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Premier League

Saturday 29th December 2007


Having vanquished Fulham with a 5-1 score-line, this game against an in-form Reading side will be a tougher proposition to gain the three points from.

Steve Coppell struggled with the second season syndrome at the start of the campaign, but has steadied the ship and has got good results against a couple of top sides with a win against Liverpool and a draw at Old Trafford.  They are currently on a five game unbeaten run and meet a Tottenham team, who are also playing well at the moment.

Marcus Hahnemann is a big goalkeeper, who is good at shot-stopping and making himself big when players are through one-on-one, but he loses position easily and is sometimes rash in coming for the ball, leaving himself too much to do to get to it.  Also not that good with his feet, so pressure on back-passes might cause a mistake.

The Biscuitmen's defence has been problematical for them this season and the rotation of players for injuries, suspension and loss of form, but they have the valuable asset of Nicky Shorey at left back and the dogged Graeme Murty at right back.  Between the two full backs, Ibrahim Sonko and Ivar Ingimarsson provide the height in defence.  Both are dangerous from dead-ball situations at the other end of the field, but in their traditional roles they can be less than proficient on the floor, so if Ramos chooses to go with Bent and Defoe up front to change things around, he might find the long ball up to Bent's head might not yield the success he hopes for.  Other options are the old Chelsea player Michael Duberry, who has seen better days and Andre Bikey, who has been rash in his tackling and rather than being a regular, he has been a player called upon when needed rather than a first choice selection.  Ulysses De La Cruz is another defender on the Reading books, with Premier League experience with Aston Villa and an international to boot, he can overlap on the flank, but may be suspect to attack as he was originally a winger and lacks a great appreciation of his position.

The volatile Stephen Hunt makes few friends for himself by his attitude to other players on the pitch.  It is not the case of him being a player you would want on your side, as I find him to be the anti-thesis of a player I would want in my side.  It is a shame he takes that approach to football, as without it I think he could be a decent enough player, but we will need to watch him for a number of reasons.  James Harper is an ex-Gooner who is having a bit of a revival, being the player who has been most consistent for the Berkshire side this season.  He is the tackler in midfield and also the most creative passer there too.  With Bobby Convey outside him on one side and Hunt on the other, he can spread the play to give width to the team.  Shane Long has been converted into a midfielder, as he was originally a forward, but he still knows where the goal is as he is the one who gets into attack to bolster the numbers there.  Malian midfielder Kalifa Cisse is now settling into the team and might be on the bench, offering a tigerish attitude and a ball-winning agenda for the visitors.

Dave Kitson and Kevin Doyle score the bulk of Reading's goals, even though they have struggled to score as many as they might have liked to.  With England Under-21 striker Leroy Lita almost persona non grata at the Madjeski, as he refuses to sing a new deal, thus allowing him to leave on a Bosman, the two strikers are virtually a self-selecting pairing up front.  Kitson is better with his head and he has scored in the Premiership despite being drawn from the lower leagues when first signed by Reading.  Doyle came in from Irish football, but hit 13 goals last season and is a player who can hit the target from almost any angle, so will need to be tightly marked, as he only needs half a yard to get a shot away.

The shrewd Reading boss might start with five in midfield or one striker dropping back behind the other to make it difficult for Tottenham to make headway from midfield, but this might lead to the one forward being isolated and Tottenham being gifted a lot of possession.  Although they had a slow start against Fulham, Spurs need to make a quick start, as Reading invariably try to take the heat out of the game by keeping it tight for the first 25-30 minutes.  I think that there might be some joy if there is a Bent/Defoe pairing, as both should be hungry to show that they have a part to play in Ramos' plans and there will be a narrow, but pretty comfortable win in the end for Spurs ...

PREDICTION : -  Tottenham Hotspur  2    Reading  1

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


TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : -   Anthony Gardner (ankle); Gareth Bale (foot); Benoit Assou-Ekotto (knee); Didier Zokora (suspended 3 of 3); Michael Dawson (migraines);  - (-); 

READING :  Glen Little (heel); Brynjar Gunnarsson (suspended); John Oster (ankle); 


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Tottenham Hotspur   6    Reading   4      (Half-time score : 1-1)

Premier League
Venue : White Hart Lane  
Saturday 29th December 2007
Kick Off :  3.00 p.m.
Crowd :   36,178
Referee :  Keith Stroud (Hampshire)
Tottenham kicked off and played towards the Park Lane end in the first half.
Weather :  -  Dry, bright
Teams : - 
Tottenham Hotspur :

  1 Robinson

  2 Chimbonda
  5 Kaboul
26 King (c) (18 Defoe 61)
  3 YP Lee

  8 Jenas
15 Malbranque
22 Huddlestone 
25 Lennon (17 Boateng 67)

  9 Berbatov
10 Keane (  6 Tainio 80)

Unused subs: 
12 Cerny

Reading :

  1 Hahnemann

  2 Murty (c) (23  De la Cruz 71)
  5 Sonko
16 Ingimarsson
  3 Shorey    

10 Hunt
  4 Cisse    
15 Harper
17 Convey (24 Long 84    )

  9 Doyle
12 Kitson

Unused subs: 
32 Federici
  8 Lita
22 Bikey

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of
Tottenham Hotspur

Scorers : -  
Tottenham Hotspur

Berbatov 7
Berbatov 63
Berbatov 73
Malbranque 76
Defoe 79
Berbatov 83


Cisse 16
Ingimarsson 53
Kitson 69
Kitson 74

Cards : -  
Tottenham Hotspur  





Cisse (foul) 8
Shorey (dissent) 79
Long (foul) 90


Match Report : -  
With defences playing only a fleeting part of this game, an end of year goal feast was laid in front of the 36,000 plus at White Hart Lane as Spurs gorged themselves a bit more on the chances going begging than Reading did.

The second highest goals total in a Premier League game came with the final score-line of 6-4 to Spurs, when the game looked lost after going behind for the third time at 3-4, but Ramos' gamble in going with three at the back salvaged the game and then reverting to four at the back again, Spurs went on to win it.

I don't think I have ever seen a game like it and it surpassed the 4-4 earlier in the season with Aston Villa.  Although a couple of our goals looked dubious, the argument should really have been about how both sides are mid-table when they ship so many goals.  It is the second time Reading have scored four away from home and gone back to Berkshire pointless.

When Young-Pyo Lee moved forward in the first couple of minutes and hit a shot that hit the target and brought a dive from Hahnemann to save, perhaps we should have known something was going to happen.  It is not often shots from Lee don't end up in row Z !!

When the first goal came, it was a simple affair.  Steed Malbranque, who had a another fine match, slid a pass through the Reading defence into the right hand channel of the penalty area for Robbie Keane.  Later in the game, Keane was flagged off-side a couple of times when it was marginal, but he escaped the linesman's eagle eye on this occasion and calmly delivered a square pass along the six yard line for Dimitar Berbatov to come in behind the defender to side-foot home with ease.  A sixth minute lead was just what we wanted to make Reading have to come out and play, with it also giving us something to build on. 

But like so many times this season, we have had to defend a lead and it didn't last too long.  The defence had done well to prevent anything getting through to Robinson until a free-kick was awarded for an unnecessary temperamental swing of the boot by Berbatov into Shorey's back on the Reading left wing by the halfway line.  Shorey played a high ball into the penalty area, where a host of players were gathered around the penalty spot.  Robinson came for it and tried to punch, but Kaboul was keen to head it away and between the two of them, they only succeeded in clearing the ball to the edge of the box, where Kalifa Cisse was standing and he guided a volley back towards goal, which went through the clump of players to equalise in the 16th minute.

It was another avoidable goal which we conceded and lead to a spell of Reading pressure, which they had not threatened before the leveller.  Robbo had to be on his toes a couple of minutes later as Hunt's cross flicked off Lee's heel and looped up and nearly went in at the angle, but Paul tipped it over the bar as it spun wildly.

Jenas had returned after injury and found it hard to get into the game, but he made a good burst into the area on the left side, but couldn't pull his cross back far enough to find Berbatov or Keane and it went straight into Hahnemann's arms.  At the other end, it took until the 33rd minute for another good chance, when Lennon was penalised for a foul on Convey on the edge of the area and Shorey stepped up to hit the free-kick goal-wards.  Luckily for Spurs, it was a bit too close to goal to allow him to get it down over the wall and it went over the bar, wit Robinson having it covered anyway.  Both teams tried to break through, but only Keane's first time shot that flew well over got close to goal.

Then, in the last minute of the half, Kaboul played a ball down the left wing, which Ingamarsson seemed to have covered, but his slip let in Berbatov to pull the ball across the face of goal with Robbie running in, but he went for it with his right foot instead of his left and missed converting it by inches, leaving the teams level at 1-1 at the break.

Little did we know what the second half held when both teams resumed for the restart.

YP got a good block on Doyle's shot in the opening minutes and Berbatov struck and outrageous lazy volley when his cross was blocked, but his effort landed on top of the net rather than in it.  A long Huddlestone free-kick from the left saw Chimbonda get a header across the box ahead of Shorey, but as Keane tried to control the ball to swivel and get a shot in, he was knocked off the ball by a combination of Ingimarsson and Sonko, but no penalty was given.  Then just after 50 minutes, Aaron Lennon cut in from the right wing to hit a left foot shot straight at Hahnemann, with Dimitar right in line, slightly unsighting the keeper.

This was when it all started.  In the 52nd minute, Reading took the lead for the first time.  Chimbonda made a good stretching block to deny Kitson and from the corner, Ingimarsson lost Hud and had a free header from a yard out that left Robinson helpless as it was knocked down with great power.  Reading were now in the ascendancy and only a couple of quick-thinking rushes from his goal-line by Paul Robinson stopped Kitson adding to the Reading tally.  The first saw a lucky bounce take the ball past the Tottenham defenders on the edge of the area leaving him through on Robbo, but the goalie made himself big as Kitson dithered and then a few minutes later Robinson smothered the ball as Kitson took a second touch in the area.  There was a strange substitution by Ramos saw Ledley King stunned to be going off when Jermain Defoe was standing waiting to enter the fray and this played into the Royals' hands with the defence all over the place as Hunt ran through and only a sharp save by Robinson kept the ball out and made up for his earlier blunder.  Then a high ball caused all sort of problems and it wasn't cleared effectively, so when it dropped to Kitson, he tried his luck from 20 yards out and the ball fizzed wide. 

Despite this, Tottenham capitalised on a poor piece of defending by Murty.  Defoe showed why he had been brought on, sprinting away from the defence as he ran onto a ball into the right hand corner of the pitch.  Jinking to the by-line, he pulled the ball back into the six yard box and Murty swung a boot at it, but the ball only went as far as Berbatov, who rifled it straight back, bulging the back of the net with the Reading captain and the keeper both left helpless by the ferocity of the shot.  So 63 minutes and it was now 2-2.

Spurs were now asking the questions, as Huddlestone hit a shot straight at Hahnemann and then Keane played Jermain in, but as he flicked the ball up, he could not get sufficient space to turn on it and totally missed the ball with his shot.  Spurs brought on Kevin-Prince Boateng for Aaron Lennon, who had not been able to get into the game that much, with the aim to strengthen the midfield.

Doyle attempted to fire in a shot, but Hud was back defending and blocked it out for a 70th minute corner.  Shorey once more whipped the ball in and this time it went to the near post, where Kitson had pulled away from Kaboul and met it in front of the near post.  The ball flashed across the goal and went in at the far post, despite Malbranque's effort to keep it out.  Another set-piece ... another goal conceded.

With Murty having a bit of a mare, Coppell brought on Ulysses De La Cruz, who was, I suppose supposed to shore things up at the back.  Good plan.  Not actually something that came to fruition though.

Another burst forward by Jenas brought Cisse across to slide the ball away from him for a corner.  As the former Forest midfielder crossed to the far post, Chimbonda got to it, but his header only went up in the air and as it dropped, Berbatov used his body to ease a defender out of the way and he tucked away a volley from close to his body past the rooted Hahnemann from six yards out for a well taken hat-trick.  The crowd went wild, as it had been so long since a Spurs player had recorded a treble.

Not that we were cheering for long, as a move broke down on the edge of the Reading box, when Boateng tried to thread a pass through and suddenly, the ball was switched forward and our defence was split open down the middle, as Hunt ran with the ball, then released it to Kitson on his left to allow the striker to prod it over Robinson as he came out low.  The Spurs fan celebrated his second, which gave Reading the lead for the third time in the 73rd minute.

A minute later, Tommy got the ball 25 yards out and despite the calls of the fans to shoot, he played a ball on the ground, through to Malbranque on the left side of the area, who cut inside onto his right foot and curled a shot round the keeper and into the roof of the net.  4-4 and just 90 seconds after Reading had regained the lead, it was all square again.

Watching the game, it was breathless stuff.  Goodness knows what it was like to play in.  but within another 90 seconds Tottenham were ahead for the first time in the second half.   A minute after Steed's leveller, Tommy got the ball 25 yards out and despite the calls of the fans to shoot, he played a ball on the ground, through to Robbie in the box, where he was floored by Sonko before he could line up a shot.  Penalty.  Keane got up to take the kick himself and after his miss against Arsenal last week, we all held our breath.  He ran up, without a stutter in his run this time, but hit low to Hahnemann's right, the keeper guessed correctly and beat the ball out.  Luckily for Tottenham, Defoe was the first one following in and nodded the ball into an unguarded net as it popped up kindly for him.  Defoe had gone into the box early and was about three yards into the box when Keane struck the spot-kick, but it was just one more thing that Stroud missed on the day. 

The miss ended Keane's action for the day, as Tainio came on to play right back and things were shifted around once more.  There were still ten minutes left and at the rate goals had been scored there was still time for at least another one.

And that is exactly what happened.  82 minutes gone and Kaboul's long through ball over the top found Dimitar shouldering his man to get there first and from the edge of the box, waited for it to sit up nicely for him to lash it past Hahnemann, despite the keeper getting his hand to the ball to round off the scoring at 6-4.  The crowd and the players went nuts !!  Berbatov hit four goals in what was a fairly quiet performance for him for long periods of the match.

Still the action didn't stop, as Defoe went on a run from left to right and from 23 yards out hit a pile-driver that the keeper could only beat out and then, when Reading finally got near the Spurs goal substitute Shane Long decided to barge Kaboul out of the way, even though there was no chance of the man in hoops getting the ball, which was in Robinson's hands.  Another yellow card and then it was time for the ref to blow the final whistle.

Phew !!  One of my friends watching the game with me wanted to stay after the players had left the field, just in case there were any more goals to go in !!

The result was a fantastic one for Tottenham, who needed the three points to stay in touch with the top half teams.  But more than that, it looked as though our kamikaze defending had cost us an initial winning position, so the spirit and Ramos' belief in playing the same way whether things were going your way or not seemed to pull them through.

Well, that and Reading being a bit crap.

The score hides our defensive failings - well, it doesn't really - but what we need to do is defend better in tight games, where we might not have the opportunity to score with almost every attack.

That will be put to the test in the next game against Villa, which I hesitate to guess will neither finish 6-4 nor 4-4.  And we face Reading again next Saturday in the FA Cup.  A repeat goal feast ?  Again, I think this was a one-off and the Cup tie might be a tighter affair.  but you never know !!



Reaction : -




Tottenham’s defence record leading up to the game was impressive, only conceding five in their last six games.  But today was a whole other story.  10 goals shared, eight in the second half, with roughly one every six minutes during that period.

The first goal came early, on six minutes, as Keane collected Malbranque’s clever ball and sent a teasing cross along the ground which Berbatov tapped in.  However, the first half was a cautious and at times insipid affair with both defences coming out on top.  Reading’s balls into the box and lapses in the Tottenham defence’s concentration were the main sources of chances for the Royals, whereas slick passing and movement were the home team’s main ways of creating openings.  Spurs’ long balls to Berbatov were largely ineffective as the defensive pairing of Sonko and Ingimarsson dealt with them effortlessly.

Although Spurs controlled possession they created little and paid the price when Nicky Shorey sent a high ball sailing into the Spurs penalty area.  As Robinson flapped over the ball which two defenders were ready to head away, panic gripped the box and the ball fell to Kalifa Cisse, who volleyed through the crowd to draw level at 1-1, on 16 minutes.  The home fans had now realised that it was not going to be as easy as their 5-1 demolishing of Fulham.

Then the turning point came.  Towards the end of the first half, Berbatov sent a similar ball into the path of Keane who, with the goal gaping, failed to make contact with the ball from six yards.  If he had stuck out his left foot he couldn’t have missed and if Spurs had gone into the break leading 2-1, it would a completely different story.

But what a story it turned out to be.

Eight minutes into the second half Shorey whipped in a sublime corner which Ivar Ingimarsson met with a header.  Robinson failed to react and the bald Icelandic centre back wheeled away to the corner of the South Stand where pandemonium had engulfed the Royals supporters.  As Spurs poured forward in search of an equaliser, the ever dangerous strike force of Dave Kitson and Kevin Doyle found holes in the Spurs defence, but Robinson twice smothered Kitson breakthroughs to redeem himself. 

Jermaine Jenas was clearly unfit, although Tom Huddlestone was building in confidence and his passing pushed the Lilywhites forward.  On 62 minutes King came off for Defoe.  Ramos had gambled.  Cue the drama.

On 63, Defoe was the architect, as Berbatov smashed home after Murty cleared poorly.  Six minutes later, the Lane grumbled as Reading won another corner and they knew what was coming.  Shorey again sent in a lovely curling left-footed cross and this time Dave Kitson met it at the near post with a glancing header into the net.

Four minutes later, on 73, Berbatov scored, a delightful moment of sublime skill, volleying in a high ball on the turn, past the stunned Hahnemann.  It surprised everyone inside the ground, not least the relieved home fans.

3-3 now, but not for long.  45 seconds later Hunt fed Kitson, this time too quick for Robinson, dinking the ball into the net.  The sea of white and royal blue were raucous, in contrast with the desperation of the rest of the ground.  Having come back twice from behind only to concede again.

Nobody saw what was coming.

Three goals for Spurs in the space of seven minutes.  First, a curling chip from Steed Malbranque brought Spurs level.  Then, three minutes later Sonko was deemed to have fouled Keane and the referee pointed to the spot.  Keane stepped up, eager to make up for the miss against Arsenal, only for Hahnemann to parry it, but Defoe was on hand to head in the easiest of rebounds, sending White Hart Lane into raptures, with Spurs leading for the first time since Berbatov’s opener, which seemed a long time to go.

Then, on 83, the show was not over.  Berbatov’s power drive after being clean through was too hot for Hahnemann to handle, and the lead was extended, 6-4 now.

For the last ten minutes, Spurs kept the ball, passing it around like a new team with the likes of the substitute Boateng and Huddlestone showing great composure.  This seemed too much for the heartbroken men from Berkshire, who have now twice scored four away from home and lost both times this season.

A pulsating climax to a gripping story, 16 goals have been witnessed in the last four days at the Lane.  Again Spurs’ clinical finishing saved them.  However, the Spurs defence will have to sure up against the likes of Arsenal, Aston Villa and Chelsea, who are all to come in the next month.   Defending set-pieces is a real worry, as three of Reading’s goals came from them.

So on a day when Man United lost their goalscoring touch and lost against West Ham, and Dimitar Berbatov scored four, who can say what will happen in January and the summer transfer window ?  However, there will be no shortage of quality football to come, with potentially eight matches for Spurs in January.  I wonder what will happen next weekend, when these two sides meet again at White Hart Lane, in the FA Cup ? 


Spurs – Robinson 5, Chimbonda 6, Lee 6, King 7 (Defoe 7), Kaboul 5, Lennon 6 (Boateng 7), Jenas 5, Huddlestone 7, Malbranque 7, Keane 6 (Tainio7), Berbatov 9

Goalscorers: Berbatov 6, 63, 73, 83, Malbranque 76, Defoe 79

Reading: Hahnemann, Murty (de la Cruz), Shorey, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Hunt, Harper, Cisse, Convey (Long), Kitson, Doyle.

Goalscorers: Cisse 16, Ingimarsson 53, Kitson 69, 74

Attendance: 36,178.

Match Rating : 9/10

Referee: Keith Stroud 8/10



What does this result tell us Spurs fans about our side ?

Well, we all know that the defence is a problem and that doesn't just mean the back four.

It tells us that we can score goals when we need to and that we have a wealth of forwards who can do that.

But the most important thing that perhaps we didn't realise until now is that there is a special resolve in the side which means that they do not crumble like they used to in years past.  Even against a side like Reading (no disrespect), but we would have folded quicker than a deckchair on a rainy summer's afternoon had we gone behind once, let alone three times.

No, under Ramos, it appears that the team are starting to believe that they can overcome setbacks.  It won't always happen and perhaps at the moment, they still have to get over their phobia about teams from the top four, but in time that may come.

And for me, as well as many Spurs fans I suspect, it can't come soon enough.



With the Good Doctor spotting Jason Lennard watching on from the Legends suite on the Shelf, perhaps it is no surprise that the game nearly finished in a rugby score !!





Other scores this weekend :
Birmingham City 1 Fulham 1 Saturday
Chelsea 2 Newcastle United 1 Saturday
Everton 1 Arsenal 4 Saturday
Portsmouth 0 Middlesbrough 1 Saturday
Sunderland 3 Bolton Wanderers 1 Saturday
Wigan Athletic 1 Aston Villa 2 Saturday
West Ham United 2 Manchester United 1 Saturday
Derby County 1 Blackburn Rovers 2 Sunday
Manchester City 0 Liverpool 0 Sunday



League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Arsenal 20 14 5 1 40 16 47 +24
2 Manchester United 20 14 3 3 37 11 45 +27
3 Chelsea 20 12 5 3 31 15 41 +16
4 Liverpool 19 10 7 2 33 12 37 +21
5 Manchester City 20 10 6 4 27 22 36 +5
6 Everton 20 10 3 7 35 22 33 +14
7 Aston Villa 20 9 6 5 35 26 33 +9
8 Portsmouth 20 8 7 5 29 20 31 +9
9 Blackburn Rovers 20 8 6 6 27 28 30 -1
10 West Ham United 19 8 5 6 25 17 29 +8
11 Newcastle United 20 7 5 8 27 31 26 -4
12 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 20 6 6 8 41 36 24 +5
13 Reading 20 6 4 10 29 42 22 -13
14 Middlesbrough 20 5 5 10 18 33 20 -15
15 Birmingham City 20 5 4 11 22 31 19 -9
16 Bolton Wanderers 20 4 5 11 22 32 17 -10
17 Sunderland 20 4 5 11 20 39 17 -19
18 Wigan Athletic 20 4 4 13 20 36 16 -16
19 Fulham 20 2 9 9 21 34 15 -13
20 Derby County 20 1 4 15 10 45 7 -35



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