A Birmingham City team that came to stifle Spurs and waste time had
their plan back-fire in their faces when Aaron Lennon added to
Peter Crouch's goal, five minutes into the four minutes added time to
secure Tottenham's 100% record start to the season. The first lead
only lasted three minutes, the second lead needed to only last seconds
before the final whistle blew and when Lennon's shot hit the back of the
net, eight Birmingham players were prostrate at the thought that their
gamesmanship had not won a point.
For Alex McLeish's men came to kick the
ball away from where free-kicks were to be taken from the first minute
and the manager himself tried to see time out by making Sebastian
Larsson go as far away from the bench before being substituted to make
the long, slow journey to the bench. Luckily, the best thing that
referee Peter Walton did in the game was to stop his watch while the
Swede dragged his heels off the pitch and the extra time added onto the
added time for this was enough to fashion a winner for Tottenham.
It was some form of ironic revenge for Larsson's winner in the same
fixture two seasons back.
Spurs, with the confidence of a great
start to the season, began on the offensive and King narrowly missed
getting on the end of a Modric free-kick, while seven minutes in, Modric
took the ball off Larsson and although his pass for Keane was
intercepted, it fell into the path of Aaron Lennon, who hit a shot from
inside the box. The low drive was parried by Joe Hart, but before
Defoe could get there to tap it in, new signing Roger Johnson booted it
away. A minute later, the winger's corner was cleared as far as
Tom Huddlestone, who hit a shot across goal and it went in the direction
of Jermain Defoe, but he was too far off it to get a touch.
With some good passing and movement,
Tottenham were opened up by sliding passes inside or outside the full
backs to get players in behind. The ball was being pinged across
the box, but Spurs were not getting anyone on the end of them, but there
were also a number of good forward passes into the area. Benoit
Assou-Ekotto produced a delicate chip into the penalty box, but Robbie
Keane tried to bring it down, but only allowed Hart to pick it up.
With 13 minutes on the clock, BAE got on the end of a slide-rule pass to
the left and the Frenchman's cross found Keane and his shot dropped to
Defoe. The in-form striker turned, but could not get his shot
away, with defender Parnaby getting in the way to block it.
Around a quarter of an hour into the
game, Birmingham ventured forward and Gary O'Connor hit a shot from
outside the box, which did not trouble Carlo Cudicini too much.
Lennon had one shot straight at Hart before a skilful turn by Luka
Modric tight to the line on the left wing took him away from Parnaby and
his ball across the face of goal missed out Defoe and Aaron came running
in at the far post to shoot at the goal, only to see ex-Spur Stephen
Carr block his effort as the last man in defence. The first real
test for the Spurs defence came in the 22nd minute, when Bassong allowed
Larsson to escape his attention and once the wrong side of the French
centre-half, he could not be touched. He took aim and fired a shot
that went across the goal without Cudicini needing to get a touch.
With play moving from end to end,
Huddlestone's exquisite pass released Defoe and through on goal, with
the money on him to score, Jermain managed to pull his shot wide, with
Keane running through into a good position alongside him. Larsson
had again tested Cudicini with a shot that the keeper had to push out
and in the closing minutes of the half, it was Tottenham pushing for the
breakthrough, with Modric swerving a shot past the Brummie post.
The Croatian's importance to the side was
noted by Birmingham and a kick to Modric's calf a minute after the break
ended his involvement. Having lost King in the half-time interval
following a groin pull in the last fifteen minutes of the half, it was
not what Spurs needed, with Hutton having replaced King and Corluka
moving into the middle of the defence and Crouch being the sub for Luka,
as Robbie dropped back into midfield.
At the start of the second half, Spurs
defenders were prone to slice the ball up into the air, causing more
panic. Once such instance saw the ball come out as far as O'Connor
and his pacy cross into the near post was met with a powerful, if
ill-directed header by Carsley, who should have done better from close
range. Defoe almost took Keane's pass, but let the ball get away
from him in the area. Tottenham might have gone closer, but a
rapid sprint through the heart of the Birmingham side by Aaron Lennon
was cut short by most cynical foul by Stephen Carr, for which he really
deserved more than a yellow card, as the only intent was to stop the
The few Bluenoses in the away section
howled for a penalty eleven minutes into the second half, when James
McFadden hit turf when he was alongside Palacios and Hutton, but the
referee waved appeals away. Meanwhile, at the other end, Spurs
were using the height of Crouch to terrorise the Brummie defence.
A Hutton cross from the right hit Peter Crouch at the far post and his
downward header nearly caught Hart out at his post, with the keeper just
managing to get down to keep the ball out at the cost of a corner.
When it was cleared, it came out to BAE and his ball in to the opposite
far post found Crouch again and this time his header got past the
keeper, but not Johnson who was on the line to knock the ball away.
Peter was not only going for goal
himself, but when a long corner was won in the air, his header was
nodded on by Vedran Corluka, to Defoe, who performed a scissor kick that
rocketed over the bar on the hour. Four minutes later and Crouch
was in the right place to meet Keane's cross from the left wing and his
header arched over Hart and bounced back off the bar. It looked
like being one of those days when Spurs just would not score. That
was reinforced a minute later when another Crouch header was kicked off
the line by Lee Carsley.
Crouch did get another one on target in
the 66th minute, but it was stopped by the back of a Birmingham
defender's head and when it came down, Robbie Keane could only hook the
loose ball over the top. But he needn't have worried, as a cynical
foul on Lennon by McFadden out on the Spurs right was given as a
free-kick and when Huddlestone flighted it in to the far post, The lanky
striker nodded a high header back over Hart and into the far side of the
net to put Tottenham ahead at last.
No that it lasted for long. A ball
in from the Birmingham right saw Benitez running in with Hutton, but
Cudicini failed to dominate his area and the ball fell between the two
of them for Lee Bowyer to stroll in and plant the ball into an empty
net. It was a slack goal to give away, with the ball spinning away
from the defender and nobody making it their own. It was a blow
for Spurs, who had taken the lead and from this point on, it was
Birmingham who had the best chances to win the game.
Tottenham had brought on Pavlyuchenko
after Defoe took a heavy challenge from Queudrue, but the ball was not
able to stick in the Blues half and when a partial clearance fell to
Larsson, he set-up O'Connor on the left side of the box with a clear
shooting opportunity. The Scot fired his shot at goal, but rather
than aiming at the target, he went for power and the ball hit the
outside of the netting rather than inside and Spurs escaped.
Just a few minutes later, McFadden was
out wide on the left and hit a cross that was nowhere near any City
player, but almost caught out Cudicini as it flew just over the crossbar.
Two minutes from time, they came even closer, when long free-kick
was headed back into the six yard box by O'Connor and Johnson got onto
the knock on and luckily for Spurs, he could not control his volley and
the ball rocketed over the bar.
With added time slipping away and
Birmingham pressing for the first time in the game, it looked that Spurs
might have to settle for a draw. But then Stephen Carr took a pass
in his own half from Barry Ferguson, as the play went backwards.
The former Spurs defender trod on the ball on the halfway line and with
Pavlyuchenko and Huddlestone robbed him of the ball, Pav went down the
right and picked out a run by Lennon, missing out Keane with his pass
across the face of the penalty area. Taking the ball inside two
defenders, who thought Aaron was going outside, he made space for
himself on the D to strike a low shot that beat Hart inside the left
hand post. The team and the crowd exploded in joy, as there was no
coming back from this and the blue-shirted players were devastated by
the goal. The kick off saw the City players hitting a shot at goal
but Cudicini nervously got behind the ball to keep the score at 2-1 and
the whistle went to keep Spurs unbeaten.
One of the talking points of the game was
the erratic display by referee Peter Walton. He was not down as
the original ref for the game and maybe he was unprepared for it, but
his booking of Hutton near the end of the game was no different to that
of the "challenge" on McFadden for the penalty claim and one which
Birmingham perpetrated on Hutton himself, which wasn't even given as a
free-kick. His decision to award free-kick to City when Bowyer
kicked Modric in the back of the calf a minute into the second half was
While the results echo those from last
season, it is the performances which are more impressive. Playing
well and scoring goals is great, but it is perhaps the wins against West
Ham and today that show the progress Tottenham have made in coming back
from setbacks to win games. Testing games lie ahead, but the
team's good run rolls on and with that confidence builds.
the heathrow spur