spurs' pre-season friendlies 2011-12


Brighton & Hove Albion  2    Tottenham Hotspur  3
Saturday 31st July 2011            Kick off 15:00
American Express Community Stadium

Tottenham's visit to play the inaugural match at Brighton's new home ended with them spoiling the party with a 3-2 win, as both teams warmed up for the coming season.

Celebrations had been going for some time by the time the teams entered the pitch and there was a resounding chorus of Brighton's club song "Sussex By The Sea".  There was even a minutes silence for all the Seagulls fans who had died since they left the old Goldstone Ground, where Spurs had last faced Brighton in a competitive away game.  The sun shone, a big crowd turned out and all looked shiny and new in the AMEX stadium. 

Spurs in their dark blue change kit faced the familiar blue and white stripes of Brighton and it was the home side who made the more enterprising start, working the ball through the Spurs team in the manner of their manager Gus Poyet in his playing days.  Kazenga LuaLua fired in a shot that made Brad Friedel make his first save of the day and after only 11 minutes, Ashley Barnes had scored the opening goal at the new ground.  Liam Bridcutt played the ball, which was dummied by Gary Dicker to run through to Craig Mackail-Smith.  The new signing pulled a low ball across the face of the six yard box, taking Friedel out and allowing Barnes to slip the ball into an unguarded net ahead of Corluka.

Spurs had to replace Rafael van der Vaart, who took a knock in a heavy challenge and Jermain Defoe came on in the 28th minute to form a more customary partnership in attack with Roman Pavyluchenko rather than having VDV floating about behind Pav.  But before that Lennon had put a shot narrowly wide after a good one-two with Pav and then Jake Livermore had rattled the bar when his 25 yard shot was tipped onto the woodwork by Casper Ankergren halfway through the first half.  In response Mackail-Smith headed over from Calderon's inviting cross and LuaLua hit a shot that was too hot for Friedel to handle. 

Five minutes from the interval, Roman struck a shot that went just past the post and then, three minutes from the break, Spurs pulled level.  Gareth Bale bamboozled his marker with a couple  of step-overs and his low cross caught out the keeper, who was tight to his near post and a defender, who could only deflect the ball towards his own goal, where Younes Kaboul knocked the ball over the line from a foot out to the stunned silence of the whole ground, leaving the Tottenham team running away amid a weird atmosphere. 

Within two minutes it was 2-1 to Tottenham and the goal came form a very unexpected source.  Bale broke on the right of the box and tried to play Corluka in outside him, but a defender got in the way, but Charlie go the loose ball that bounced off the Brighton man and squirted it under Ankergren, then saw the ball end up in the net off the post and a defender on the line.

Five minutes into the second half, Defoe gave a taste of things to come by chasing down Berzovan, who tried to clear the ball, but hit the Spurs man with his attempt, but the ball stayed too long in the air for Jermain to benefit and then a  minute or so later, Vedran Corluka once more made a foray into the box and was bundled over by LuaLua, but the ref waved appeals for a penalty away awarding a corner instead.  The Brighton player had the better of Corluka at the other end just after the hour.  The former Newcastle winger cut in from the left and with Charlie standing off him, unleashed a low shot from 22 yards out that beat Gomes low inside his near post.

It was only eight minutes later that Spurs secured the goal that won them the match.  A ball over the top was got to first by a home defender, who played it back to his keeper, but Brezovan took a touch and then tried to pass it back out to a defender, but succeeded only in passing it straight to Jake Livermore, who had closed him down inside the box.  Calmly taking it inside the keeper, the young midfielder steadied himself before picking his spot and shooting past a defender on the edge of the six yard box from about 12 yards out.

Brighton didn't want to be on the wrong end of a defeat in their new ground, so Noone tested Gomes from 20+ yards and the keeper dived to gather the ball, while Jermaine Jenas forced Brezovan into a finger-tip save from a chip at the other end, before Noone once more went close, driving a blocked shot from Mackail-Smith a couple of feet off target.  In added time, Defoe had a chance but went for power and not accuracy and the ball rose over the bar, being followed by the final whistle.

It was a good test for Spurs against a team who start their league programme next week, while Tottenham are still a week further away from the Premier League's opening fixture.  And the team put out by Harry Redknapp was not the first choice XI.  Missing were Modric, because of an illness, Huddlestone with a knock and then they lost Rafa.  Timing their form to coincide with the Everton game will be Harry's aim, so the disappointing first half is something that he sought to put right at the break and the closing had the effect of forcing Brighton into handing over possession and creating chances for Spurs.  Having taken them, the manager left the AMEX stadium probably thinking "That will do nicely" !

Brighton & Hove Albion : - Ankergren (Brezovan 46), Calderon (Vincelot 76), Barnes, Greer, Dunk, Painter, Sparrow (Buckley 75), Dicker, LuaLua (Bergkamp 90), Barnes (Noone 64), Mackail-Smith
Unused Subs. : - Cook, Navarro

Tottenham Hotspur : -  Friedel (Gomes 46), Corluka, Kaboul, Dawson (cpt), Assou-Ekotto, Lennon, Jenas, Livermore, Bale, van der Vaart (Defoe 38), Pavyluchenko
Unused Subs. : -  Carroll, Townsend, Kane

Referee :  Dave Phillips

Tottenham Hotspur  2    Athletic Bilbao  1
Saturday 6th August 2011            Kick off 17:15
White Hart Lane
A game that started badly for Tottenham ended in a win, but more serious outcomes were happening a few hundred yards south of the stadium an hour after the match finished.

Spurs came into the game with a five man midfield and Pav playing up top on his own.  A strange formation for a home game and a friendly and I didn't think that the pre-season friendly fans, who only get an occasional glimpse of football at the Lane, would take to it all that well.  Not appreciating that the idea of pre-season friendlies is to hone formations and get fit for the real thing, the first half saw the Spurs fans uneasy as Bilbao moved the ball fluidly and crisply, as we have seen Sevilla and Real Madrid do in European competitions here in the recent past.  Tottenham were not at the races, as they were opened up by incisive passing from the Spaniards.

The first time was with a minute on the clock, as De Marcos played a ball over Bassong's ill-timed jump and Herrera found himself with only Gomes to beat with the ball at his feet on the edge of the box.  Coming so early in the game, perhaps he could not believe his luck and hit a weak shot to Gomes' left and the keeper gratefully collected his shot on the dive.

Huddlestone was getting caught out by the swift movement and gave away a few fouls, as Jenas was often taken out of the play by the little triangles the Athletic players were producing.  however, the midfielder produced a fine pass inside the full back for Lennon to run onto into the box, but the keeper came out to block Aaron's charge and the ball went for a throw-in.

A corner had seen Gomes come for it, but with players in front of him, saw it flick away as he was not near the ball, then Dawson slid away a low ball into the box as Llorente waited for it to reach him.  In between Spurs had carved out a chance with Lennon getting to the dead-ball line on the right and his low pull back was perfect for Niko Kranjcar, but the Croatian hit his first time shot wide of the goal by a foot, when he really should have been hitting the target.

On 25 minutes, Tottenham fell behind.  With Benni giving away a cheap free-kick that went for a corner and Pienaar hobbling off with another injury, the fuss over Modric's earlier than planned entrance may have distracted Spurs.  The Chelsea target got a good reception, but the ball came in and Pav got to it at the near post, but his header flew across the box, where it was guided back across Gomes by San Jose's right foot from six yards out.  It was a deserved lead that the visitors took and there was nobody marking the defender when the ball fell to him.

The remainder of the half saw both sides involved in build-up play that broke down before the ball got into the box and when it did, it was the defences who tidied the threat up.

A rash of half-time substitutions by Spurs saw them change to a more familiar 4-4-2 formation and the change did the trick for Harry Redknapp.  Playing our game instead of concentrating on what the opposition had to offer took Bilbao by surprise and their passing game faltered as Spurs utilised the pace of Bale and Lennon on the flanks to get behind their defence.  Within eight minutes, the game had turned in Tottenham's favour with two goals from Crouch and Defoe made by the two wide men.

Five minutes into the half, Modric clipped a divine pass over the back line for Bale to break into the box on the left side.  His pull back was a little behind Crouch, who had to halt his run and as he slipped to the ground, managed to steer the ball past the keeper and just inside the left hand post from just outside the six yard box.  It was the sort of goal you might not associate with the big man, but one we would like to see him score more of.

Getting possession from the restart, Spurs got a corner and while the ball was headed out to the edge of the box, Kaboul put it back into the area out wide on the right.  Lennon was alert to it and got there, taking a man on to the line and pulling it back to the edge of the six yard box, where Jermain Defoe smashed it into the roof of the net in inimitable style.

Spurs lived on their nerves  little, as Dawson deflected a shot by substitute Aurtenexte that beat the diving Friedel, but went just over, before Kaboul got on the end of a near post corner that went back against his own post, then Bale stuck a foot out to divert a shot from Aurtenexte, but again Friedel was left helpless as the ball went narrowly wide.

Spurs did get up the other end in the 70th minute, when Lennon took the ball across the penalty area and when he got inside, Gurpegi challenged, but he didn't seem to get a touch on the winger, as he went down, but referee Lee Mason thought otherwise and pointed to the spot.  Kranjcar stepped up, stuttered in his run up and then put the penalty at a good height for Iraizoz to push it away.  It was a little unconvincing from a player who complains he doesn't get a start and when he does fails to impress. 

Crouch's height was proving difficult for the Spanish defence to deal with and his knock downs produced a volleying chance for Bale, who put his shot over, then he did the same for Kranjcar, but he took a touch too many and the keeper blocked his effort.  Late on, Defoe smashed a shot about three yards wide, when he moved the ball out of his feet and couldn't quite get the bend on his shot he was hoping for.

Livermore came on at the end and perhaps showed a too aggressive side of his game, with three quick fouls and with his limited space, he sometimes gets to the player in possession a little after the ball has gone.

The sure sign of non-regular attendees showed itself in the second half, when large sections of the ground were swept up in a tsunami of Mexican waves.  A more vile abomination I cannot imagine and the only saving grace was Tottenham's victory.  But half a mile away, there were darker forces at work, as cars, shops and houses were set alight just hours after the match, with riots raging up and down the High Road as local youths protested about the shooting dead of a man by Police on Thursday night at Tottenham Hale.

Sometimes, there are more important things than football.

Tottenham Hotspur : -  Gomes (Friedel 46), Corluka (Walker 46), Bassong (Kaboul 46), Dawson (cpt), Assou-Ekotto, Lennon (Livermore 82), Jenas (Defoe46), Huddlestone (Bale 46), Kranjcar, Pienaar (Modric 24), Pavyluchenko (Crouch 46)

Athletic Bilbao : -  Iraizoz, San Jose, Martinez, De Marcos (Aurtenexte 46), Iturraspe (De Galarreta 87), Gurpegi, Munian (Toquero 46), Herrera (Lopez 62), Gabilondo (Susaeta 76), Llorente
Unused Subs. : -  Fernandez, Ramalho

Referee :  Lee Mason

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