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Premier League

Sunday 1st October 2006

One more summer of Hangdog Harry's horse trading saw a whole host of players come through the swing doors at Fratton Park, but this time he seems to have got the mix right, as his side stormed to the top of the division and only lost their unbeaten record last Monday to Bolton, when they let their first goal in too.

The defence in front of ex-England keeper David James is strong.  S. Cumball returns and will face a gale of opprobrium, which is only to be expected.  As long as it is restricted to his playing ability (or fading lack of it), that is OK.  With his renaissance in the Pompey defence prompting calls for his return to the England squad (little chance of that), he appears to be enjoying the experience of playing abroad ... he must have thought Portsmouth was reached by using the Isle of Wight ferry !!  His indecisive nature has probably made Mido come out with his comment about Cumball being the easiest central defender to play against.  Some of the same issues can be aimed at James, as his inconsistency cost him his England place to Paul Robinson and his nickname of "Calamity" reflects how many fans regard him.

Also at the back are Linvoy Primus, Dejan Stefanovic, Glen Johnson and Andrew O'Brien.  Glen Johnson is on a year long loan at Portsmouth, where he is trying to rebuild his career after his move to Chelsea has been hit by off the pitch problems, injury and an attitude problem which Jose Mourinho was not willing to accept.  The other three are central defenders and with Stefanovic likely to clam the berth alongside Cumball, it looks like the other tow might need to settle for a place on the bench at best.

The midfield will feature some of the following ... Matthew Taylor, Richard Hughes, Gary O'Neil, Nico Kranjcar and Manuel Fernandes.  Taylor has been linked with Spurs in the past and he possesses a very good left foot and hits a good free-kick, as well as joining the attack to pop up in the penalty area to add to the threat going forward.  Having played as a defender, he understands the defensive side of the game.  Hughes has been out of favour and had gone on loan to seek first team football, while O'Neil has been team captain and his Under-21 appearances have established a good reputation of the busy midfielder, who prompts and initiates some good moves.  Kranjcar joined in the summer, when he also played in the World Cup finals, thanks to his Dad, who was the Croatia manager !!  Manuel comes from (no not Barcelona) Benfica, where he was handed the mantle of the rising young star.  The new money behind Pompey must have waved in his direction, as it is hard to know why anyone else would go there.  Noted as an attacking, creative player, he might be an unknown quantity if he gets on the pitch.

Veteran Andrew Cole was snapped up from Manchester City to add to the England vets side.  Hoping to improve on his goalscoring to shots ratio, he loves to score against Tottenham (being an ex-Gooner too), but Ledley and Daws should tie him up with their tight marking.  A trickier opponent is Kanu, who has spider legs and they have got Spurs tangled up in his web before now.  Still has ability to dribble the ball through the defence and finishes well, as his early goal-scoring this season indicated.  Benjani Mwaruwari has also sparked into life, both as a goal-scorer and goal maker.  Zimbabwean international Benjani has been described by Tainio as the strongest forward he has come into contact with and that is what Spurs need at the moment.  His battle with our defence should be an interesting one, while Tresor Lomano Lua Lua is a player who can dribble at pace and can finish well, as he proved at WHL last season.  Another option alongside one of the other forwards is the lanky Ivica Mornar, who is more of a fringe player now, but uses his height to good effect and can hold the ball up well.

Noe Pamarot, Pedro Mendes and Sean Davis will be returning to White Hart Lane for the first time.  Pamarot left after being out for nine months with his knee injury and was a solid defender, who never really got a good run in the team, but he is a strong tackler and has a fierce shot.  Davis was another hit by injury when at the Lane, but Spurs knew he was carrying an injury when they signed him and did not heed the caveat emptor understanding.  Pedro Mendes was the one who fell foul as Jol took over, as he preferred Carrick, but now perhaps we could do with someone like the Portuguese midfielder.

Tottenham need to formulate their game plan, with the players they have available and to step up the tempo.  A faster pattern of play could push Pompey back, but we lack the pace of Lennon and without Berbatov, we lack a natural goal-scorer.  Defoe has to work for his goals these days and Keano can be a bit to fancy, so looks daft when it doesn't come off.  Simple, good finishing will do and that might help Spurs get a foothold in the match.  The first goal will be all important.

So, the joint worst scoring record faces the best defensive record in the Premiership.  Want to guess the Spurs score ??  Well, for once, I think the records might not go to form and for Tottenham, it is time they started to hit some sort of form.  Having spurned so many chances of late, some must start going in, so I predict that it will finish ...

PREDICTION : -  Tottenham Hotspur  2    Portsmouth  1

For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.


TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : -  Aaron Lennon (knee); Steed Malbranque (hernia); Paul Stalteri (hamstring);  Edgar Davids (ankle); Anthony Gardner (hip/back)

PORTSMOUTH :  Rodolph Douna (hanstring); Dean Kiely (thigh); Jamie Ashdown (thumb)


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Tottenham Hotspur   2    Portsmouth   1      (Half-time score : 2-1)

Premier League
Venue : White Hart Lane  
Sunday 1st October 2006
Kick Off :  4.00 p.m.
Crowd :   36,063
Referee :  Chris Foy (St. Helens)
Weather :  -  Warm, overcast, some light rain, but sunny periods
Teams : - 
Tottenham Hotspur :


Chimbonda (Huddlestone 46)
King (c)
Dawson (Davenport 80)


Berbatov (Keane 72)

Unused subs

Portsmouth :


Stefanovic (Taylor 64)

Davis (Mwaruwari 64)
O'Neil (c)

Kanu (Cole 71)
Lua Lua

Unused subs

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of http://www.colours-of-football.com)
Tottenham Hotspur

Scorers : -  
Tottenham Hotspur

Murphy 43 seconds
Defoe (p) 34


Kanu 39

Cards : -  
Tottenham Hotspur  






Match Report : -  
One of the quickest goals ever seen at White Hart Lane gave Spurs the foundation they needed to earn a victory over high-flying Portsmouth and secure a valuable three points to take them out of the bottom three places.

Murphy had a good game until his legs went, which is exactly what happened with Didier Zokora for the second goal, but more of that later.

Spurs got off a just the start they wanted, with Murphy, Defoe and Berbatov linking to send Jermain wide and his cross was headed at goal by the Bulgarian striker.  David James saved it, but could only drop the ball right in the centre of the goal and as Glen Johnson tried to shield it for the keeper to pick up, it squirmed away and Murphy showed the presence of mind to execute a neat back heel over the line from a foot or so out.

It was a surprise that it took only 43 seconds after 433 League minutes without a goal, but in the next minute, Paul Robinson had to carefully watch a Kanu looping header and touch it over the bar.  At the other end, James also had to pull off a fine save and it was to deny Murphy again, as he took the ball from a short corner routine and curled a left footer towards the top corner.  His fingertips just managed to tip the ball over the top.

Jermain Defoe looked livelier than of late and when Ghaly set him up, he got a shot on target, although it failed to worry James and later, he was involved in a move to lay the ball into Zokora's path, but the resulting effort went well wide.  When Defoe played Didier in again, he burst into the area and turned as Mendes closed in on him and went to ground.  At the ground and from a long way away, it looked like a penalty and although Mendes was distraught, not many other players complained that vociferously.  On TV afterwards, it was clear that no contact was made and I would not like to see this become a feature of Didier's game, as he looks a class player and gets knocked off the ball unfairly enough, as his pace makes it difficult for opponents to take it off him by fair means.

The ref was sure and so was Defoe, as he grabbed the ball and fired it low past the advancing James to make it 2-0.

But you know Tottenham.  Just when it looked like it was going so well, Assou-Ekotto showed a bit of inexperience and stood off O'Neil, who knocked a right wing cross into the danger zone and Dawson lost Kanu, who headed powerfully past Robinson.  It was a cheap goal to concede just six minutes before the break.

At the start fo the second half, Chimbonda failed to appear and he was replaced by Huddlestone, who slipped into midfield, with Ghaly going to right back.  It looked like an odd move, as Huddlestone might have been employed in the defence, with Ghaly retaining his position on the right of midfield.  The side certainly looked to have a better balance in the first half, but in the second, Portsmouth got a grip and pushed Spurs back, trying to exploit the unfamiliar position Ghaly found himself in.

Kranjcar especially perked up and took the ball into forward positions on their left and tried to hit the target at every opportunity.  Not remembering him as an outstanding player in the World Cup, he showed he might be a growing influence in the Portsmouth side.  To further increase the pressure on that side, Stefanovic was replaced by the more attacking Taylor and the flagging Sean Davis made way for the striker Benjani.

Zokora seems to be getting better by the day.  He launches into runs from deep in his own half and ends up laying the ball off for team-mates to have shots, as he did with Berbatov, although his effort was blocked for a corner.  Sometimes you wish Didier would have a shot himself, but when you know he scored once in two years for St. Etienne and you have seen his shooting, you know why !!!  He could become the new Stefan Freund in that department !!

Jenas was showing his excellent energy and kept going right until the final whistle.  He got on the end of a move when Murphy's ball in to King was laid back to him and he curled a shot that James did well to keep out, but you wished that Jermaine had stuck a bit more force behind it.  He also had another shooting opportunity right on the edge of the box, but a bad bounce just as he was about to strike it, summed up his luck at the moment.  He also had a great run in injury time, where he weaved his way into the area, but once there lacked the help and the composure to finish it, ending with him shooting over the bar after he had held onto the ball really well.

A bit of pinball in the Spurs box with 15 minutes to go caused some palpitations, but, as always, Michael Dawson was there to block the shot from Benjani.  It was his last meaningful action, because as he rose to head another cross away, he got Huddlestone's head at the same time and they both fell to the ground.  Tom got up with his head wrapped in vinegar and brown paper, while Dawson toddled off with the help of two of the Spurs medical staff.  Davenport came on to take his place and did well against the physical presence that Portsmouth were piling into the box to get on the end of some long balls.

The game was quite open at this stage and Defoe ran from halfway to jig round S. Cumball and Matthew Taylor before hitting a shot that James kept out as it flashed across him.  With five minutes added time, Portsmouth threw everything at Spurs and when a long right wing cross was flung in, Lua Lua got free at the far post and only a fine save from Robinson to keep his firm header out kept the three points with Spurs.

It was an important win for Spurs so early in the season, as we can't fall any further behind those above us.  Not that we are likely to catch the top teams, but we are still a little way off that.  The need to start gathering points now, while we have a run of winnable games (although Villa will be a tough one now), was uppermost.

And the fact that we played a lot better today and looked nicely balanced until injury hit (again).  Let's hope that this is the start of a run that moves us up the table to more familiar echelons !!

Purcell Cole


Reaction : -




Well, we needed that.  Three crucial points that lifts us up the table and instils confidence for the return after the international break.  The early goal that we have yearned for over the last few weeks finally came and enabled us to settle into an early rhythm.  The latest midfield combination worked well together and fed the hungry-looking pairing of Defoe and Berbatov.  However, we couldn’t maintain the momentum and looked nervy after Pompey deservedly pulled one back just before the break.  This was often the case in home games we looked to be controlling last season, and we seem set to have another campaign characterised by an inability to kill teams off.  Tiredness from Thursday’s European exertions was a factor, but we simply didn’t keep the ball well enough.  The introduction of Huddlestone (is it me or his he getting bigger?) helped in that respect, but the ball kept returning to our half too quickly.  Ghaly was the worst offender – his distribution was shoddy throughout – and as is so often the case, the disease proved catching, as possession was continually squandered through lazy passes and clearances that missed their target.  We started to play longer, and Berbatov’s touch deserted him as he tired on his return from injury.  Murphy’s undoubted quality on the ball saw him produce another composed display and vindicated Martin giving him a run in the side. 

Still, this was an encouraging performance.  Portsmouth played well enough to prove their early season form is no fluke, and we set about them with a good tempo that prevented them settling until we were two up.  This proved that the team has plenty of belief despite our league position, and hopefully the goals will improve our confidence in front of goal.  Defoe looked sharp (as, to be fair, he has done all season) and Berbatov displayed clever running and some nice touches – the two combined well as early as the first minute to create the opening goal, and their partnership looks to have goals in it.  Jenas produced one lovely curling goal-bound shot, a panicky lofted finish after nice footwork and a fluffed mis-kick with the goal at his mercy; a mixed bag which aptly reflects his achievements in the shooting stakes this season.  Zokora made the headlines for his theatrics that led to the crucial second goal, but his all-round display was promising.  He effortlessly beats opponents with the ball at his feet – through sheer pace and power rather than skill – and he possesses the energy to get into the box like Jenas does.  His passing, as it should be, is simple, and he was solid in defensive areas.  

The defence as a whole looks extremely strong.  Chimbonda did not have his best game, but displayed a willingness to attack down the right and is reliable when in our box.  Assou-Ekotto is similarly comfortable in forward positions, but he has defensive frailties.  He has been beaten by opposing wingers in successive games now, and the ease with which Gerrard and O’Neil produced crosses that led to goals is worrying.  He of course should not be isolated as he has been in those instances, but he looks to be on his heels and almost casual when facing a winger who has lined him up.  He nonetheless has improved with each game and overall looks an improvement on the solid but limited Y-P Lee.  Ledley and Daws also go from strength to strength and apart from Kanu’s fee header – what a relief he was the former-Gooner to score and not another one – their understanding was impeccable.  Robbo proved his credentials by making an excellent late save from Lua Lua’s header, accordingly redeeming himself after his ill-judged dash outside the box earlier in the half.  In truth, for all their possession, that was Portsmouth’s only real chance in the second half and we were good value for the points. 

Let’s hope this kick-starts our season and is the start of a good run in the League.

Philip Oliver


What a tense second half.   Portsmouth looked the side more likely to score as the Spurs midfield went wandering.  Dawson was outstanding in central defence and was my man of the match.  However, full marks to Davenport who covered well when Dawson was forced to leave the field. 

My colleague and I left the game not aware that the penalty was anything other than deserved.  When turning on the highlights later it clearly revealed that Didier had dived.   This left me feeling disappointed because I prefer to believe that "diving" is a much part of play at Spurs as tolerance of refereeing inconsistency and fulsome praise for the opposition, in the aftermath of defeat, is very much part of Arsene Wenger's game.  I hope Martin Jol will stamp firmly on the unsavoury practice. 

Villa next and a real test with the other Martin proving what an inspirational manager he is. 

Tony Pawson




Other scores this weekend :
Bolton Wanderers 2 Liverpool 0 Saturday
Chelsea 1 Aston Villa 1 Saturday
Charlton Athletic 1 Arsenal 2 Saturday
Everton 1 Manchester City 1 Saturday
Sheffield United 2 Middlesbrough 1 Saturday
Blackburn Rovers 2 Wigan Athletic 1 Sunday
Manchester United 2 Newcastle United 0 Sunday
West Ham United 0 Reading 1 Sunday
Watford 3 Fulham 3 Monday



League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Manchester United 7 5 1 1 14 4 16 +10
2 Chelsea 7 5 1 1 12 4 16 +8
3 Bolton Wanderers 7 4 2 1 7 3 14 +4
4 Portsmouth 7 4 1 2 10 3 13 +7
5 Everton 7 3 4 0 12 6 13 +6
6 Aston Villa 7 3 4 0 9 4 13 +5
7 Reading 7 4 1 2 9 7 13 +2
8 Arsenal 6 3 2 1 8 4 11 +4
9 Blackburn Rovers 7 3 2 2 8 9 11 -1
10 Liverpool 7 3 1 3 8 8 10 0
11 Fulham 7 2 3 2 8 12 9 -4
12 Manchester City 7 2 2 3 6 9 8 -3
13 Newcastle United 7 2 1 4 6 10 7 -4
14 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 7 2 1 4 4 9 7 -5
15 Wigan Athletic 6 1 2 3 6 8 5 -2
16 West Ham United 7 1 2 4 6 10 5 -4
17 Middlesbrough 7 1 2 4 6 12 5 -6
18 Sheffield United 7 1 2 4 4 10 5 -6
19 Watford 7 0 4 3 7 10 4 -3
20 Charlton Athletic 7 1 0 6 5 13 3 -8



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