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Premier League

Tuesday 9th November 2010

No rest for the wicked and the way Tottenham played at Bolton firmly puts them in the very bad category.  With Champions league matches every other week, the "luxury" of being knocked out of the League Cup means there is one less set of fixtures to worry about, but with the FA Cup coming soon, Spurs need to do what West Bromwich Albion have been doing and squirreling away points for harder times.

Having lost to West Ham United and now Bolton, places where points were picked up last year, it is necessary not to forego any more against Sunderland.  Not that it will be easy to gain them, with the Black Cats having the confidence of a 2-0 win over Stoke City at the weekend, albeit with a big hand from Lee Cattermole.

With the lower teams beating the top sides this weekend - Bolton beating Spurs, Newcastle beating Arsenal, Liverpool beating Chelsea - anything can happen in the Premier League.  And with an array of strikers Sunderland have perhaps got the goals lurking in their locker that they have failed to reveal as yet.  Darren bent is known to us, as well as the rest of the league and can take chances when presented to him in the way he wants, which didn't happen at White Hart Lane for him.  However, he has flourished at Sunderland, where they get the ball to him quickly.  With Kenwyne Jones moving on, Asamoah Gyan was the one to displace him in the forward line and his strong physical presence will be another test for the Spurs defence after facing Kevin Davies.  With Bent picking up a hamstring injury in training, it might mean he will not be fit to face Spurs, leaving the Wearsiders little choice up front other than to pair Gyan with the strong running Manchester United loan player Danny Welbeck.

In midfield we find another old friend, Steed Malbranque, who always served the Spurs side well, wherever he was asked to play.  His industry is matched by good skill on the ball and despite missing a penalty last weekend, he is well liked at the Stadium of Light.  Jordan Henderson has been making a bit of a reputation for himself and looks a good prospect, but he is not the finished article yet, with his darting runs and neat footwork a little undermined by his lack of upper body strength, leaving him a bit on the lightweight side. 

David Meyler will be missing, Cristian Riveros and Boudewijn Zenden could come in and play wide for the Black Cats, with Lee Cattermole sitting in a defensive role, trying to curb his more enthusiastic tendencies to get involved in the midfield battles.

Kieron Richardson can play in midfield, but Bruce seems to prefer him to play at full back thee days.  Odd, when he has Phil Bardsley signed up on a long term deal and has an option on Anton Ferdinand or Titus Bramble to play on the other side of defence, pairing John Mensah, Michael Turner or Paolo da Silva in the middle.  The manager also has the added option of Nedum Onouha anywhere across the back four.  Mensah is likely to be missing and Ferdinand has been off form for some time, so, with Bramble just returning from suspension for his sending off in the 1-5 defeat by Newcastle United, Turner and da Silva will probably be the centre two with Onouha at full back.

Craig Gordon has been unlucky with injury while at the club, as he is a very good keeper when fit, but Bruce went out and spent big on Simon Mingolet the Belgian keeper in the summer, so he is currently the one in possession of the gloves.  A good shot stopper, but not that confident in the air or when coming for crosses, it will be interesting to see if we can get our wide men putting balls in high and low to test him more than we did Jaaskelainen on Saturday.

If van der Vaart doesn't make it, I guess it will be a midfield of Modric, Kranjcar, Huddlestone and Bale, with Crouch up front and maybe Pav alongside him to start and pose Sunderland some problems rather than let the opposition have only one man to mark out of the game.

It is not that Spurs are passive with the 4-4-1-1 formation, but the ball keeps coming back towards their goal and a more conventional set-up might be more solid.  Rafael does make it hard to play a traditional formation, but in his absence, it might be that a return to the tried and trusted tactics could bear fruit.  Expect Sunderland to replicate the tactics of other teams against us to make them hard to break down.  Closing Spurs players down is not a problem, but the physical approach and the time-wasting we have seen too often already so far this season is typical of how some teams will make their mark on Tottenham. 

Sunderland have only one away win in 23, which is never a good thing for Spurs fans to hear when they are the next in line for the record to be extended or broken, but I don't think it will be pretty, but if we can sneak a narrow in, it will be a sign of how the side might have to play to get the points they need.

PREDICTION : -  Tottenham Hotspur    1      Sunderland    0

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


TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : -  Jermain Defoe (out - ankle), Michael Dawson (out - knee & ankle), Jonathan Woodgate (out - groin), Jamie O'Hara (out - back);  Ledley King (out - groin); Aaron Lennon (out - hamstring); Rafael van der Vaart (doubtful - hamstring); William Gallas (doubtful - knee); Robbie Keane (out - ankle)

SUNDERLAND:  -  Fraizer Campbell (out - knee); David Meyler (out - knee); Darren Bent (doubtful - hamstring); John Mensah (doubtful - shoulder)


Match of the Day  (BBC 1) - Wednesday (10.11.2010) 22.45 (highlights)  Also available online.
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Tottenham Hotspur   1    Sunderland   1      (Half-time score : 0-0)

Premier League
Venue : White Hart Lane  
Tuesday 9th November 2010
Kick Off :  8.00 p.m.
Referee :  Howard Webb (South Yorkshire)
Assistant Referees :  Mr. J. Flynn; Mr. M. Yerby
Fourth Official :   Mr. P. Crossley
Crowd :   35,843
Spurs kicked off and played towards the Paxton Road end in the first half.
Weather :  -   Dry, but very cold
Teams : - 
Tottenham Hotspur :

  1  Gomes     

  2  Hutton
13  Gallas
  4  Kaboul
32  Assou-Ekotto

  5  Bentley     
14  Modric
  6  Huddlestone (c)
  3  Bale

11  van der Vaart 
  9  Pavlyuchenko (15  Crouch 46)

Unused subs: 
22  Corluka
19  Bassong
12  Palacios
21  Kranjcar
  8  Jenas 

Sunderland :

  1  Gordon

  1  Ferdinand  (  2  Bardsley 18)
  4  Turner
19  Gordon
15  Onuoha

  3  Richardson  (  8  Malbranque 86)
  7  Zenden
  6  Cattermole     
10  Henderson
16  Riveros (17  Welbeck 46)

33  Gyan

Unused subs: 
22  Mignolet
12  Angeleri
14  Da Silva
27  Al-Muhammadi


Harry Redknapp


Steve Bruce

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of
Tottenham Hotspur

Scorers : -  
Tottenham Hotspur

van der Vaart  64


Gyan  67

Cards : -  
Tottenham Hotspur  

Bentley (simulation)  52
Gomes (foul)  88  



Cattermole (foul)  70


Match Report : -  
It seems that Harry Redknapp was hurt of the boos at the end of the game in which Spurs battered at the door of the Sunderland goal and got in once, but then left their own barn door wide open, with two defenders letting the ball go through them, leaving Asamoah Gyan to stroll through and knock the ball past Heurelho Gomes to win the visitors an undeserved point.

While Spurs failed to win in the Premier League for a fourth game, it was not the frustration with not getting all three points, as we are now too familiar with away team visiting the Lane with tactics designed to thwart Spurs without offering too much attacking intent, the fact that the Black Cats' manager admitted as much.  Much of the dissatisfaction was derived from the lack of clean sheets that goes back to the start of the season, when their only clean sheet was recorded against Manchester City.

The referee suffered boos too and some were reserved for him at the end and having been found wanting in the World Cup Final, Howard Webb compounded his failing reputation with two crucial mis-judgements which show that he has understanding of how the game is played is a defect in his ability to take control of a match.

His first error, in booking David Bentley for a dive when caught by Bolo Zenden in the penalty area just after half-time, was borne of a belief that the player was already going to ground when the Sunderland midfielder made contact.  Whether or not Bentley was looking for the foul, it happened and contact was made, so normally you would expect the official to point to the spot.  Even the Dutchman revealed that he expected that to be the result of his tackle.

Webb's second mistake came when he awarded a free-kick to Spurs for what was a horror challenge by Lee Cattermole on Luka Modric that was way above his shin-pad and was a potential leg-breaker.  With the Spurs players infuriated by the foul, Webb thought it only worthy of a yellow card and not the red that it deserved.

But even putting the refereeing inadequacy aside, Tottenham should have taken full points from this game, with 17 shots on target and especially in the first half, when they dominated a Sunderland side set up with only one forward and they rarely threatened to get the ball to him.

Modric set the tone with a half-hit shot from just inside the box in the second minute, causing Craig Gordon to the first of many saves in the game.  Pavlyuchenko, in for Crouch, rolled away from Bramble after taking the ball down with his chest, but his shot went a foot wide, before Cattermole went close with a shot and then Kieron Richardson's shot took a wicked deflection off Younes Kaboul, leaving Gomes going the wrong way, but luckily the ball flew out for a corner. 

There was a massive scramble in the Sunderland goalmouth after Turner kicked the ball right up in the air and as Gordon came for it, he was challenged by van der Vaart, putting him off enough to punch it a short distance.  David Bentley hit a shot that was blocked by Anton Ferdinand and then VDV had a go, but Bramble got in the way of his shot.  In the 17th minute, Spurs came even closer, with Tom Huddlestone nearly repeating his effort of two years ago (which was shown on the big screen before the game).  A corner was headed out by Ferdinand, but only to Hud and he took a first time shot that thudded back off the angle.

It was one of the few things that Ferdinand did during the game, as he limped off soon after, which was a shame, as he is rubbish.  He was replaced by Phil Bardsley, who is not too much better, but he did topple Bentley and van der Vaart in quick succession to provide Spurs with free-kicks from our right wing.  Nothing came from them though, but Alan Hutton was pushing on down the line and nearly put Luka Modric in, but his shot was blocked by Turner, before Rafa had two shots - one which was too high and the other a well-worked move by Tom and Bentley, giving VDV a shooting chance from a narrow angle on the right, with his shot sneaking inside the near post had Gordon not managed to beat it out for a corner.

van der Vaart was at the heart of a lot of what was good about Spurs and he linked well with Pav on the edge of the Sunderland box, but their psychic wavelength was not in synch when Rafa back-heeled to Pav on the edge of the box, when he was in a better position to go for goal and the Russian had not continued his run.

Tottenham's forward surges continued and when a free-kick was awarded on the left wing, Bentley curved a ball in that almost caught Gordon out as it was heading under his bar, but the keeper touched it over.  Then just before the break, the winger was on the other flank, stepped over the ball to come inside and smashed a left foot shot at goal that the keeper did well to dive up to push out as it headed towards the top corner of his goal.

In between, there was a rare break and Gyan got on the end of Zenden's cross to head at goal, but Kaboul got in the way to take any danger out of the effort.

The appearance of Ricky Villa at half-time showed how humble some stars of the game can be compared to many of the arrogant, over-paid stars of today and even though he was here to plug his auto-biography, he was almost embarrassed by the fame that still surrounds him from his 1981 FA Cup Final winning goal. 

Both sides made changes at the break.  Pav made way for Crouch and the anonymous midfielder Riveros went off with striker Danny Welbeck coming on in his place.  It was a more attacking move by Sunderland, but one which failed to spark too much more of an attacking purpose.  Inside the first five minutes of the half, Spurs had a couple of crosses fly across goal before Hutton's ball in from the right was headed just wide by a foot or so by van der Vaart, but he did well, considering the ball was little behind him.

Then, in the 52nd minute, when Bentley made his first dangerous run into the box, he was felled by Zenden, but one of our best referees, Webb, totally got it wrong and booked Bentley for a dive, instead of giving Rafael van der Vaart the opportunity to keep up his record of having scored in every Spurs home game he has played.  It nearly happened for the Dutchman five minutes later, when a downward header was pushed up over the bar by Gordon.

A long ball out of defence saw Titus Bramble go too far under the ball and it bounced past him, allowing Crouch to knock the ball wide to Bale, who should have gone forward in the left hand channel for goal himself, but he went wider and tried to return the ball  in low for Crouch, but the cross was cut out.  This was a feature of Tottenham's play tonight and the early low ball into the box paid dividends for us against Inter, but the goals that Sunderland conceded in their 1-5 derby thrashing came from aerial incidents and Spurs only created one serious situation like that and it lead to the goal in the 64th minute.

BAE took the ball from Onuoha's clearance and played in Bale, who got free on the left and his far post cross was nodded back across the face of goal by Crouch and van der Vaart instinctively found himself with the ball close to him inside the six yard box.  With his back to goal, letting the ball run across him, he turned to score past the two defenders on the line and put Spurs ahead.

Not that the lead lasted for long.  And it was another poor goal to concede coming so soon after the lackadaisical performance at Bolton on Saturday.  Bentley lost the ball on the right wing and it was fed inside to Welbeck, who played it forward.  Gallas and Kaboul were both in place to cut it out, but neither did and the ball ran tamely though for Asamoah Gyan to have a free run to beat Gomes from 15 yards out.  It was a piece of defending that showed that a relationship had still not developed between the two, as one should have taken control of the situation and put the ball in row Z.

After two goals in quick succession, the game died a bit, with only Cattermole's crude tackle leaving Modric with a great deal of pain and then near the end, a through ball should have been cut out again by the Spurs defence, but Welbeck got on the end of it, Gomes came out to challenge him and as the ball went sideways to substitute Steed Malbranque, Gomes brought him down.  It was very close to the edge of the penalty area and there was a man covering, so a free-kick outside the box and a booking resulted.  The free-kick hit the Spurs wall and went out for a corner that nothing came from.

As for Tottenham, they tired after pushing forward so often in the first half and the passing became a little more ragged, leaving Sunderland to move in offensive areas a little more often, but they could not create too much in dangerous areas.

A disappointing point and the boos at the end of the game might have upset Harry, but the fans are seeing Spurs struggle to open up sides who come to the Lane set up to get a point.

It will be a test of his management to try and break down a Blackburn side who are next up at WHL on Saturday, as with two wins on the bounce, they will be looking for a breakaway win against Tottenham and there will have to be either the defensive resolve or the attacking cutting-edge to ensure they leave unhappy.

Philip Martin

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Fan Reaction : -



It wasn't a poor performance by Spurs apart from the fact that we let in a slack goal and ran out of steam towards the final quarter of the game.

With lots of efforts on goal, the only thing you could say is that the team didn't take their chances to put this one to bed before Sunderland woke up.  And even then, it took a massive shove from Spurs to give them the opportunity to get back into the game, as Gallas and Kaboul went to sleep and let Gyan through for a simple goal.

When Jermain Defoe is fit, it will be interesting to see what Harry does, as the Crouch-van der Vaart partnership seems to be one which produces goal and he is unlikely to play two up top with VDV behind, as that would effectively leave three in midfield. 

The defence also need to tighten up to stop gifting goals to the other sides.  Two of the goals on Saturday at Bolton could have been avoided and tonight's one too.  The lack of clean sheets is a major factor in the points we have dropped this season and a lot of them have been against teams we picked up points against last season.

Obviously, being a top four team last season means that opponents approach the games against us differently now, but it is up to Harry to come up with a way of making sure we don't succumb to stifling tactics.  Whether that means returning to amore familiar 4-4-2 formation, which would probably leave van der Vaart out of the line up or going 1-5-4, but with the midfield being more containing and having the option of going forward, I don't know.  But they are ways that the side could be set out.

Losing Lennon made a difference, as the presence of Bentley showed what he could do and what he shouldn't.  A good shot that brought a good save from Gordon and the turn into the area for the 'penalty' were the good, but his crossing was not great and a free kick near the end that flew a long way over the top got the crowd groaning.

Sunderland rode their luck and were helped by Webb, who should have given us a penalty and sent off Cattermole, but it was really down to Spurs that all three points were in our account.

We beat Sunderland at home last season; we drew with Bolton away last season.  That's three points down on last season's total and if you compare last season's results with this season's we are a way down on a like for like points haul.

We need to start picking points up now before we face the big sides, with Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool coming up, Blackburn on Saturday becomes an important game.

Isaac Gregory




Other scores this mid-week :
Aston Villa 3 Blackpool 2 Wednesday
Chelsea 1 Fulham 0 Wednesday
Everton 1 Bolton Wanderers 1 Wednesday
Manchester City 0 Manchester United 0 Wednesday
Newcastle United 1 Blackburn Rovers 2 Wednesday
Stoke City 3 Birmingham City 2 Tuesday
West Ham United 2 West Bromwich Albion 2 Wednesday
Wigan Athletic 1 Liverpool 1 Wednesday
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 Arsenal 2 Wednesday



League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Chelsea 12 9 1 2 28 5 28 +23
2 Manchester United 12 6 6 0 26 15 24 +11
3 Arsenal 12 7 2 3 24 11 23 +13
4 Manchester City 12 6 3 3 15 10 21 +5
5 Newcastle United 12 5 2 5 21 16 17 +5
6 Bolton Wanderers 12 3 7 2 18 17 16 +1
7 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 12 4 4 4 15 16 16 -1
8 Sunderland 12 3 7 2 12 13 16 -1
9 Liverpool 12 4 4 4 13 15 16 -2
10 Aston Villa 12 4 4 4 13 16 16 -4
11 West Bromwich Albion 12 4 4 4 16 21 16 -5
12 Everton 13 3 6 3 13 11 15 +2
13 Blackburn Rovers 12 4 3 5 13 14 15 -1
14 Blackpool 12 4 2 6 19 26 14 -7
15 Fulham 12 2 7 3 13 13 13 0
16 Stoke City 12 4 1 7 13 18 13 -5
17 Birmingham City 12 2 6 4 14 17 12 -3
18 Wigan Athletic 12 2 5 5 9 21 11 -12
19 Wolverhampton Wanderers 12 2 3 7 11 20 9 -9
20 West Ham United 12 1 5 6 11 22 8 -11


Position before the match :  7th
Position after the match :  7th
Position after the weekend :   7th


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