|DATE||Sunday 18th December 2011|
|VENUE||White Hart Lane|
Martin O'Neill's installation in the hot seat at the Stadium of
Light seems to have had an initial boost, with them beating
Blackburn Rovers after coming back form a goal down. But after
waiting for a few years for the right job to come along, you have to
wonder why O'Neill took this one ? His boyhood club that he
supported ... well, a good excuse for Robbie Keane, but are they
that much of a bigger club than Aston Villa, who he walked out on ?
Is the owner more loose with the purse strings than Randy Learner ?
And while the club is always a sleeping giant, what exactly will it
take to wake them up ? O'Neill might well think it is him.
It is certainly a challenge, as the team lack goals and have lacked confidence and points over the last year. With Asamoah Gyan going off to the Middle East to fill his pockets rather than filling goal nets for the Black Cats, rising star Connor Wickham finding his feet at the top level and former Spurs loan striker Frazier Campbell becoming injury prone, Sunderland have had to rely on contributions from former Arsenal wide man Seb Larsson, while his fellow Gooner Nicolas Bendtner (on loan) has only scored twice, along with midfielders Kieran Richardson and Stephane Sessegnon.
Some of the problems have come from injuries, but the team seemed to lose their way under Steve Bruce and the ten players he brought in during the summer transfer window didn't really produce the impact he no doubt had hoped for. O'Neill's enthusiasm will inject renewed vigour into the squad. His teams follow a certain pattern, with a solid midfield and strong back line, topped off by a physical front pairing, who are fed the ball early from the back to the wings.
The defence hasn't been particularly solid in the recent past, with Manchester United pair Wes Brown and John O'Shea both taking time to settle in, while the likes of Phil Bardsley and Titus Bramble have ousted Michael Turner, who had performed well in the past. And much is the same in midfield, where the players are all similar with only Larsson offering something different. A lot of short, busy midfielders such as Jack Colbeck, David Vaughan, Craig Gardner and Cattermole, whose physical presence is often missing through suspension. Sessignon is a midfielder who Spurs looked at and possesses and energy and drive that takes him into goal-scoring positions, but Tottenham will have to ensure that he has to concentrate on his defensive duties.
Spurs have been set back by the defeat at Stoke and O'Neill will be looking to replicate the way the Potters played to try and shock Spurs with a fast start and get plenty of balls into the box, especially, with Tottenham down to their last two central defenders. On the flip side, we have to make sure that we play at the same tempo that makes other teams find it difficult to live with us. That way, the pace we exert on the flanks make Sunderland concentrate on defending there, while Modric and van der Vaart can pick holes through the opposition through the middle.
The new manager syndrome will make it more difficult than this match might have been a couple of weeks ago, but I think there will still be the right outcome for Spurs to keep the pressure on at the top of the table.
|PREDICTION||Tottenham Hotspur 2 Sunderland 1|
|Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , history, etc.|
HOTSPUR TEAM NEWS :
Younes Kaboul is banned for the game after being sent off at Stoke City last week and Ledley King (knee) is doubtful, while Michael Dawson (Achilles) and Tom Huddlestone (ankle) are both still out. Everyone else is fit, but some doubt remains about Roman Pavlyuchenko's back injury.
SUNDERLAND TEAM NEWS :
Lee Cattermole returns from suspension to be available and Nicolas Bendtner may return up front after a groin injury. Criag Gordon will be out for the season with a knee injury, while there are other long term absentees in Simon Mingolet (face) and Frazier Campbell (knee). Also out is Marcos Angeleri with a knee injury.
available on BBC radio, it can supposedly be heard
in these countries on these stations ...
1 (0) Sunderland 0 (0)
Sunday 18th December 2011 Kick off 15:00
White Hart Lane
Assou-Ekotto (foul) 49
Richardson (kicking ball away) 50
Vaughan (foul) 66
|Crowd : 36,021||Weather : Chilly, dry, but rain before game|
|Referee : Mike Dean (Wirral)||Assistant Referees : - (-)|
|Fourth Official : -||-|
|Tottenham kicked off and played towards the Park Lane end in the first half.|
|Tottenham Hotspur :||kit||Sunderland :||kit|
11 van der Vaart (25 Rose 89)
|Manager : Harry Redknapp||Manager : Martin O'Neill|
|Sponsor : Aurasma||Shirt sponsor : Tombola|
|Kit Supplier : Puma||Kit Supplier : Umbro|
Suffering the absence of Gareth Bale and shortly into the game, the added loss of Aaron Lennon on the other wing, Tottenham struggled to break down a defensively set up Sunderland side, who, under new manager Martin O'Neill, were looking to take on the confidence gained from a win over Blackburn Rovers last week, but could only go down 1-0 at White Hart Lane.
While they had spells where they strung passes together, the Black Cats were happy in the main to sit back and try to frustrate Tottenham, but in the end they were undone by a super piece of finishing from substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko and could have lost by more, as Tottenham finally got their game together in the second half.
Going into the game off the back of a defeat at Stoke, it was important to see how Spurs bounced back and the first period saw them look disjointed and lacking the incisive play they have displayed so far this season. However, even so, they produced a number of nervy moments for the visitors.
Ten minutes into the game, Aaron Lennon got to the dead ball line and pulled the ball back across the box, but it fell to the far side, where Benoit Assou-Ekotto picked up the ball and fired in a shot that could have been going just wide, until Rafael van der Vaart got a piece of his body on the ball to deflect it at goal, but the ball sped past the post. Three minutes later, VDV set Sandro into the right hand channel in the box with a neat touch and the Brazilian set himself, but could not find the finish, as he dragged his shot wide across goal. With 25 minutes gone, Lennon pulled up after going on a run up the right wing, but his grab at his hamstring was not what Spurs fans wanted to see, as he had been getting joy in running at Bardsley.
Harry chose to bring on Pavlyuchenko form the subs bench, with Jermain Defoe injured and not available. With Spurs reorganising, Sunderland took the opportunity go forward and with Richardson hitting a low shot that Friedel dived to his right to hold, the Black Cats had their first effort on target. The second followed shortly after when Larsson struck a free kick from 25 yards that Friedel had to produce a Hollywood save to keep out, punching the ball wide as it headed inside his right hand post. in between, Richardson was too far ahead of Larsson's low ball in to convert after Benoit had lost the ball.
A minute before the break, Spurs had their first dangerous moment in the box, when a good move on the left freed Parker in the box and his hooked cross saw Pav go in with Westwood for the ball and the keeper got there first, pushing the ball out onto the Spurs man, who could do nothing about it as it hit him and went wide. From the crowd's reaction you would have thought that Pav should have made more of it.
The half time break saw Tottenham warming up Jake Livermore the hardest of all the subs, but there was no change at the restart and Sunderland were sharper again, with Vaughan making an unchallenged run from halfway,. as Sandro trailed behind him, but his well struck drive was held on the dive by Friedel as the rising shot looked like it might catch the Spurs keeper out. Sunderland were pressing higher up the pitch, with Assou-Ekotto picking up a yellow card when he fouled Vaughan after losing the ball to him on the wing.
Five minutes in and there was a tactical change with Sandro dropping into a position to cover the defenders, with Assou-Ekotto and Walker playing a more advanced role to push the Sunderland wide men back towards their own goal. This allowed van der Vaart to roam a bit more freely, as he had been dropping deep in the first half, but to little effect.
Scott Parker also took the initiative to push Spurs forward with some driving runs, with a shot in the 55th minute that clipped a heel to take the ball wide. But Sunderland hit back with a good passing move through midfield that saw Sessegnon release Colback into the area, but he hesitated and that allowed Sandro to hack the ball clear before there was any further danger to the Spurs goal. Tottenham started to close the Sunderland players down and pressured Wes Brown into a stray pass that Scott Parker picked off and within a flash, van der Vaart had played a reverse pass between two players to put Pavlyuchenko through and his early low shot left Westwood beaten to his right as the ball inside the far post.
While Pav has his moments, as he did in this game, where he loses possession and doesn't appear to be on the same wavelength as others, the Russian often does what he is paid for in hitting the net when required. It is understandable that he needs playing time, but he is a player that other clubs would want and therefore, he is one that should be kept in the transfer window, along with Defoe ... if he wants to stay.
Tottenham started to open up and play some nice football, with van der Vaart and Modric pulling the strings in advanced midfield positions. Another astute van der Vaart pass set Adebayor through and his shot was at a nice height for Westwood to parry, but the ball ran into the middle of the goal and the arriving Modric looked odds on to score, but somehow ballooned the ball way over the bar with a clear goal in front of him. It was an amazing miss that drew songs praising him from the Spurs crowd, whereas you felt that some others might have been pilloried for the same outcome.
Spurs were grateful to Gallas and King for some well timed interceptions as they read the play with their experience, while Sandro was covering a lot of ground and making some stretching, clean tackles as Sunderland players approached the Spurs box. His second half performance was him back to his best.
The game opened up as Sunderland looked for an equaliser on the break. Kyle Walker struck a shot back at goal when the ball was cleared, but another deflection sent it wide, then at the other end, Bendtner got the ball down on the left and shot at goal, but the ball was half-hit and the save was easy for Friedel. The movement off the ball came back tot he Spurs game, as Sunderland could not live with it and they drew fouls on the edge of the box, but could not make anything form the free-kicks. Amazingly, Bramble was not cautioned for bringing Pav down on the edge from behind as he was turned. The Russian turned away from his marker again and managed to get a shot away, but it went a wide to the left of the goal.
There was one last chance for Sunderland as Sessegnon set up ex-Gooner Bendtner to score against the old enemy, but he snatched at the volley and it went way wide to the derision of the crowd. Spurs held out, with Friedel claiming a low ball into the box to snuff out any chance of the visitors equalising at the death, which they would not have deserved, but with a 1-0 lead, it is always very tenuous.
It was not a fluent performance by Spurs, nor one which will last long in the memory, but a win in these circumstances bodes well, with Christmas coming up and the games schedule packed so all the players will be needed and we have to live without some of our star performers sometimes.
The only gripe I would have is our goals to chances ratio, which should be better with the forwards we have, but the goals are coming from all over and with Chelsea dropping points yesterday, this win sets it up nicely for Thursday's pre-Christmas match with the Blues at the Lane.
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|What you thought|
|Other scores during this week :|
|Blackburn Rovers||1||West Bromwich Albion||2||Saturday|
|Newcastle United||0||Swansea City||0||Saturday|
|Wolverhampton Wanderers||1||Stoke City||2||Saturday|
|Queens Park Rangers||0||Manchester United||2||Sunday|
|13||West Bromwich Albion||16||5||3||8||16||24||18||-8|
|15||Queens Park Rangers||16||4||4||8||15||28||16||-13|
Position before match :
Position after match : 3rd
Position after the weekend : 3rd
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