The first game of the season's fixtures were repeated this weekend, with
Spurs meeting Sunderland in the reverse fixture and inflicted an equally
painful late winner on the Black Cats as they did to us back in August.
Robbie Keane's 100th goal for Tottenham earned a 2-0 win which came
courtesy of goals which topped and tailed the 90 minutes.
What happened in between is something the
score-line does not reveal.
When Jamie O'Hara got the ball from YP
Lee on the left wing, it looked like he had lost control and lost the
ball, but he harassed McShane, who hit Lee with his clearance and when
the ball landed at the midfielder's feet, he put in a low ball into the
six yard box in the second minute. Berbatov got there first, but
could only get a touch on it and the ball bounced up towards the far
side of the box and Aaron Lennon ran in to get the bottom of his boot to
the ball first and poke it past Gordon as he tentatively came out.
The early goal might have been a
vindication of the changes that Ramos introduced. Resting King at
the back and Kaboul being absent, this paired Dawson and Huddlestone in
the middle of the back four and Stalteri was brought in against the side
he had twice had nightmare games against in recent times !! Up
front, Keane was rested on the bench, while Jermaine Defoe took the
captains armband in a rare start.
It certainly opened up Sunderland, who
had Kenwyn Jones up front and the defence coped easily, with Hud having
a lot of time on the ball to pick out his pin-point passes from deep in
his own half. The ball was worked wide as often as possible, with
Defoe heading O'Hara's cross at the near post straight at Gordon in the
seventh minute. Then Hud's raking pass was nodded up in the air by
Collins, but it dropped kindly for Jermain, who hit the shot across
goal, with Gordon scrabbling to get back.
When Radek Cerny came and took a cross,
then threw the ball out into the path of Aaron Lennon on the right wing,
it looked as though he would be away, but as Nosworthy came in for a
tackle, he put both feet out in front of him and although he failed to
make contact with our winger, he did seem to stop the bal with his hand.
But not according to Mason, the ref, who, in my opinion, was the worst I
have seen at the Lane this season ... and there have been some bad 'uns
!! The ball was exchanged to the Spurs end and only an important
out-stretched foot by Huddlestone stopped Jones reaching Whitehead's
knock-down. Tommy then did what he does best, by dropping a 70
yard pass right onto the toe of Jermaine Jenas, when it looked like he
had over-hit it. Jenas took it down as the defence stood still and
with Gordon diving at his feet, the midfielder lifted it over the goalie
and the ball drifted to the left hand post. Sliding in, Berbatov
was just unable to reach the ball, but it was a shot on goal, not a
pass, leaving the ball going agonisingly wide.
Cerny's clearance to the left wing was
back-heeled into play by O'Hara, who found Dimitar Berbatov. He
knocked it on to Defoe and the pass from the right hand side of the box
inside the full back saw Lennon running onto it, playing a low ball
across the face of the six yard box. The ball was blocked by a
defender, but it rolled to the far post, where Berbatov hit it first
time and the ball pinged off the top of the bar on it's way over.
It was rapidly becoming an action replay of the Reading Cup tie and
numerous other games, where the chances kept coming, but were not taken.
Just after the half hour, Boateng and
Jenas combined to set up Defoe, but he got the ball stuck under his feet
and had to dig out a delicate chip from the edge of the area that Gordon
had to leap up to claw away. Then Berbatov was the recipient of a
Huddlestone pass and through the middle, smacked a shot with power as
two defenders slid in, but Gordon did well to get something on it to
take it over the top.
Roy Keane made a tactical swap on 38
minutes, with Chopra coming on for Stokes, as he tried to get his
forwards to shut down Huddlestone on the ball at the back and dent the
supply line to our own forwards. It almost paid off, as the
hustling of Hud almost resulted in an error at the back. The big
Spurs man wanted Cerny to come for a through ball, but when he didn't
and Tommy nearly trod on the ball, it took a hurried clearance to get
the ball away. When the next corner came in, it was Dawson who
made the crucial challenge on Jones, as he was about to shoot.
Then a couple of minutes before the interval, Michael was there again to
head away Paul McShane's header from Murphy's free-kick that might have
But as it was, we reached the halfway
point with a 1-0 lead, despite having slaughtered Sunderland. No
changes at the break meant the two sides were the same, but there was a
difference in the way they started playing, with Sunderland looking the
more hungry to get something from the match.
Two minutes in and this time it was
Dawson and Stalteri getting caught up, with Michael's clearance hitting
the Canadian and it dropping to Murphy in space. Luckily, he tried
to bend it too much and put the ball wastefully wide, when he should
have hit the target at the very least. The ball was in the
Spurs net three minutes later, but luckily for Spurs, the lineman's flag
ruled out Jones' shot after a free-kick had been flicked on to him
standing in an offside position. His finish was neat, but from an
A low ball across the goal mouth found
Chopra a yard short and McShane rose highest to win a header from a
free-kick, but couldn't keep it down. Defoe had a weak shot saved,
Boateng cut inside onto his left foot and hit Nosworthy with a 25 yard
effort, then Tainio's vision picked out Defoe and as Collins came into
tackle, the ball popped up into the air for Berbatov to hit a fierce
volley that cannoned off Nosworthy again. A free kick out on the
left wing shortly after nearly caught out the visitors, as Huddlestone
fired a low shot in at the near post and as the ball skidded off the wet
pitch, Gordon had to push it aside for a corner to make sure it didn't
Sunderland hit back when a 71st minute
run down the right by Jones took him past Huddlestone, but as he pulled
the ball back from the by-line, Dawson blocked the cross. Defoe
got the ball at the other end and looked to shoot, with Evans blocking
his effort and Berbatov was annoyed his fellow striker didn't lay it off
to him. It was Jermain's last action, as Keane was brought on for
him and he took the armband too.
When Roy Keane brought on Andrew Cole for
McShane, he threw him up front with Chopra and Jones to put pressure on
the Spurs back line, so Ramos countered by bringing on Chimbonda for
Stalteri. The changes almost worked in Sunderland's favour with a
corner met unchallenged by Collins at the far post and Cerny did well to
scramble it away and lucky that Jones was on the floor and unable to get
a decent foot on the ball from there. Chimbonda struggled against
Murphy and was cautioned for a tug on his short as he went past him.
It looked as though the pressure was
building on the Tottenham goal and a far post header from Jones was
knocked off the line by Dawson, with the ball falling invitingly to
Chopra a couple of yards out, but his shot went wide. Another
set-piece had almost lead to another goal against.
The next effort from the Black Cats came
when Murphy cut inside and unleashed a low shot that Cerny saved, but
fumbled out in front of him, but when Miller hit the rebound at goal,
the Czech keeper had recovered for the second save and managed to push
it away, with Huddlestone kicking the ball clear.
As the game went into added time, things
were extremely nervy in the crowd, as last minute goals have been a
trademark of Sunderland's games this season. Jenas played a neat
pass inside the full back for Chimbonda to run onto. Evans knew he
wasn't going to make it and tried to baulk the Spurs man outside the
box, missed and then slid in as the full back entered the box, not
looking like he was going to get the ball, but the hapless ref, who had
earlier got in the way of a Spurs player trying to make a tackle, ruled
in Sunderland's favour. No surprise there.
A minute to go and Cerny launched a long
ball up-field to waste time, but as Nosworthy and Evans got underneath
the bouncing ball, Keane took the ball down on the edge of the area and
fired a low shot on goal. It was not the most powerfully hit shot
Robbie has ever got off, but it bounced just in front of Gordon and
coming off the wet surface, it somehow managed to squeeze under the Scot
and dribble over the line. Cue the Keane celebration, brought out
of retirement one more time for his 100th Tottenham goal and it gave
Spurs the three points more importantly.
It was a weird performance, but having
dominated the first half, Spurs let Sunderland back into the match.
Not just by not finishing them off, but also by allowing them space and
time to attack us in the second half. A better team might not have
allowed us the luxury of a second goal and if they had, it might have
been nothing but a consolation.
While the defence looked better, there is
still some way to go, but again, a much changed side did not help the
consistency of the performance. There will no doubt be another
different eleven out on Tuesday.
A similar result, although not
performance, as that would lead to too much stress for our supporters,
would be most welcome.