What started as a patched together team of new faces and new tactics
that seemed to work a treat, ended up with Spurs hanging on for a 1-1
draw against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns this afternoon.
Tiredness and injury hit Tottenham, leaving the home side the strength
and determination to get something more than a point out of the game,
but in the end, Spurs were grateful to Carlo Cudicini for keeping the
Baggies out in the last ten minutes.
With Roman Pavlyuchenko playing as a lone
striker, with Luka Modric and debutant Rafael van der Vaart linking well
behind him, Tottenham looked potent and comfortable in possession, but
after Modric had departed injured and Gallas (and some others who had
been away on international duty) started to flag, the fresher legs of
Albion's players took them forward.
Spurs began by passing the ball around
with good movement and a zip in their passing that saw short inter-play
opening up the Albion defence. Within the first couple of minutes,
Modric got on the end of Bale's low ball into the box from the left, but
could not keep it down and in the seventh minute, a fine passing
movement that had Modric and van der Vaart pulling the home players
around the edge of the box, the Dutchman back-heeled a pass inside the
box for Aaron Lennon to have a shot, but with two defenders closing him
down, he tentatively shot too high.
It was a sight that a lot of Spurs fans
had waited a long time to see, with van der Vaart linking up in an
attacking midfield role. His passing opened up the pitch and a
ball out to Bale saw the defender go past one WBA player before Jara was
on hand to stop him getting any further forward. Then Bale was
played in by a left footed chip from Huddlestone, but the low ball was
cut out before it got to the six yard box. The Welshman was
rampaging down the left and one run from the halfway line, ended with a
ball across the face of goal, with no Spurs player on hand to administer
the touch it needed.
Then Spurs opened the Baggies up one more
time. 27 minutes on the clock and van der Vaart played a ball in
from the right towards Pavlyuchenko, but he was outnumbered by Tamas and
Olsson. But the ball was headed from one onto the other and
dropped in the box for Luka Modric to run in and sweep the ball into the
net past Carson, thus giving Tottenham the lead. It was a lucky
bounce, but one we don't usually get, so to capitalise was a joy to see.
What wasn't a joy to see was two heavy
challenges on Modric ... one that calamity referee Howard Webb gave as a
free-kick to WBA !! ... and he soon had to limp off to be replaced by
Niko Kranjcar. Luka was seen using crutches to go down the tunnel
at the break, so it looked a serious one.
Albion started to press forward and a
couple of shots caused Cudicini to hit the floor to make sure he had his
body behind the ball and when Fortune broke forward on the left.
He seemed to easily out-pace Gallas to hit a fierce cross that Cudicini
saved, but the ball cannoned off him high into the air at the near post.
Odemwingie leapt higher than the keeper to win the ball in the air and
headed across goal to the other post and with Gareth Bale trying to get
goal side, Chris Brunt managed to get his head on the ball to bundle it
over the line as Bale crashed into the post. Although the goal
came a bit against the run of play and with Spurs looking
reasonably comfortable, there had been a period inside the first quarter
of an hour, where Albion had won a couple of corners in a spell of
pressure, when Spurs failed to clear the ball adequately.
So, five minutes to the break and all
square. Cudicini once more had to get down to get behind
Ogemwingie's low shot before the teams trooped off to the field hospital
that is the Spurs dressing room these days. And when they came
out, a lot had changed, including the flow of the game.
While Tottenham had a five minute spell
when things could have been swung in their favour, the bulk of the
second half saw Spurs pushed back by the home side's resurgence.
Twice in a minute, Spurs could have been ahead, with van der Vaart
putting Bale through on the left, but he tried to dink the ball over
Carson, but the keeper spread himself well to stop the shot, then Kaboul
struck a fierce low shot from a 25 yard free-kick that got through the
wall and Carson pushed it aside.
It was just after this that West Brom
realised there might be something in the game for them. Fortune
should really have done better with a free header in the box from a
corner, then Jerome Thomas got away on the Albion left, but Gallas went
over to cover and had to haul the winger down when he got past him,
earning the Frenchman a yellow card on his debut. Spurs had a
half-chance when Kranjcar headed on Bale's corner and Gallas was lurking
at the far post to turn and get a foot on the ball, but he did not
control his effort and put it over the bar from about five yards out.
Both sides had made changes, with Spurs
trying their luck from distance, but the shots from van der Vaart (with
a deflection) and Huddlestone's volley were off target. And it was
back in defence that Hud's next action came, with him getting in the way
of Thomas' volley and with three minutes remaining, Barnes put a pacy
corner in to the near post and Olsson got to it unmarked and his
downwards header was sharply fallen on by Cudicini and Wilson Palacios
was there to slam the ball out of danger.
Two minutes later, Carlo made an even
better stop, with the Nigerian striker Odemwingie cutting inside from
the left to curl a shot that seemed to be heading inside the post, until
Cudicini threw himself full length to fingertip it wide for a corner.
Spurs almost lost the one point they had
in the last minute of the 90. The ball was lost in mid-pitch and
Tamas picked it up and strode forward with the ball. He played it
to Odemwingie on the right of the box and he cleverly back-heeled the
ball into his path (much the same way that van der Vaart had in the
first half). Luckily for Tottenham, the result was the same,
because as Tamas moved onto it, the Spurs keeper rushed out and the
Romanian shot hurriedly wide and was caught by Cudicini as he dived at
him. Into injury time, substitute Robbie Keane saw the ball pop up
and he took a quick volley at goal, but although he did well to get it
on target, it was straight at Carson and lacked a little venom.
They were both great opportunities to win
it at the death and as some of the Spurs players were struggling with
the pace they had played at in the first half, it would have been a
steal for Spurs. In the final analysis, a draw might have been a
fair result, with another two points dropped, but picking up points away
from the Lane will only be successful if we win our home matches.
Not something we have to worry about for
a week, as the team are off on their travels again, with their first
Champions League group match at Werder Bremen. A better
performance will be needed, but without players through injury before
the game and with Modric limping out of the action, it might be a
similarly patched up side that takes to the pitch in Germany. A
similar result might not be too bad an outcome there.