Saturday 2nd March 2002
dented expectation of last Sunday behind us, we face a League match with
Sunderland. The North-East side have been sinking like a stone
lately, with only one win this year so far and that coming against
strugglers Derby County.
Losing last Sunday too, the Black Cats will be looking to make amends for their derby defeat at the hands of Newcastle United, but might find Spurs in determined mood after their loss to Blackburn. In recent weeks they have also lost to Man U, Middlesbrough, Everton, Ipswich (0-5) and to West Bromwich Albion in the FA Cup. It has been a torrid time for manager Peter Reid, who has done so much for the Mackems, but now is getting stick from his own fans as the team struggle to make things work on the pitch.
The club's best win this season came on Boxing Day, when they went to Blackburn and won 3-0. In fact, their away form has just about outstripped that at home, but a good result is usually followed by a couple of bad ones.
Missing on Saturday will be the knee victims Emerson Thome, John Oster and Gavin McCann, while Julio Arca has a groin injury that will keep him out and a knock on Paul Thirwell's ankle makes him an absentee for this game too.
In goal Thomas Sorensen now has the gloves back, after suffering injury earlier in the season. He's a pretty good shot stopper, but lacks confidence in the air on crosses. The Dane is also not the best footballing goalkeeper, so might fluff a few clearances. Jurgen Macho has stood in for Sorensen and has acquitted himself well. He's prone to the odd lapse, such as the cross that Christian Ziege floated over him for the second goal at the Stadium of Light.
At the back, new signing Joachim Bjorkland brings experience from Venezia and Sweden, but has only played one game so far and might be a bit unused to the style of play the Mackems employ. Alongside him, the tall Jody Craddock fits into the middle of the back four. Good in the air and strong in the tackle, Craddock is a pretty good player to have, but his positional sense is slightly lacking on occasion and his man can slip the marker. In central defence, George McCartney has done well this season, coming in as a youngster, but playing a solid role when called upon. Stanislav Varga has never realised the potential Reid thought he was capable of and although a huge man, his lack of ability to turn quickly and his lack of concentration have made him a peripheral figure in the side. Darren Williams has been on the bench lately and can be played anywhere in the back line. On the flanks, Bernt Haas and Michael Gray are good going forward, but do leave space behind them to let the opposition wing backs into. Neither would be classed as the greatest defenders and it could be that Ziege and Taricco/Davies make the best use of the areas they vacate.
Another Swede dominates midfield and that is the former Gooner Stefan Schwarz. Having scored against us earlier in the season, he will be looking to do the same again, but he is more noted for his aggressive play than his fierce shooting. Winger Kevin Kilbane plays wide on the left of midfield and can show how quick he can be. He has been one of the players who has taken some stick recently, but he is a good creator and can finish moves as well, if he finds himself in the right place. Two newcomers in this area of the pitch are Jason McAteer and Claudio Reyna. McAteer joined from Blackburn and has added industry to the creative style of former Glasgow Rangers and USA man Reyna. Both can go past a man and get into the box, but Tottenham will have to work hard to pin them back in midfield. They are tireless in the amount of work they do and the old legs of Poyet and injured limbs of Anderton might struggle to keep up with them. Thomas Butler has had to settle for a substitutes role, but can be a ball winner in midfield if required.
Up front ids the man that Glenn Hoddle covets. No not Niall Quinn, but Kevin Phillips. The diminutive striker has the happy knack of knocking in the goals, but seems to find it hard to do so at the Lane. Long may that continue unless he exchanges his stripes for the white shirt of Spurs. A good mover off the ball, his first touch is usually very good and he will take a shot at goal from wherever he is, knowing instinctively where the goal is. He could provide a challenge for Ledley after last week's final. Quinn will need to be marshalled well by Richards and a tough, physical and aerial battle is in the pipeline. Knocking the ball down for the little Englishman is the main threat from Sunderland. The long ball out of defence to turn it into attack is what we will see the most from them. Added into the mix is Cameroon forward Patrick Mboma, who has signed on loan for the season. Experienced in France, Italy and Japan, he offers a powerful alternative to Quinn and he has a fierce shot on him too. He could be looking to earn himself a permanent move, so might be putting in an extra 10%. With Lilian Laslandes going on loan to Cologne, they are a bit light on strikers, but the three will combine to make their front line in this match.
With Sunderland desperate for three points and Spurs looking to get some points under their belt to move up the League, it will be a hard fought contest, but in a game of few chances, if Spurs take theirs this time, they might come out on top ...
PREDICTION : - Tottenham 2 Sunderland 1
For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.
|Tottenham 2 Sunderland 1 (Half time score: 1-1)|
|FA PREMIER LEAGUE|
|Saturday 2nd March 2002|
|Venue : White Hart Lane|
|Kick Off : 3.00 p.m.|
|Weather : - Clear, chilly.|
|Crowd : - 36,062|
|Referee : - Mr. R. Styles (Hampshire)|
Scorers : -
Tottenham - Poyet 31, Ferdinand 63
Tottenham : None
Sunderland : McAteer (dissent) 88
: Sullivan; Thatcher, Richards, King; Taricco (Gardner 89),
Davies, Sherwood, Poyet, Ziege; Sheringham, Ferdinand (Rebrov 76)
: Sorensen; Haas, Craddock, Bjorkland (Schwarz 58), McCartney;
Gray, Reyna (Williams 55), McAteer, Kilbane; Phillips, Mboma (Quinn 72).
Tottenham : White shirts, navy blue shorts, navy blue socks
Sunderland : Red and white striped shirts, white shorts, white socks
There was little different in this match to the one that we lost on Sunday. Scruffy play, lack of chances taken and Teddy, for the bulk of the game, playing like a man out of step. But Sunderland failed to accept the chances that came their way and that made the difference in the end.
It started early, when Mboma, making hid debut, played in McAteer, who set up Phillips. The fact that the Irishman was a couple of yard s offside passed the linesman by, but luckily for Spurs, Phillips continued his poor scoring form at the Lane by pulling the shot wide. Spurs hit back with Sheringham popping off a left foot shot at the keeper and Simon Davies, in from the start, crossed low from the right for Les, but the big striker missed the ball altogether under pressure from a defender. Les did better shortly after, when he put Gus in on goal and from the penalty spot, he stuck out a leg as Sorensen closed on him, but he could not get it on target and it whizzed past the post. Poyet was at the heart of the action in the next Spurs attack with a cheeky back-heel that tries to divert Ziege's low ball into the net, but the goalie was wise to it.
Tottenham took the lead in strange fashion, when a Ziege corner was whipped in and as a King header hit a Sunderland back, it fell to Poyet, who managed to bundle it over the line from close range. It was an untidy goal, but at least it ended up in the back of the net. Which is exactly where the ball should have been a minute or so later, when Christian again crossed, but this time driven in low. Unfortunately, it missed out Sheringham, who was running in, but got to Les at the far post and as he was leaning back, the ball ended up hitting the underside of the Videotron screen, thus making Les the first player to hit it in the time it has been installed. It looked like being another one of those days for the number 9.
Teddy almost matched him, when Les ran on and laid the ball square for Sheringham to blast the ball over the bar with only the keeper to beat. Both of them looked in desperate need of a goal and Ted took the captain's prerogative with free-kicks in trying to get on the scoresheet, but only got one on target. Ziege's crossing from the left was proving a rich supply line and when Richards headed over when given a free far post header, it looked as though the missed chances might cost Tottenham again. Especially, when on the stroke of half-time, Mboma managed to take a ball that went over Richards' head and beat King to it to shoot low past Sullivan. It was only the second chance he had in the half, with the first a diving header that went wide and Spurs had been suckered again.
The keeping of Sullivan was causing some concern, as he seemed determined to stay rooted to his line and not come out at all, even to the extent that in the second half, he ran back towards his goal rather than come out to challenge Mboma and it was left to Richards to tackle him, prompting calls for a penalty form the Black Cats bench. On the other hand, he did produce a good save from the Kilbane to put his header over the bar.
Meanwhile at the other end, Spurs continued to spurn the chances they created. Sheringham was the worst culprit, with a great free header from Ziege's cross and he failed to hit the target with the goal yawning in front of him. Gus did the same and even Taricco chose to try and find someone in the box rather than hit a shot at the goal when through on the edge of the box late on.
Luckily, by then Spurs were ahead. Sheringham pulled a peach of a pass out of his locker, to find Ziege running through on the left, almost without looking. The German took the ball towards the keeper and as he came out, he returned the compliment of last week, by dragging the ball back for Les to side-foot into an empty net. For a moment, it looked as though he might hit the man on the line, but Ferdie managed to steer it in for what turned out to be the winning goal. Ziege's unselfish contribution was a major part of the goal, as was Teddy's initial pass.
There was another chance for Spurs, when Davies blasted well wide and then Phillips wriggled free at the other end, but slid his shot off target too.
Not a great game, but an important one to win in terms of league points and getting ready for the FA Cup tie next Sunday. Again Thatcher had a sound game, with Ziege a constant threat. Poyet looked keen to put in some effort to make up for last week, as did Ted, but his flicks were not finding their intended players and the concession of possession made it hard for any flow to get going. Taz played well down the right and was unlucky to go off injured at the end. His attacking play was very good and his defence pretty good too.
I think a better performance will be required against Chelsea, but the need to match them for work-rate will be uppermost. Davies will provide some young legs and there will have to be some serious chasing to make sure that we don't allow them space to play. Let's hope that a similar result ensues.
|MEHSTG TOP MAN : - MAURICIO TARICCO|
|The Black Cats don't have a lot of
luck these days. They must have been over-run by some team a while
ago !! They failed to capitalise on the offside position that
McAteer found himself in, when Phillips didn't raise his stock by
missing the target from the edge of the box with no-one but Sullivan in
front of him.
Apart from that, they had the luck of the bounce with their goal that came of Ledley and behind him to fall nicely for Mboma to score his first goal for Sunderland. How often does that happen against Spurs ? However, King wasn't at fault, more Deano's error as he got under a cross, leaving Mboma to pull off him at the far post. His poor position here and a missed header at the other end made him look worse than he really played, as he did better when Quinn came on. Thatcher was strong in the tackle and actually read the game well, making some good interceptions. He does come from the Chris Perry School of Distribution though.
As for going forward, Tottenham benefited from the inclusion of Simon Davies in place of the injured Darren Anderton. He gives Spurs much more energy and fluidity when making forays into the opposition's half. He might not have a trick to get around a defender, but neither has Dazza these days. Simon showed today that he can match Teddy for fancy flicks, which on the day DID find his team-mates. He also offers an option for players to pass to when they find themselves confronted with an opponent. His run down the left wing in the second half looked promising, but the three Sunderland players in front of him put an end to his dash. He is a fine player, who has been brought on well, but now deserves his place in the team by right.
The game was not a brilliant one, but, as everyone who watched the Worthington Cup Final on TV told me, looked an exciting one because of all the goalmouth action. Tottenham's passing game was hampered by the bobbly nature of the pitch and while Sunderland tried to play more football than they have on recent visits to White Hart Lane, they did not have the precision of the final pass to carry it off. They seem to have lost something over the last couple of years and it could be the competitive challenge in midfield of Hutchison and with it, the characteristics of a typical Peter Reid side.
Sullivan had little to do apart from pick the ball out of the net just before half-time and to arch backwards to save from Kilbane's darting header. Ziege was finding lots of space again and provided good service into the box, but as usual, we failed to cash in on all the chances we made. Our percentage on target stats compiled by Opta must be plummeting faster than Sunderland down the league table.
In the end, we got the points, deserved them, but did not shine. With next week's FA Cup tie being make or break for the season, I hope that the team do play better or at least convert a higher proportion of the chances we create. Otherwise, we might feel like it is 24th February all over again.
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