|DATE||Sunday 19th May 2013|
|VENUE||White Hart Lane|
It will be no holiday camp for Spurs on the last day of the season,
with all to play for against the threatened Black Cats of
Sunderland, who will have their holiday cut short if they fail to
perform. I am not sure how many players will want to stay at
the Stadium of Light with such "incentives" hanging over them
through a whole season.
With all the major places decided in the Premier League, the focus will be on Spurs and Arsenal as they battle it out for the final Champions League qualification place. And knowing of our last day experiences in previous years, even if we could get fourth place UEFA would probably come up with a new ruling that would allow the Goons to go into the Champions League ... much like they found a way into the First Division back in 1919.
But back to the game in hand and Sunderland come to White Hart Lane secure that next season Paolo di Canio will be leading them in the Premier League once more. More by dint of other results going their way, Sunderland stayed up after the sacking of Martin O'Neill and the controversial appointment of the Italian who had just left Swindon Town.
The Wearsiders main issue this season has been the lack of a potent goal-scorer. Steven Fletcher is their top scorer with 11, while next up is Craig Gardner with eight and then Stephane Sessignon, who has seven. Unfortunately for the visitors they will be without all three because of injury and suspension, but with their last three goals coming from defenders, Spurs need to be aware at set-pieces/ One of those defenders won't be playing, as Danny Rose can't play against his parent club while on loan, even if he didn't have a wrist injury.
There may be a chance for Connor Wickham to lead the line after having a tough time at Sunderland after a move that saw him turn down some bigger clubs (including Tottenham) to sign for the North-Eastern club. He will probably be paired with Danny Graham, who has yet to score since signing from Swansea City in January. The Sunderland fans have given him a hard time, so it will be interesting to see how they respond to his inclusion on Sunday. Mikael Mandron is a young Frenchman who the club have high hopes for and he might get a run out from the bench as the game goes on.
The midfield still contains some players of note, despite being stripped of a number of players who got sent off or got injured. James McClean, David Vaughan, Seb Larsson and Adam Johnson might be the four across the middle of the pitch, although di Canio might go for the physical presence of Alfred N'Daye. Johnson has dropped out of the limelight since he signed for Manchester City and didn't get a regular start there. He hopes to rebuild his career at Sunderland and I hope he does, as he is a talented winger. McClean could be just as talented if he concentrated on his football and let go of the issues which bring controversy along with him (not wearing a poppy on Armistice Day, argument son Twitter, etc). Strong and physical, he sometimes tends to concentrate on the muscular side of his game and ends up making poor decisions when on the ball, as his head is elsewhere. Larsson and Vaughan are capable workers in midfield, with Larsson good at delivering set-pieces, but both have had better times in the top flight. Jack Colback is another option, with his work-rate earning him appreciation as he does a lot of the dirty work in midfield.
At the back, Sunderland are limited in who they have available, with John O'Shea, Carlos Cuellar, Phil Bardsley and Matthew Kilgallon likely to be the four to start. Kilgallon is the youngest and while the other three are good going forward, it my be that they will need to make best use of their experience to be on their toes against the likes of Bale, Lennon, Adebayor and Defoe in this match. One thing that they will be strong on, is being good in the air at both ends of the pitch, with the highly rated Simon Mingolet behind them, they have one of the better keepers in the top flight. He is decent in the air, but not great and his reflexes have brought him to the attention of other clubs, as he has produced some fine stops this campaign.
For Spurs, it is not even win or bust, as they could win and still not get what they aimed for this season. However, 72 points will be Tottenham's best Premier League haul should they win and in AVB's first season, that is not a bad return. The PL has not been great this season and there have been some poor teams and others who have had poor runs. That means that points dropped early on in the season, on Merseyside and at home to Wigan and Fulham have cost us. We can but hope that the Gooners' poor run has cost them more dearly.
|PREDICTION||Tottenham Hotspur 2 Sunderland 1|
|Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , an alternative history, etc.|
HOTSPUR TEAM NEWS :
Spurs are still without Younes Kaboul (thigh), Sandro (knee) and William Gallas (calf), but Benoit Assou-Ekotto has recovered from a knock on his knee and is ready for selection.
SUNDERLAND TEAM NEWS :
Sunderland will be without Danny Rose, who cannot play against us during his loan spell with the Black Cats and suspended Stephane Sessignon and Craig Gardner miss the match too. Injuries rob the Black Cats of Wes Brown (knee), Steven Fletcher (ankle), Titus Bramble (calf) and Lee Cattermole (knee).
available on BBC radio, it can supposedly be heard
in these countries on these stations ...
1 (0) Sunderland
Sunday 19th May 2013 Kick off 16:00
White Hart Lane
Bale (simulation) 21
McClean (foul on Huddlestone) 39
David Vaughan (foul on Parker) 53
Mikael Mandron (foul on Bale) 79
|Crowd : 36,763||Weather : Dry, warm, sunny|
|Referee : Andre Marriner (West Mildands)||Assistant Referees : Mr. S. Long; Mr. S. Child|
|Fourth Official : Phil Dowd||-|
|Spurs kicked off and played towards the Park Lane end in the first half.|
|Tottenham Hotspur :||kit||Sunderland :||kit|
Mousa DEMBELE 64)
10 Emmanuel ADEBAYOR
7 Sebastien LARSSON
24 Carlos CUELLAR
16 John O'SHEA
14 Jack COLBACK
Danny GRAHAM (37
Sam MITCHELL 88)
|Manager : Andre Villas-Boas||Manager : Paolo di Canio|
|Sponsor : Aurasma||Shirt sponsor : Invest In Africa|
|Kit Supplier : Under Armour||Kit Supplier : adidas|
While there are difficulties in playing a team whose sole intent is not to lose ... or as their controversial manager put it "to lose with dignity", Sunderland failed to do that and Spurs achieved a record season total with 72, but this season it was not enough to get fourth place as results elsewhere went against them. A late late Gareth Bale stunner won the game for Tottenham and while it had been hard to break the visitors down, time-wasting from the fifth minute of the game made that task even harder.
The warm summer sunshine that shone down proved not to be the luck of the gods shining on Spurs, but it wasn't all about today ... weirdly dubbed "Judgement Day" by Sky. Points dropped at home in a few games and those lost on Merseyside might be viewed as the difference between Champions League and Europa League. Whichever, the fans, in general, appeared to appreciate that the win providing Tottenham's highest points tally in the Premier League had been one at the end of a season which had more highs than lows and that has seen the team progress as a unit, if not in terms of league placement.
With Sunderland already safe, the only thing they had to play for was a longer summer holiday, with di Canio threatening to to curtail if if they didn't put in the effort at White Hart Lane. They could certainly have been said to put a lot of effort into the game, but much of it ended up channelled in the wrong way and in goalkeeper Simon Mingolet's case, you might argue that he was putting the minimum effort in, as he strolled about and looked most reluctant to take every goal-kick that came his way. Guess he won't be punished by the Black Cats boss though.
Spurs attacked from the firs tot the last minute and it was just as well they did. There were some early testing moments for the Sunderland goalie, who looked nervy in dealing with anything in the air and his punching was less than convincing ... even when pushing shots away, there was an apprehension in his technique. He saved well at the foot of his left hand post when Walker headed the ball forward and Adebayor ran onto it, but with no support, he had to shoot at goal from an acute angle. Tottenham's crossing was not the best - either low at Mingolet or too high for the player attacking the ball, but they were having more luck spraying the ball from wing to win and playing short through the middle. Dempsey had a header just over and then a shot blocked on the edge of the box.
In the 20th minute, Tom Huddlestone played a pass that only Tom Huddlestone can and it fell perfectly for Gareth Bale to run onto it. Up against make-shift full back Larsson, he ran him on the outside, going left and from my seat a good 80 yards away, I could see an arm used on Bale's back to nudge him over. Without a penalty at the Lane for the best part of two years, it looked like Marriner would rush towards the area pointing to the spot. But no, Ancient managed to rush to the box pointing at where Bale had been felled and produced a yellow card for diving. So, two games against Sunderland this season and two bookings for Bale for diving when we should have had two penalties. Referees seem to have little understanding of the laws of physics, let alone laws of the game.
With pressure building on the Sunderland goal, they were making it hard for Tottenham to find shooting opportunities. A clearance came to Hud and he chested it down, hitting a half-volley which the keeper saved well, but it lacked a little power to test him further. On the half hour, Sunderland found something within themselves to produce an attack and with Graham released on the right side of the box, he crossed low into the near post area and Connor Wickham got there ahead of Dawson to hit a shot at goal, which Hugo Lloris was in the right place to block with a save at his post at the expense of a corner. With the majority of possession, Spurs were dictating the game, with a slightly ponderous approach that allowed Sunderland to get two ranks of four back behind the ball on most occasions. As the game came towards half-time, Dempsey tried a shot from outside the box, which Mingolet fell on.
Half time came with other results no better than our, so as it stood, we were set for the Europa League. Ledley provided tales of his trips around the world as the Club's Ambassador meeting Spurs Supporters Clubs, while behind us in the East Stand Executive boxes, one was occupied by Sandro and Danny Rose, while in the Legends suite, Micky Hazard, Mark Falco, Clive Wilson and former fitness coach Kunle Odetoyinbo were watching on ... all hopefully waiting for the Spurs goal that might make a difference.
The second half kicked off after a centre circle discussion between Bale and Marriner about what the Welshman has to do to get a penalty. He might as well have saved his breath, as Cuellar saved a goal-bound shot from Adebayor later in the half as he threw himself on the floor, but it would have been harsh to expect a referee to actually follow the game and make a decision on what he had seen. Bale's effort at goal found it's way to Lennon and his shot went wide of the goal, while at the other end, Huddlestone was robbed of the ball 35 yards from goal and Graham was played in by Wickham and his low shot brought a good stop from Hugo, diving low to his left and Jan Vertonghen cleared it up with a clearance as a visiting player closed in.
Seven minutes after the break, Scott Parker won a great tackle on the touchline in front of the West Stand and ran forward, leaving four Sunderland players in his wake, but Vaughan caught him up and brought him down form behind earning a yellow card in the process. Bale took a free-kick, this time for Colback's pull on Lennon, but Mingolet dropped it, Dempsey's effort was deflected up in the air, Vertonghen hooked it back and at the far post, Huddlestone tried to get over the ball as it bounced up chest high, but could not get it below the bar, much to the disgust of some people around me. We all want to see fantastic things on a football pitch, but do some people realise what is possible and what is not ??
As Tottenham pressed forward, there were opportunities for Sunderland to get up the pitch themselves, with Wickham heading straight at Lloris with little power behind it from McClean's cross, before Adam Johnson got away on the right, choosing to shoot at goal when he had two players at the far post he could have picked out. His effort rose high into the Park Lane end. Spurs had better luck getting shots on target in the 62nd minute, when the oppo's keeper spilled another cross and Scott Parker got hold of the ball and drove it at goal low down, but Colback got a block on the ball in front of the line and when it came out to Aaron Lennon, he shot low, but again Colback got a touch to take the ball onto the keeper's left hand post and the ball bounced out. Then a couple of minutes later, Michael Dawson headed a corner back across goal, with the keeper punching the ball straight to Clint Dempsey, whose shot hit Vertonghen as it was on it's way to goal. Dawson was again denied on the line in the 65th minute, when his header was blocked by Larsson by the post.
After being upended by Colback, Bale picked himself up and in the next forward move, he ran at the defence from just inside his own half and was only thwarted by Mingolet's leg keeping the ball out. Spurs continued to put pressure on the away goal and when Lennon picked the ball up on the left, he ran across the face of the penalty area and poked a pass off to Bale, but as he did so, Vaughan came in late and took his down, which was rash and like last week, a little ill-disciplined, as the referee really had no option but to show him a second yellow and then pull out a red. Fifteen minutes to go and Sunderland had made two substitutions already. One of those then went into the book for a foul on Bale, as the Black Cats were losing some of their good fortune.
It looked as though the Bale shooting boots had been left at home, as his free-kicks tended to be on target, but lacked the power to trouble Mingolet unnecessarily. Sunderland's defending became desperate with players throwing themselves in the way of shots and players, but our set pieces lacked threat and with Sigurdsson and Defoe joining the play, Tottenham were stacked up with strikers, all willing to have a go. As it was, Sunderland's changes were to have just as much effect on the final outcome. Bale took a pass out on the right wing. With a little bit of space, he came infield and found substitute Sam Mitchell facing him. Racing the ball past him on the inside, the youngster was unable to keep up with him and with a flash of the boot and a blink of an eye, the ball had rocketed from the Welshman's foot to the top corner of the net without Mingolet having any chance of stopping it.
With it mirroring his goal at home against Southampton, Gareth had turned the match around in the very last minute of the ninety. His celebration was unbridled and his roar of "This is what I'm all about" summed up his season. A man for the moment and a man who chooses that moment to change games. Whether he stays or goes this season or any other, it has been a privilege to watch him play for Tottenham Hotspur.
Like other teams who have attempted to see out time from the first whistle, Sunderland were no on the hurry-up, but they lacked the requisite numbers and the requisite skill to do so. Spurs played keep-ball and ran the corners to see out time and then wait for news to come through to see if anyone had done them a favour. They didn't and the only consolation was that this season we didn't have to wait days until we found ourselves out of the Champions League.
From my point of view, this match was a microcosm of the season. Some fantastic goals - many late in the game - having secured results against teams who are less willing to play the game than ourselves. And AVB has instilled a way of playing that makes teams play that way against us, making it difficult to rest for a moment. Games that cost us points earlier in the campaign might now be looked back on and points we have lost are all painful ones now, but that must be turned into positives for the way we approach matches next season. Some good buys in the summer might address some of the reasons we lost points, but the squad seem together and hopefully, the bulk of them will be back in August to have another crack.
The Heathrow Spur
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|What you thought|
|Other scores during this week :|
|Liverpool||1||Queens Park Rangers||0||Sunday|
|Manchester City||2||Norwich City||3||Sunday|
|West Bromwich Albion||5||Manchester United||5||Sunday|
|West Ham United||4||Reading||2||Sunday|
|Wigan Athletic||2||Aston Villa||2||Sunday|
|8||West Bromwich Albion||38||14||7||17||54||58||49||-4|
|10||West Ham United||38||12||10||16||42||50||46||-8|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||38||4||13||21||30||60||25||-30|
Position before match :
Position after match : 5th
Position after the weekend : 5th
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