeper moving and there was just enough time for Boa Morte to
finally get a caution ... for his sixth foul.
the first half had been less like a derby
match than anything you might imagine, with Spurs having a lot of
possession and West Ham dropping large numbers of players behind the
ball. The visitors passing was pretty awful and even if they were
without some regular players, their replacements were not of Premier
League calibre and that must be a worry for them.
Spurs had to replace hamstring victim
Jermaine Jenas with Didier Zokora and hope that they could create
something around the box that their build-up play deserved. Within
five minutes another chance went untaken. Modric threaded a ball
into Vedran Corluka in the area and with the West Ham defence standing
off him, he didn't know what to do with it and without shooting or
crossing, he let the ball get away from him and be cleared.
Didier Zokora raced in to challenge for a
50-50 ball with di Michele and caught the player as he nicked it away
from our midfielder, but the referee deemed this a yellow card ... for
the first foul Zokora had made. Maybe the ref realised he had let
too much go in the first half, while the lineman in front of the East
Stand was flagging for off-sides against Spurs, whereas in the first
half he was just flagging, as he couldn't be bothered to stay up with
play when West Ham were attacking. Not having the greatest of
games, Darren Bent was replaced by Roman Pavlyuchenko in the 56th minute
and he showed a mobility and intelligence in his movement and control
that has been missing from our play.
The Russian nipped in between Tomkins and
Green as Woodgate's header dropped in the area around the penalty spot,
but Pav couldn't really get enough on his header to trouble Green.
However, in the next attack, from Green's goal-kick in the 58th minute,
the Irons should have taken the lead with a simple chance spurned by di
Michele. As the ball travelled towards the edge of the Tottenham
penalty area, Woodgate slipped as he ran backwards and this left the
West Ham forward with a clear shot on goal, with only Gomes to beat.
However, with a combination of a hurried shot straight at the keeper and
some brave positioning by Gomes, the ball failed to beat him and the
score stayed at 0-0.
di Michele was starting to lose it after
this and picked up a yellow card for a petty foul. Spurs continued
to play the better football and knocked the ball around well with some
first time touches, but often the flancy flicks didn't come off at the
end of them and it looked as though they were trying to walk the ball
into the back of the net. Luckily, Huddlestone has no such qualms
and struck a fine drilled half volley, which brought another diving save
from Green in the 64th minute and Tottenham finally broke the Irons down
a minute later.
Working the ball well on the right wing,
Lennon and Corluka opened up a pass for Modric in the area. The
midfielder picked put a pass himself in to the feet of Pavlyuchenko on
the right hand edge of the six yard box. Taking the ball one way
and then turning the other, he lost Collins, who was tight behind him
and he slid his shot past Green, who was confounded by his turn.
West Ham could not really respond, as
Spurs were now rampant. Modric drilled a 20 yard shot at goal a
minute after Spurs had gone ahead, but Pav was in the action again as he
got in the way of the effort and rubbed his arm to show how much power
there had been in it. The Russian linked with Lennon and
played him in with only Green to beat, but as the winger hesitated,
Neill got back to dispossess him. And Lennon returned the
compliment with a cross for Pav, but he glanced a header on it and it
went wide. In between, there was a brief flutter of excitement
among the claret and blue hordes when Kieron Dyer ran through the
Tottenham defence and got in a shooting position, only to put it well
Aaron again went close, when he popped up
on the left wing in the 80th minute and curled a cross in to the far
post, but it would have dropped in under the bar had Green not sued his
feet to get him to it and push it away. And once more, Lennon
could have put the result beyond doubt, but Pavlyuchenko's set-up, when
they broke after being presented with the ball by another poor pass, saw
the ball mis-controlled and Green got in the way of Lennon's effort and
the follow-up from Keane was going in until Collins got back to kick the
ball away before it got near the line.
Two minutes from time, di Michele almost
got West Ham back into the game with a shot that almost beat the
unsighted Gomes, but he beat the ball out and grabbed it at the second
attempt. There were moves going forward at both ends, but none
seriously threatened the goals and even thought Atkinson did his best to
give the Irons the chance to get something they didn't deserve out of
the game with four minutes of time added on, there was little chance
that this side would take it.
Spurs had put in a hard-working
performance and one with a great deal of skill. The passing and
movement was good and the three points probably just about make thoughts
of relegation a distant memory.
It shows that with this squad, it is
possible that good things can come. A good end to the season will
give more weight to that hope.