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Premier League

Sunday 23rd November 2008

With injury hitting Luka Modric, it might see Spurs return to a more conventional 4-4-2 formation with the visit of Blackburn on Sunday.

Paul Ince has been having a bit of a rough time wince taking over pre-season and his side lie just one place above Tottenham at the moment, so it will be a close affair with the points already looking like they might be worth double in the long run.

Losing Brad Friedel in goal has been a bit of a shock, but his replacement is a familiar face to Tottenham fans.  Paul Robinson left the Lane in the summer after falling out of favour and lacking in confidence after he was unfairly pilloried for a mis-kick when playing for England against Croatia.  He never really regained his form after that and left under a shadow of sorts.  A good shot stopper, his ability to come and take the ball in the air is hampered by his poor footwork and this might be an area where Spurs can make the most of crosses into the area.  With Pavlyuchenko good in the air, Bentley and Lennon will be asked to put the ball there to be headed.  Also, Robbo suffered the same issues that Gomes is now having with pushing shots put in front of goal, so the pressure might be on him if Tottenham do to him, what Fulham did to Gomes on Saturday.  He still seems to be getting beaten from long range and this should encourage Huddlestone and Bentley to have a shot from distance to test him out, while others can get on the end of passing movements inside the area.

The defence has been fairly settled so far this season, with Andre Ooijer, Christopher Samba, Stephen Warnock and Zurab Khizanisvili forming the back four lately.  The Dutchman brings a calmness to the middle of defence and fits in nicely alongside the giant Samba, complementing the strength of the Congo man with a subtlety on the ball.  The slow Khizanisvili, who is good on the ball, takes one flank, while the much sought after Warnock is usually on the other.  But not on this occasion, as he will sit the match out after gaining a suspension.  Danny Simpson has been deployed in midfield on the wing, but might be drafted in at full back, while former captain Ryan Nelsen is out injured for the foreseeable future.  Swede Martin Olsson is coming into the frame after featuring in the League Cup win over Sunderland.

In midfield, there are big injury problems.  Brett Emerton is ruled out with a hamstring problem, David Dunn with a calf/shin injury, summer signing Vince Grella has a hamstring pull and Stephen Reid's knee operation will keep him out for the rest of the season.  They do have wide men Morten Gamst Pedersen and Sergio Peter, while Chilean Carlos Villanueva has been scarcely used, ex-MK Dons man Keith Andrews holds a key role under his former boss, South African Aaron Mokoena has an enforcer role along with Andrews, while Tugay sprays passes about if he is given enough time on the ball.  We must not allow him the space an time that we normally do, as he will make it tell, even though his legs have gone.

Benny McCarthy and Roque Santa Cruz have been the preferred pairing up front, but Jason Roberts has been given the chance to partner the Paraguayan on occasion allowing a strong hold-up player to partner the leaner and taller finisher.  McCarthy suffered a recent suspension and may have to be content with a place on the sub's bench before re-establishing his place in the side.  Signed on a short term deal, veteran Robbie Fowler has been used sparingly, while England Under-21 striker Matt Derbyshire has been relegated to the bench on more occasions than he has played, which is strange as he is pacy and seems to have the knack of goal-scoring.

Tottenham will need to get back to the form of the good run when Redknapp arrived.  It is only one loss, but it has put us back down there and we need to be jumping ahead of the pack while we can.  A tough midfield performance will be required and no errors at the back to earn a win, which I think will be narrow, but possible ...

PREDICTION : -  Tottenham Hotspur  2    Blackburn Rovers  1

For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.


TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : -  Giovani Dos Santos (ankle); Luka Modric (groin); - (-); 

BLACKBURN ROVERS :  - Stephen Reid (knee); Brett Emerton (hamstring); Vince Grella (hamstring); David Dunn (calf/shin); - (-); 


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Tottenham Hotspur   1    Blackburn Rovers   0      (Half-time score : 1-0)

Premier League
Venue : White Hart Lane  
Sunday 23rd November 2008
Kick Off :  13.30 p.m.
Crowd :   35,903
Referee :  Howard Webb (Yorkshire)
Tottenham played towards the Park Lane end in the first half.
Weather :  -  Cold, wet - heavy rain before the match
Teams : - 
Tottenham Hotspur :

  1  Gomes

22  Corluka
39  Woodgate
26  King (c)
32  Assou-Ekotto

  5  Bentley      (24  O'Hara 86)
  8  Jenas     
  6  Huddlestone
  7  Lennon

  9  Pavlyuchenko  (18  Campbell 74)
10  Bent

Unused subs: 
21  Sanchez
  3  Bale
  4  Zokora
16  Gunter
20  Dawson

Blackburn Rovers :

  1  Robinson

  2  Ooijer     
  4  Samba
  6  Nelsen
21  Olsson               

  7  Emerton (27  Derbyshire 71)
17  Andrews     
15  Mokoena
12  Pedersen (24  Treacy 81)

10  McCarthy (22  Simpson 46)
  9  Roque Santa Cruz

Unused subs: 
32  J. Brown
  5  Tugay
23  Fowler
30  Roberts

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of
Tottenham Hotspur

  Blackburn Rovers
Scorers : -  
Tottenham Hotspur

Pavlyuchenko 9

Blackburn Rovers


Cards : -  
Tottenham Hotspur  

Bentley (diving) 45
Jenas (retaliation) 89   


Blackburn Rovers

Olsson (foul) 27
Oojier (foul) 69
Andrews (unsporting conduct) 89

Olsson (second yellow - foul) 39

Match Report : -  
A flat atmosphere and a flat performance could not stop Spurs beating a poor Blackburn Rovers side, who made things even harder for themselves by going down to ten men in the 39th minute before going down 1-0 to a hard-working Tottenham side.

It was a shocking game to watch, with both sides giving the ball away too often and the finishing lacking a clinical touch meaning that there was little flow to the game, especially with Rovers being built in the image of their manager and putting in a physical performance that would have matched the reputation the club had a few years back.

The tone that Blackburn were going to take was set within the first minute of the game.  As Bentley ran up the line to take up a position in support of his forwards, Ooijer blatantly barged him to the ground.  It was the first of several fouls that the Dutchman perpetrated and got away with before referee Webb finally lost patience with him after six fouls and booked him.  Maybe, if he had applied the same intolerance with some players to Ooijer, he would have been back in the dressing room with Olsson.

It was Vedran Corluka who on hand to prevent Rovers having an early chance, as he got in the way of a long ball that bounced off him to Gomes, with Santa Cruz lurking nearby.  Gomes put in an uncertain attempt to hold a corner when he fumbled it and managed to get away with it.  He was a little hesitant as Pedersen tested him from long range, but he grabbed the ball to his chest at the second attempt and looked to release Bentley quickly with his throw out.

Aaron Lennon had almost put Bent through in the right hand side of the penalty area, before he took the ball easily off Olsson, just inside the Blackburn half and skipped away with the defender trying to get back at him, but Aaron cut back in from the dead ball line to make sure the Rovers man could not tackle him.  The little winger had the presence of mind to pull the ball back to Roman Pavlyuchenko, who was just outside the six yard box and swept it first time out of Robinson's reach to hit the net in the ninth minute.  It was an electric run by Lennon and a goal-scorers finish from Pavlyuchenko, who looks like he is happy in his football and enjoying getting on the end of things in the box.

Shortly after the kick-off, Jermaine Jenas drove forward with a powerful run, but his decision to hit a shot on goal, that ended off target, might have been better had he slid a pass through to Bent or Lennon on his right.  Tottenham almost made it two in the 18th minute, as David Bentley swung in a free kick from the left (for another Ooijer foul) was touched on by Roman's head and it hit the base of the post with Robbo stranded.  Unfortunately, the follow up by King would have been ruled out, as Darren Bent was offside. 

Almost straight away, a long ball down the right saw Brett Emerton outpace Assou-Ekotto and as Gomes came out, the Aussie lifted the ball over him and towards goal.  Luckily for Tottenham, Gomes had made enough of an advance to allow Woodgate to get back and head the ball out before Benni McCarthy could get to the lob.

Blackburn should have been level on the 23 minute mark, but when Olsson put in a good low cross from the left wing, McCarthy met it with a volley, but could not control it and it flew off his foot and over the bar.  Even then, his effort was fairly central and Heurelho Gomes might have been well placed had the ball been a couple of feet lower.  Unfortunately for the Swede, he was the first into the book for a late tackle on Lennon.  He managed to get away with another late tackle on the same player, because the ref decided to play on and then not go back to book the perpetrator.

Gomes remained rooted to his line as an in-swinging free-kick was put in and everyone missed it and it ended up in the grateful Brazilian's arms.  Then it was Tottenham's turn to go forward and Lennon cut inside, kept going and struck a low shot that missed the target by about a yard.  By the time Aaron got the ball again, he pushed it past Olsson and the defender could not help himself and crashed Lennon to the floor again.  Webb had little option but to show another yellow and then a red to dismiss the player from the field.  I say little option, but he was a lot more lenient with other Rovers players.

It was Lennon who brought the save of the match from Paul Robinson, when he lashed a loose ball on the edge of the area with his left foot that took a deflection off Ooijer and Robbo kept it out with his legs.  Before the half-time whistle, Huddlestone had struck a fierce shot over the top and Webb construed a hack on Bentley as a dive and put the other Spurs winger into the book.  Strange when a similar assault by Samba on Jenas had not drawn even a whistle from the official.

Paul Ince took the half-time interval to replace Benni McCarthy with defender Danny Simpson, to allow Morten Gamst Pedersen to move back into midfield.  Spurs struggled to play against the ten Rovers men in the second period, with plenty of possession, but very few clear cut chances created. 

The early opportunity was with a stooping Santa Cruz heading a free-kick at goal and Gome held the effort comfortably.  Assou-Ekotto got caught out with a ball inside him and had to rely on Ledley to bale him out.  Eight minutes into the half, Huddlestone struck a long range shot that was deflected wide for a corner and then Tom had another effort that went narrowly over the top this time, as he fired it in from 25 yards out with Robinson beaten all ends up.  Bent was robbed by a good tackle on him by Ooijer as he and Bentley broke away into the Blackburn half. 

Ryan Nelsen joined the rash tackling, with a hack on Assou-Ekotto right on the edge of the penalty area in the 64th minute and from it, Spurs failed to get it through the wall.  Nelsen later was allowed to jump at players with a leading elbow (on more than one occasion), before he knocked Campbell down on the edge of the box and then wrestled with him to prevent him getting up and getting away from him.  The lack of consistency shown by Webb, supposedly one of the country's best referees, was shocking.  He played advantage sometimes and pulled play back, but not all the time, with some players earning cautions without a chance to have a tackle before getting booked, while others had a number of fouls before they entered his notebook.

Tottenham got into some good positions, but failed to produce a killer final ball.  Lennon found Robinson with a cross and Pavlyuchenko should have taken a shot on the Rovers goal rather than try to set up Darren Bent.  Ooijer finally got his booking for the last in a string of fouls, followed by a good chance for Spurs when Woodgate headed a Bentley free-kick over the bar from a couple of feet out.

Rovers best chance of the second half fell to Pedersen after a long ball dropped in front of him, but he lashed it into the ground and the ball went wide of Gomes' goal.  With Rovers still down to ten and tiring, Harry brought on Campbell to replace Pav.  it was a good move, as his pace was integral to keeping Rovers pegged back.  In the 81st minute, he nearly made a goal for Bent, as he got past three back shirted Rovers players tight on the line, his ball across was just missed by the striker at the near post.  Lennon was enjoying himself so much that he came in from the wing on the left to drive a shot straight into Robinson's midriff.

Fraizer almost added to his recent tally of goals when Bentley put in a good cross, straight onto the substitute's head in the six yard box, but he glanced it wide, when really he should have scored.  It had been a patient piece of play on the right wing, in engineering space for the winger to put in a dangerous ball.

The one goal margin was still a slender one and one which could have been levelled.  Samba almost turned up in the same position as last season when he scored the winner in the last minute.  This time, his shot from a free-kick that fell to his feet, hit a Tottenham foot and the ball was cleared.  Santa Cruz tried a flick behind his backside, when Samba's knock down from a long Robinson free-kick dropped behind him.  In the last frantic minute, substitute Treacy tried a shot, but it was blocked and then when Tottenham broke away, the final whistle went and for once, we were pleased to hear that sound from the over-fussy official.

The only bit of excitement in the closing stages was when Andrews (not for the first time) dived in with a forceful challenge on a Spurs player and this time he tangled with Jenas as the midfielder was unbalanced by the ex-MK Dons player.  The handbags ended with Jenas pushing the Fourth Division player and then there were yellow cards for both of them, with Andrews let off lightly for trying to drag Jenas' shorts off him !!

As I said at the start of the match report, this will not live long in the memory, but perhaps it might be the start of the team winning ugly.  They certainly worked hard for each other and closing Rovers down rapidly, but perhaps it took too much out of them in the second half.

It wasn't pretty but it was three points !!



Reaction : -



VISIT FANZINE FANZONE   Wyart Lane's Times Online piece on the win over Blackburn Rovers - "Let's Get Physical"



Other scores this weekend :
Chelsea 0 Newcastle United 0 Saturday
Liverpool 0 Fulham 0 Saturday
Manchester City 3 Arsenal 0 Saturday
Middlesbrough 1 Bolton Wanderers 3 Saturday
Portsmouth 2 Hull City 2 Saturday
Stoke City 1 West Bromwich Albion 0 Saturday
Aston Villa 0 Manchester United 0 Saturday
Sunderland 0 West Ham United 1 Sunday
Wigan Athletic 1 Everton 0 Monday



League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Chelsea 14 10 3 1 32 4 33 +28
2 Liverpool 14 10 3 1 21 8 33 +13
3 Manchester United 13 7 4 2 25 10 25 +15
4 Aston Villa 14 7 3 4 22 16 24 +6
5 Arsenal 14 7 2 5 25 18 23 +7
6 Hull City 14 6 4 4 21 23 22 -2
7 Everton 14 5 4 5 19 21 19 -2
8 Portsmouth 14 5 4 5 15 20 19 -5
9 Middlesbrough 14 5 3 6 15 21 18 -6
10 Fulham 13 5 3 5 12 11 18 +1
11 Manchester City 14 5 2 7 29 22 17 +7
12 West Ham United 14 5 2 7 17 22 17 -5
13 Stoke City 14 5 2 7 13 22 17 -9
14 Bolton Wanderers 14 5 2 7 14 16 17 -2
15 Wigan Athletic 14 4 4 6 15 17 16 -2
16 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 14 4 3 7 17 20 15 -3
17 Sunderland 14 4 3 7 12 20 15 -8
18 Newcastle United 14 3 5 6 15 21 14 -6
19 Blackburn Rovers 14 3 4 7 14 25 13 -11
20 West Bromwich Albion 14 3 2 9 10 25 11 -15

Before the game :  19th
After the game :  15th
After the weekend's games :  16th

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