With the season going to the last kick in typical Tottenham style, a
goal from the right boot of Roman Pavyluchenko gave Spurs fifth place in
the table and automatic qualification to the Europa League and condemned
Birmingham City to relegation on points rather than on goals scored, as
had been the case just before the 2-1 win was sealed.
Spurs were well worth this win in a weird
game that saw Birmingham needing a win to be realistically safe from
going down, but not appearing to want to make any attempt to go for the
three points. The lack of attacking intent perhaps sums up why
they are going to be playing Championship football next season, with few
efforts to cross the halfway line in the first half and their first shot
on target that Cudicini had to save coming in the 71st minute.
As for Spurs, they did what they have
come to do best. Have the majority of the play and struggle to put
Two goals from substitute Roman
Pavlyuchenko settled the game, when Spurs should really have been making
City keeper Ben Foster, widely tipped to be a target for Spurs in the
summer, work a lot harder. Shots went wide and crosses over the
intended target, leaving the visiting defence relatively comfortable in
coping with what problems we posed.
Harry Redknapp had a couple of enforced
changes to make, as injuries to Steven Pienaar and Rafael van der Vaart
meant starts for Tom Huddlestone and Jermain Defoe. While Spurs
had the early possession after kicking off, it took until the 10th
minute before we managed to get a save out of Foster. Crouchy took
the ball down in the box and slipped it to the right where Sandro moved
forward to a narrow angle and fired in a low shot that took the keeper
by surprise and he had to kick the ball out for a corner with his feet
at his near post.
Twice Tommy tried trademark shots from
outside the box and twice blue shirts rushed him to block his efforts,
but Sandro hit a shot on the turn on the left hand corner of the area to
bring a tip-over save from Foster with 14 minutes gone. Tottenham
were moving the ball forward through the midfield, but the build-up
seemed a little slow, allowing Birmingham to get men back behind the
ball and without the high tempo, they failed to get in behind them that
often. Modric was probing with his runs and passes, as the Blues
allowed Tottenham all the ball in their own last two thirds, while they
presented massed ranks in their own last third, making it difficult for
Spurs to make too many openings.
Rose flashed a cross with nobody alert to
touch it in after Defoe managed to turn a pass from Modric into the path
of Crouch, who hit a low shot that went wide. Lennon's cross was
won by Crouch and Defoe got his head to it, but Foster took the ball
easily low to his right, although our lanky striker had got battered by
Johnson and Davies as he went for that ball in the air, requiring him to
receive treatment and then have to go off, with Pav coming on in his
With a couple of minutes to go to
half-time, Kaboul marauded down the right and hit a cross that looked
reasonably harmless, but Foster had to throw up a hand to push it out,
as it looked like it somehow might creep past him. With the
whistle imminent, Modric found some space in a central position and he
hit s shot that thudded straight into Foster's stomach.
Half-time came and went with the
successful women's team showing off their League trophy, but thoughts
were more concentrated on scores elsewhere to see if Liverpool were
doing better than us (they weren't) and for the results among the
bottom-dwellers to see if the Bluenoses were staying up (they were).
The second half saw Spurs attacking their
preferred Paxton Road end, but the first action came at the Park Lane,
where Fahey found himself with a shooting opportunity seconds into the
45 minutes, but he pulled his shot very wide of the goal. When
play moved to the other end Defoe forced Johnson into blocking his shot
and Sandro put in a cross that Foster took well, but on 49 minutes Danny
Rose's ball in from the left found Roman, about 30 yards from goal.
The pass had gone through Gardner's legs and arrived with the Russian, who
strode forward a couple of paces and picked out a precise curling shot
that went around Johnson and left Foster looking at the ball as it went
inside his left hand post. As frustrating as Pav can be, he can
produce sublime moments like this (as well as explosive ones, like his
volley at Bolton) that mark him out as a classy goal-scorer. You
just wish he did it a bit more often.
With that goal and results elsewhere,
things were changing at the bottom of the table almost by the minute.
But rather than being reliant on news coming in, Birmingham should have
been making sure they were masters of their destiny. Their overly
cautious approach meant that they now had to open up and try and get at
least one goal ... something that might be difficult after the season
they had been having with less than a goal a game and something that
McLeish had recognised might cause them problems if they played too
open. But circumstances dictated that was what they needed to do.
However, they had some Spurs attacks to
deal with first. Defoe made a dart inside from the left, as he can
do and hit a shot that hit Davies and flew wide, then from the resulting
corner, Lennon played the ball to Huddlestone and it was quickly moved
on to Modric, who from the left side of the box hit a low shot that
Foster dived to save. Pav was shooting on sight now and struck one
wide and one over.
Meanwhile, there was a moment of concern
at the other end, when Ledley got back to cut out a cross and from the
corner to the far post, Johnson headed down, but wide, only for Ferguson
to be standing on the goal-line just wide of the goal and instinctively
knock the ball back across goal, where it took everyone by surprise and
without time to react. So, it took until the 64th minute to raise
anything like a threat on the Tottenham goal.
The game was opening up a bit and Sandro
sent Lennon away on the right wing and he sprinted 50 yards away from
the Blues defenders and set up Tom Huddlestone for a shot from just
outside the box, but he didn't quite get it right and it curled away
from goal about a yard wide. Play switched ends and a clear
shooting opportunity for Gardner in the 71st minute saw the midfielder
drill his shot into Cudicini's midriff from 25 yards out, then, in the
next minute, Pav did the same with Foster at the other end, while in
Birmingham's next attack a corner came out to Fahey, but he hit a shot a
couple of feet wide of the Spurs keeper's goal from outside the area.
But it was another corner, in the 78th
minute, that resulted in Birmingham scoring. It was headed out by
King to Ferguson on the edge of the box and his shot was blocked as
Danny Rose charged it down, but the ball dropped inside to Craig
Gardner, who drilled it on the half-volley through a crowd of players
and past Cudicini to hit the bottom left hand corner of the Italian's
net. The blue corner of the ground turned into a jumping mass of
joyous fans, who had seen their team pull themselves out of the bottom
three, at the same time as other fans elsewhere in the country were
probably burying their heads in their hands as the news came through.
Spurs looked like their inability to
score had been undermined by the opposition breaking their habit of
their own inability to hit the net. Birmingham had obviously got
the taste for it, as three minutes later, a free-kick from 25 yards was
hit at goal by Gardner and with Cudicini seemingly beaten, it glanced off the top of the crossbar on its way over the goal.
Birmingham didn't know what to do, with
the results of the other teams threatened by relegation were changing
all the time. Spurs attacked and Sandro couldn't quite get a
decent contact on Lennon's cross that came in chest high and Defoe
couldn't quite get on the end of it at the far post with six minutes to
go. There was a scare for Spurs, with Derbyshire going down around
the box, but Clattenburg pointed to give a free-kick against the Brum
player for diving.
News filtered through that Wolves had
scored and although still losing, they would be staying up on the number
of goals scored, over Birmingham. Substitute Kranjcar was looking
for what might have been a farewell goal, but was firstly denied when
blocked by Davies and then hit one powerfully wide.
Into added time, Johnson rose again to
head a corner, but Ridgewell could not get there at the far post and it
looked like the chance had gone for Birmingham and that was confirmed in
the third minute of added time, when Rose won the ball on the left and
it went forward to Pav out wide. The striker cut inside and with
nothing much on, struck a 20-yard shot that flicked off Fahey and
dipped over Foster, hitting the underside of the crossbar on the way in
to give Spurs the win that secured fifth place and ensured that
Birmingham would be relegated.
The blue shirted players sank to the
ground and when they got back up, there was only just time to kick off,
but the final whistle went before the shot from halfway got even halfway
to Cudicini's goal. The fans in the blue corner were stunned.
But to their credit, they found their voice and gave their club a vocal
support that some teams might have turned into boos (even those who finished
fourth). The Spurs fans showed their admiration with a round of
applause for the Bluenoses, who were defiant in defeat.
So, much as he had done back in July in
Bournemouth, Pav hit two goals and Spurs ended up winning, but this win
means much more than the first pre-season game. It means European
football, albeit in the Europa League (and that perhaps says much about
Tottenham that we are now disappointed with being in this competition)
and it also means that we don't have to rely on entering it through the
Fair Play League and going through the qualifying competition that
seemingly starts next week !! it will allow Tottenham to have a
pre-season, before a gruelling campaign in the Premier and Europa
leagues get underway.
So, a sunny end to the season with the
players collecting their club awards and wandering around the pitch,
with some who will be doing it for the last time and some we need to be
doing it again in years to come.
Have a great summer ... it will soon go