For the massed ranks of Spurs fans who attended the inaugural Wembley
Cup tournament at the national stadium, it was a chance to see Tottenham
play at the Venue of Legends, but unfortunately, there were few
Barcelona players of that ilk taking part, as they began their
pre-season programme with a shadow side and a 1-1 draw, thinks to a late
goal from Jake Livermore salvaging a point for Spurs.
Having said that their big name Barca
players stayed on the bench, there were still enough class player sin
the side to show Tottenham what to do when you have possession of the
ball ... Keep it !!
With injuries at the back, there was a
reshuffled back four containing Tom Huddlestone and Vedran Corluka at
the heart of it. Not the quickest pairing, but an interesting one,
as it might be a good place for Hud to play, as it allows the game to
unfold in front of him and he can spread the ball around from the back
to a greater number of options in front of him.
The early stages of the game saw both
sides starting at a slow pace, with Barcelona's possession giving them
the edge to carve out the first chance when Abidal almost got on the end
of a delicate ball into the area from Toure. In the eighth minute,
Tottenham created an opening, with Alan Hutton getting away on the right
and crossing just too high for Luka Modric. Another eight minutes
gone and another chance, this time for Eidur Gudjonsen, who attempted an
athletic scissor kick to Toure's ball to the far post, but he failed to
prefect the execution and the ball was cleared away. Shortly
after, Bojan Krkic, a player linked with a loan move to Spurs, dropped a
shoulder and left Huddlestone behind him before trying to dink the ball
over Cudicini, but his effort was too high and too wide.
Captain Jermaine Jenas was looking
athletic, but his passing is the one aspect that sometimes lets his game
down. On this occasion, he picked out Defoe's run in on goal, but
Spanish keeper Jorquera raced out of his area to kick the ball away and
soon it was the keeper at the other end in action, with Pedro Rodriguez
cutting infield from his right wing position to strike a low shot that
would have crept inside Cudicini's post if he hadn't been alert enough
to dive and turn it inches wide with a strong hand.
For about ten minutes, neither side
seemed able to gain the upper hand and only an ultimately forlorn effort
form Toure with a 30 yard free-kick, which almost troubled the few fans
in one of the upper tiers, was about the only effort worth noting.
His next dead ball play was knocked short and Fontas got on the end of
Pedro's cross, but Hutton made good ground to block the ball.
However, both Hutton and Pascal Chimbonda were guilty of getting the
ball played over their heads and Assou-Ekotto also fell prey to the same
tactic, which let player sin behind them.
All this was building up to Barcelona
scoring a goal. An unnecessary throw-in was conceded and from it,
the ball found its way to Yaya Toure near the halfway line. An old
failing in not closing down players on the ball quick enough saw him
reach the edge of the penalty area, where Palacios missed him with an
untidy lunge, Corluka failed to tackle him and Huddlestone did, but the
ball ran to Bojan, who calmly side-footed past Cudicini from the left
side of the penalty box about 12 yards out in the 32nd minute. It
was a bad goal to concede, even to a team like Barcelona and it looked
as though it might signal a submission, as three minutes later Pedro
took Gudjonsen's pass to beat Cudicini, but was disappointed to see the
linesman's flag raised to give him offside.
While things were not going well,
Tottenham almost got back into the game with their first decent bit of
play. Palacios got the ball in midfield and broke in the right
hand channel, passing forward for Modric to run onto it and smack a
quickly taken shot that flicked off a defender's leg and beat the
keeper, but bounced back off the woodwork. Aaron Lennon picked the
ball up inside the area and knocked in a cross that beat everyone and
landed with Benoit Assou-Ekotto. The defender shaped to hit a shot
and in trying to keep the ball down, he hit it into the ground and the
resulting bounce almost confused Jorquera, who had to use his feet to
get back into position and tip the ball over the top.
With minutes to go to the break, Vedran
Corluka did his usual trick of passing straight to the opposition on the
edge of the Spurs box and Sanchez took the opportunity with a rasping
drive that Cudicini pushed out wide with a two handed save to keep the
score-line presentable at the break.
The noise at Wembley in the break (as
well as beforehand) is far too loud and someone needs to tell the
announcer to shift the volume down a few notches, so that fans can hear
what they are saying. Perhaps it was only to be expected, but the
Glasgow Celtic fans were quick in their booing of Hutton every time he
touched the ball, but Spurs fans were quick to get behind him and give
him some backing. Banter like this is all part of the game
and is sometimes lost in the "adrenalin pumped" music played during the
break or after a game.
As expected, half-time brought a number
of changes. Eleven for Barcelona and four for Spurs.
Heurelho Gomes made his first first team appearance of the season, while
Kyle Naughton made his first club appearance in place of Hutton, while
Jenas took a break as Huddlestone moved into midfield to replace him and
his defensive duties were covered by Pascal Chimbonda. Robbie
Keane took over from Jamie O'Hara, but really failed to make much of an
impression and his firm during the pre-season has - dare I say it -been
a little bit crap. Of the four forwards we have, if he wasn't club
captain, I don't think he would be getting a game.
One of Barca's subs was Jonathan Dos
Santos, brother of Giovani, with a similar paying style and involvement,
he failed to make a big impression on the Tottenham side. While
the Spanish side enjoyed the bulk of the possession in the second
period, they failed to do as much with it and while there were chances
for them, there were as many for Spurs, especially towards the end of
Tom Huddlestone fancied his chances with
one of his trademark rocket shots about 13 minutes into the half, but it
wasn't on target and struck a defender on the way, which took all the
sting out of it before going wide. A better chance came three
minutes later, as Aaron Lennon started to get into the game more and was
giving substitute defender Espasandin a bit of a roasting. He won
a corner by playing the ball off Oriol and when Modric floated it into
the near post area, Pascal Chimbonda was unmarked about five yards out,
but seemed surprised the ball got to him and only succeeded in
ballooning his header way over the bar, when he really should have got a
decent contact on it.
With Barca reduced to long range efforts,
Gomes was comfortable in watching a Keita effort fly over and the only
nervous moment he had was when he used his feet from a back-pass in his
inimitable style ! He was alert enough to stop a low drive from
Suarez and was aware of his bearings when Espasandin tried to chip the
bal lover him, but he turned it over the top for a corner. At the
other end, Espasandin failed to stop Lennon as he got a low ball in to
the near post, but neither Keane nor Defoe could get to it and the
keeper Pinto blocked it out to Modric and then blocked his effort on the
Dos Santos did set up one chance for
Rochina, how put a header onto the top of the net when trying to get it
over Gomes, but his role was mainly peripheral to the main action and
that allowed Spurs to press forward in the latter stages for an
equaliser. Harry brought on fresh legs in the shape of Rose,
Bostock and Livermore and the former Palace man Bostock almost dinked a
ball into Keane's path soon after coming on, but it was just on the
wrong side of the Irish striker and he couldn't get anything on the
But then eight minutes from time, a
corner was knocked back to BAE, whose cross found Jake Livermore
completely unmarked on the edge of the six yard box and he nodded the
ball past a helpless Pinto to make it 1-1. What Jake was doing
there, heaven knows, but it sparked a bit of a late rally and although
only one more chance came from a Defoe chip that was deflected wide, it
was a stirring late effort and one which showed that even the best
(reserve) sides can crack under pressure.
Kyle Naughton restricted himself to
staying in his full back position, without really getting forward as he
likes to do. He did what he had to do well and on one occasion
when he lost the ball, he was quick enough to get into a position to win
it back. He could make a good partnership with Lennon and their
pace will trouble a lot of defences.
Jake Livermore only had a short time on
the pitch, but he continued what he had been doing in his other
pre-season appearances. Being tough in the tackle and looking to
join up with the attack, with this substitute appearance pitching him
As for the rest, they all stuck to their
tasks. Defoe lacked supply and support, so we must hope that he
gets a partner to join him soon, while the midfield were mobile and the
defence had moments when they were pulled around, but managed to do what
was necessary to keep Barcelona at bay.
With Celtic winning 5-0 against Al Ahly,
it is unlikely that Spurs will win this tournament, but it will serve as
a good preparation for the Premier League with two good work-outs
against different styles of opponents.