Will Spurs have to go a goal behind every game before going on to a home
win ? Having let Henri Camara have the freedom of the penalty
area, Tottenham struck twice before the break to go in ahead and then
had to wait until injury time to hit the their to seal their victory.
Having started slowly, but they could still
have been ahead, Spurs let Wigan in for a soft goal. A long cross
from the right was headed down into the heart of the penalty area by Lee
McCulloch, rising above Pascal Chimbonda, leaving striker Henri Camara
time to size up where he wanted to put his shot and leaving Paul
Robinson with little chance of stopping it. This was 25 minutes
into the match and Tottenham had enough openings to be at least a couple
of goals to the good before then.
In the opening exchanges, Lennon lifted
the ball over the defenders in front of him and it got to Berbatov at
the far post, where he managed to get a toe to the ball and get it going
at goal, but Kirkland was there to take the ball easily in his chest.
Wigan hit straight back with Camara's pace taking him away from the
Tottenham defence and his shot was well held by Robbo.
Berbatov's early movement was causing
problems for the visitors and he put in some tempting balls across the
face of the goal, but most went begging. Chimbonda got clattered
by Kilbane's forearm when heading away a dangerous cross aimed at the
former Everton winger. This was just before the Wigan goal came.
Then Spurs hit back, with Malbranque
hitting a low effort that was deflected and forced Kirkland to push the
ball aside, only for Defoe to seize on it and looked likely to score.
However, England's Number Four (as Kirkland was christened by the Park
Lane) was quick enough to get up and block the Spurs striker's shot.
Malbranque also had another chance when Lennon pulled the ball back to
him and he switched it to his left foot before slicing it well wide with
a Wigan defender in close attendance and Steed appealing to the ref that
he was too close.
Today's referee is very few people's
favourite down N17 way in Mark Clattenburg. His early booking of
Boyce for a foul set a tone of disquiet as he had little grasp of what
was going on in the game. When he booked Baines for a foul on
Lennon, it looked like he was more concerned about the kicking away of
the ball. A late shot blocked from Zokora left him pointing for a
goal-kick while his assistant signalled a corner, which he had to cede
to. With Heskey already having been walking a tightrope, with a
very late tackle on Ledley, his flailing elbow on Dawson was similar to
that of Ghaly's last week at Blackburn for which the Spurs midfielder
saw red. So this week ... a yellow. His bizarre booking of
Zokora who was hurt in a crunching challenge with Heskey left me
perplexed and I can only think it was because he said something to the
official. But when a man can't get a decision right like a goal
when the ball is substantially in the back of the net, what respect can
you have for him ??
With the wet surface, you would hope that
the shooting might have been on the ground to gain some speed off the
turf, but when given a shooting opportunity came along, Huddlestone
swerved a long range effort, but couldn't keep it down and the ball went
over the top with Kirkland having it covered. That was in the 41st
minute, with the decisive moment in the game following 120 seconds
Berbatov played Defoe in on the left hand
corner of the penalty area. With Boyce tight behind him, Jermain
performed a skilful little turn to leave the defender standing and as
Kirkland came out, he aimed his shot over him and high into the roof of
the net. It was Defoe at his best and showed he can still be a
deadly predator in the area. He enjoyed his goal with a corner
flag goal celebration.
It had looked as thought Wigan would go
into the break 1-0 up, but at 1-1 things would look brighter for Spurs.
However, it was even brighter a minute later, as Benoit Assou-Ekotto
played a ball into the same channel for Berbatov and he turned Matt
Jackson easily and with David Wright trying to tap his ankles as he bore
down on Kirkland, the Bulgarian kept his cool and placed his shot past
the keeper and into the top right hand corner just under the bar.
It was the finish of a master goal-scorer and the crowd went wild with
excitement with the way things had been turned around so quickly.
There was still time for Paul Scharner to
get past Assou-Ekotto and take a 30 yard pot shot that caused Robinson
to plunge to his right to block and grab at the second attempt.
The whistle came at just the right time and Spurs were on a high going
into the break and Wigan must have been highly deflated.
Spurs appeared to have killed off any
ambition that the Lactics might have had with the two goal burst.
They started to knock the ball about comfortably and with Huddlestone
and Zokora in midfield providing a nice mix of strength, passing and
running, the combative Wigan engine room foundered on their tackles.
Chimbonda had been roundly booed every time he touched the ball, but was
determined to be on the winning side. When he clashed with Camara
late in the game, he showed the Wigan fans that Spurs were winning 2-1,
but at the end, he was pulled away from going to that corner of the
ground to celebrate the win by Ledley King. The French full back
produced a neat chip down the right wing, which held up despite the wet
grass and provided a chance for Berbatov to fire a low cross into the
goalmouth. With no Tottenham player nearby, Jackson got a foot to
it on the stretch and was relieved to see Kirkland grab the ball before
it entered the net.
With some silky passing, Spurs were
opening up Athletic easily. Berbatov produced some good moves to
leave his marker and played the ball inside to Lennon, who played in
Defoe, who tried to hit the shot too hard and it flew over the goal.
Emile Heskey had been press-ganged into service and his blundering bulk
regularly crashed into Michael Dawson and when the Spurs centre half
ended up on the floor after an aerial challenge, we expected to play out
the game against ten men, but not with Clattenburg in charge.
Dawson had to extract his own justice and waited until Heskey was by the
touchline and went through him, earning himself a yellow card.
While Wigan hadn't given up, their
shooting opportunities were limited and ended up wild. Camara hit
a shot across the face of goal, McCulloch hit one over the bar and then
Leighton Baines, the England Under-21 forward really hit one over the
bar and almost struck the screen of the Jumbotron !! He had always
wanted one of his shots on the big screen !! The closest they came
was a Heskey header that went over from a free-kick.
At the other end, Keane curled an effort
inches wide of Kirkland's far post after running at the defence and
right at the death Aaron Lennon put the game beyond doubt.
Assou-Ekotto played the ball down the line to the impressive Malbranque,
who set Berbatov down the line. He beat his man and produced a
pass of true class for Lennon to run onto and under challenge, he put
his left-foot shot past the keeper to make it 3-1.
It was a professional performance by
Spurs after a sloppy start, but once more it begs the question why we
can play like this at home, but struggle away so often. It is one
that Martin Jol needs to look at and if we can get that right, we can
move on four fronts.