It's been a long time coming, but at last Tottenham earned an away win
and a clean sheet to boot, as Juande Ramos' tactics start to kick in,
despite the ever-lengthening defensive absentee list. 1-0 might
not sound that exciting, but it closes the gap on the two clubs above
us, who are four and six points away from Spurs, but are now within
credible catching distance.
up with Zokora as part of the back four in place of the illness-affected
Michael Dawson, it was once more, an unacquainted defence who took the
the field. With Keane's suspension still running, Darren Bent
lined up alongside Dimitar Berbatov in attack. On a bitterly
cold day down on the South Coast, it was Tottenham who made the more
confident start, with some winning tackles in midfield, then a good
period of passing.
The first shot was a fairly comfortable
one straight at Robinson from Utaka from about the penalty spot, while
Bent hit back with an 18 yard effort that went wide. Pedro Mendes
was putting in a lot of running, but much of it was of the headless
chicken type, whereas Tottenham were pacing themselves better.
Replacing Zokora in midfield was Kevin-Prince Boateng, who fired in a
shot that James could only push aside, but as Steed Malbranque roared
in, he was flagged offside and Jenas was pushing up in support of the
front two, but could not keep his long range shot down, as it flew over
When Pompey did go forward and won a
couple of corners and threw some crosses into the Spurs area, they were
poorly delivered, leaving the Spurs players an easy task of clearing the
ball. It was refreshing to see the team working hard as a whole to
shut down the home players. For example, when Papa Bouba Diop
crashed in a shot, it was Zokora who flung himself to block it.
The Ivorian was the victim of the first bad tackle as he broke forward
and it saw ex-Spur Pedro Mendes get a yellow card.
Diop was trying to beat Spurs from range,
as he hit another effort wide, while Bent was getting most of
Tottenham's chances, firing a shot on the half hour straight at James,
followed a couple of minutes later by Berba, who hit a shot over the
bar. The succession of free-kicks that Mr. Atkinson awarded
stemmed any flow that the game might have had, but gave Jenas the chance
from 25 yards, but he hit the wall, while Muntari's free-kick at the
other end saw a header from Utaka go wide from close range.
At the other end, S.Cumball was often
caught out of position, as he did the week before at Villa and to think
this is the man Steve McClaren called into the England squad for the
vital Euro 2008 qualifiers !!
It was hardly any surprise that the teams
went down the tunnel at the interval without any score on the board, as,
while the game had been exciting in a fiercely contested manner, with
some good passing moves, there were few direct efforts on goal. As
the players left the field, there was the strange sight of Kevin Prince
Boateng and Sulley Muntari exchanging shirts for some reason. When
the teams -re-emerged, there was one change with one ex-Spur Sean Davis
replacing another Pedro Mendes.
An early rush from his goal saw Robbo
foul Muntari outside the box, but the free-kick came to nothing, but the
free-kicks kept coming for niggling fouls, with Krancjar finally getting
a shot on target on the hour mark, but once more, Robinson caught it
safely. Steed finally tested the ref's patience once too often and
got a booking for a series of fouls, then the game burst into life a
bit. Malbranque put a shot wide, before Krancjar forced Kaboul to
block his drive on goal and from a corner Nugent put a free header over
the bar, landing the ball on the roof of the net. The Croatian
midfielder's cynical foul on Aaron Lennon as he sped past the Pompey man
brought another caution and it was followed by Defoe coming on for Bent,
while Herman Hreiddarsson entered the play for the injured Pamarot, who
had suffered at the hands of Lennon (yes, hard to believe isn't it !!).
With 77 minutes gone, Boateng, who did
not have a great game, was taken off for Jamie O'Hara to come on for his
Spurs debut. Operating on the left of midfield, he began opening
up the Portsmouth right side with some running with the ball and some
neat passing. He played in Defoe, who hit his shot too high, then
nicked the ball off an opponent in midfield, before playing in Lennon on
the right. Aaron took a touch and dinked a delicate cross to the
far post, where Dimitar Berbatov was lurking to administer the finish
that rippled the net and gave Spurs the lead.
Having taken a late lead, Spurs had lost
winning situations like this in the recent past, so Ramos' belief that
they should play the same way whether they are winning or losing saw
them press on towards David James' goal. Defoe let fly and his
shot went wide and then, after Lennon had been substituted for Tainio,
Jamie O'Hara tried his luck, but saw his shot strike a defender.
With seconds left, the urgency of
Portsmouth's situation got to Glen Johnson, who fired a shot hopelessly
over the bar, but when the ball went to the other end, Jermain hit the
top of the post with a rocket of a shot from close range that had James
With the decisions going against
Portsmouth, Distin picked up a nonsensical booking for dissent in injury
time, as the game ended with the Spurs faithful, who had been noisy all
afternoon, expressing their joy at a long awaited away win.
With the three points under their belts
and with two consecutive wins for the first time this season, the team
can go into next week's match with more confidence, although it will be
a different proposition to playing Portsmouth.