A single Jamie O'Hara goal was enough to see Spurs through to their
second group win in their UEFA Cup campaign against a Nijmegen side
lacking a threat in the last third.
The trip to Holland also gave Harry Redknapp
the opportunity to rest some senior players and to blood a couple of
Academy players, while taking more into the squad to give them the
experience of being in the set-up.
The opneing ten minutes was slightly
scrappy, with the pitch hardening under-foot thanks to the failure of
the under-soil heating. With the Nijmegen number 9 hitting O'Hara
late inside the first minute and then hitting the deck at every occasion
a Tottenham player came within breathing distance of him, it looked set
for a disjointed game, with the referee having to intervene far too
The goal was the first decent bit of play
from either side, with Bentley playing Bale away down the left wing and
the Welshman's cross was low into the near post where Fraizer Campbell
got in ahead of his marker. As he stuck out a leg, the ball was
guided up past the keeper, but bounced back down off the crossbar.
It was lucky for Tottenham that Jamie O'Hara was following up to charge
in and get his head to the ball before anyone could react, giving him
the advantage to head into the net.
An early lead was just what Tottenham
needed and allowed the team to settle down and knock the ball about more
confidently. However, Spurs keeper Heurelho Gomes was on his toes
to beat away a shot from El-Kabir, who spin and hit a hard shot that the
Brazilian pushed out in front of goal, but he didn't have a lot of
option, making the reflex stop and being helped out by Chris Gunter, who
got to the loose ball first to kick clear.
Restored to the side, Didier Zokora had a
solid game, getting in the way and running with the ball to draw fouls
when Spurs needed a break. He also got to a loose ball around the
penalty area and put in a dinked cross to Campbell, but he could not
direct his header away from goalkeeper Babos. Halfway through the
half, O'Hara tried his luck from outside the box, but this time his
effort went too high. Ten minutes before the half-time whistle,
Nijmegen created an opening for van Beukering after a Schone dummy, but
the centre forward missed the target. The same player tried a
volley, but it was too high for him to hit accurately and it lofted over
the top just four minutes before the break and then with the 45 minute
mark approaching, Hud chipped into Campbell's chest and the loan man
laid it off to O'Hara, whose shot from out of the area was saved and
Bentley picked the rebound up and dinked a ball to the far post, but it
was just too far beyond Campbell to get to.
With Bentley pushed a little wider
instead of heading a supposed diamond that was not so shining in the
first half, the midfielder fired in a shot from outside the area and it
swerved away from goal rather than towards it, just missing the angle of
post and bar. Then Bentley put in a cross that saw Darren Bent
dive in ahead of his marker to test Babos, who rose to push the effort
over the top.
Gomes was largely untested in the second
half, having the luxury of taking crosses without pressure and anything
that came his way was safely handled. It can only boost his
confidence, especially as it appears Tony Parks has got him shouting at
his defence about when he is coming for the ball. He came and took
a through ball before El-Kabir got to it and Woodgate made a finely
times tackle on the same player as he broke into the penalty area and in
on goal. At the other end, O'Hara fired in another low shot that
the Nijmegen keeper held onto well.
It was good to see Gareth Bale marauding
down the left and his ball into Fraizer Campbell was laid back for David
Bentley to try to chip the keeper, but Babos stepped back to take it
comfortably. The closing few minutes saw Aaron Lennon's pace
trouble the home defence and the introduction of Jonathan Obika and Ryan
Mason gave them a taste of first team action. It was only Lennon's
dipping effort from 25 yards that forced Babos to dive to take the shot
that gave Nijmegen anything to worry about in last few minutes, while a
loose ball dropping in the Spurs box was lashed goal-wards by Tshibamba,
but it flew wide and soon enough, the Spanish ref, who had a pretty good
game using his common sense to let the game flow as much as he could,
had blown to give Spurs their second win and six points.
A result against Spartak Moscow at home
will see Tottenham through to the group stages in one of the top two
places hopefully. Suddenly things look more rosy than a few weeks
ago, but there is still a long way to go before anything serious is
achieved. At the moment, another 1-0 win, with the back line
looking secure is enough to bring a smile of approval to a Spurs fan's
face just now.