Blackburn Rovers (Home)
Sunday 5th March 2006
Spurs hitting a bit of a stumble and Blackburn not having conceded a
goal for over 270 minutes, it is a tough task that faces the home side
on Sunday. With fourth place seemingly up for grabs for whoever
can put a run together, it is time for Tottenham to be that side ...
starting with Rovers.
Mark Hughes has produced a side that is well organised and has a rigid four-four-two structure with a team full of willing workers. The likes of Savage, Neill, Dickov, Reid and Todd bring a physical approach to the game which is not to everyone's taste. They do have some players who have talent, but they do not always seem to be allowed off the leash to use them, while others might be better off on one !!
Usually in games against Spurs, Brad Friedel gets the Man of the Match award, thus giving the impression that we have been going forward enough to allow him to earn that prize. A tall, strong keeper, he has the presence to un-nerve striker sin one-on-one situations, but his height does not always make him as solid on crosses as you imagine he should be. He is usually protected by the back four of Ryan Nelsen, Lucas Neill, Andy Todd and Zurab Khizanisvhili. Todd is big and hard and takes no prisoners, which is an approach adopted by Lucas Neill, who was sent off in the meeting between the two sides at Ewood Park earlier this season. Nelsen is another big defender from New Zealand, who has made a place in the side his won with a series of consistent performances. The Glasgow Rangers defender Khizanisvhili has made his mark in the team too and so much so that it looks like Rovers will sign him on a permanent basis come the summer. He has a good reading of the game, but lacks a little pace, which might allow a striker like Defoe to get away from him, given half a chance. Michael Gray at left back and the versatile Dominic Matteo have been used, but are often on the bench rather than starting.
It looks like Morten Gamst Pedersen could be missing with a hamstring injury and this could tip things in Tottenham's favour. The Norwegian winger has been in good form and good scoring form too. His ability to fire in fierce shots from any angle makes him a dangerous player and he also provides good supply for the front two. In the engine room, Stephen Reid runs all day and while his distribution can be a bit wayward on occasion, he links play well and gets up to support the front players. This is something that Brett Emerton does too from the right side of midfield, leaving Tugay and Savage to tie up the middle of the park. Both are not afraid to put in challenges on opponents, leaving their mark on the game, but both also like to take the ball on towards goal and Savage can be dangerous with a dead ball.
Goals had been a problem for Blackburn, with Bellamy and Dickov both being injured. This is hardly surprising with the way they play, but bringing in England Under-21 striker David Bentley from Arsenal on loan and Shefki Kuqi from Ipswich, they have upped their goals total. The Icelander has slipped back a bit now, as Florent Sinama-Pongolle has also been brought in on loan from Liverpool and he often gets a run-out from the bench in preference to Kuqi, who is perhaps the least mobile fo the five forwards. Sinama-Pongolle is big for his age and had done well at Liverpool previously, while Bellamy's pace, Bentley's movement and Dickov's physical, non-stop niggling style will all provide different problems for the Tottenham defence.
For Spurs, we can probably expect the Mido/Defoe pairing to start and with Davids and Tainio having had an extra week to get over their injuries, the midfield might be stronger than the one we saw pitch up against Wigan Athletic. Jermaine Jenas will probably start again and his athletic runs forward will add to the attack. It has been a while since we had a clean sheet and I am sure that Martin Jol will be reiterating the need for one to ensure that the team can start building on that base. I expect the midfield to be the area where the battle is fought out, but with the options available to Tottenham, I take them to get the three points, which will be a precious three points in the long run in to the end of the season.
PREDICTION : - Tottenham Hotspur 2 Blackburn Rovers 0
For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : - Dean Marney (Achilles); Hossam Ghaly (groin); Andy Reid (knee); Lee Barnard (foot); - (-) ;
BLACKBURN ROVERS : Lorenzo Amoruso (ankle); Paul Dickov (dislocated shoulder); John McEveley (knee); Morten Gamst Pedersen (hamstring); - (-)
available on BBC radio, it can supposedly be heard in these countries on these
|Tottenham Hotspur 3 Blackburn Rovers 2 (Half-time score : 2-1)|
|Premier League||Venue : White Hart Lane|
|Sunday 5th March 2006||Kick Off : 16.00 p.m.|
|Crowd : 36,080||Referee : Howard Webb (South Yorkshire)|
|Weather : Bright, clear, chilly|
|Teams : -|
Emerton (Kuqi 83)
|Colours : - (kits courtesy of http://www.colours-of-football.com)|
|Scorers : -|
|Cards : -|
|Match Report : -|
While not one of the greatest Spurs performances ever, this could be a precious three points in the course of achieving something that would have been almost unthinkable at the start of the season. Putting more daylight between Blackburn and taking Spurs further away from the fifth placed team, this victory was one earned against the run of the second half play and with a slice of luck with a couple of refereeing decisions.
For once, it looked as though the rub of the green went Tottenham's way. Blackburn had the bulk of the second half, at one stage the possession was 86:14, but from that they only managed one goal, one header off the top of the bar and brought a fine save from Robinson.
Spurs had opened up with a good pace to their game. A corner produced a shot from Tainio that scuffed wide and at the other end Bellamy got a header to Emerton's cross, but it was comfortable for Robinson to gather. After nine minutes, a moment of magic by Robbie Keane put Spurs ahead. Although there was not much dispute about the throw-in at the time, after the game Mark Hughes made much fo the fact that it came off Mido last. Nelsen was tight behind him and was trying to get a foot through the Egyptian's legs and the linesman might have judged he got a touch to the ball. Mido thought quickly and threw to Keane, tight to the touchline. With Savage behind him, he flicked the ball up and over the Blackburn midfielder, who thought about handling the ball, but then pulled his hand away. With the ball still bouncing and Todd closing in, Robbie lifted it past him and with Friedel coming out, quickly shot under the American goalie. It was a goal of great class and showed what Robbie is all about. The skills training must really be paying off !!
Robbie was buoyed by the goal and set-up Davids, but, with the ball just behind him, he did well to dig it out to get a shot in, which was blocked. Then the Irishman nearly got sent clean through, but he was judged to have moved offside before Tainio released the pass. Blackburn were to have chances, with their best going begging, as Nelsen headed across goal to the far post, but Sinama-Pongolle failed to read it and as King left the ball, the Liverpool loan star watched it go wide, when, had he reacted, he might have put Rovers level in the 32nd minute.
With the ball being played well by both sides, the midfields were battling it out and Howard Webb was letting a little too much go, with Bentley's tackle from behind on Davids a prime example. What the referee did give, was a handball against Nelsen right on the edge of the Blackburn box. Out on the left hand corner of the area, Mido lined up to shoot with his left foot lending itself to the better shot on goal. His drive beat the wall, but didn't beat Friedel, who pushed the ball out. Unfortunately for him, Robbie Keane was closing in for just such an eventuality and took the ball down, before running it into an empty goal to make it 2-0. There was a reaction from a couple of Rovers players claiming handball, but these were waved away and only after the game, when Robbie had owned up that it had hit his hand, which is hardly unlikely when he was so close to the keeper, did Hughes seize on the incident to lambast the officials again. Perhaps he should have been asking why his defenders weren't following in as quickly as Keano.
At 2-0, it looked like Tottenham would go on to win this in a more comfortable manner than we might have thought. However, within a couple of minutes, Blackburn had got a goal back right on half-time. A pass down the right wing saw Bellamy make a run behind King and his cross found Sinama-Pongolle un-marked in the middle to head pasty an unprotected Robinson. It was a goal that Tottenham needed to avoid, as it gave the impetus to Rovers, much like the goal we let in against Leicester City in the FA Cup. And so it proved with the visitors piling on the pressure after the break.
Michael Dawson was instrumental in getting his body in the way of a number of shots on goal, although he and Ledley struggled with the pace and movement of the front two of Blackburn. With Lennon coming on for Davids, there was an injection of pace into the team and Edgar had done well, but still looks less than 100% fit. But it was yet another important save from Paul Robinson that kept Tottenham in touch with the lead, as Gray tapped a short free-kick to Bentley, who struck the ball from 30 yards and as it arrowed towards the top of the net, Robinson flung up a hand to divert it over the top.
The respite was brief, as a long ball down the right saw Ledley go up with Sinama-Pongolle and get under the ball, leaving the French striker to race away and pull a square ball back for Bellamy to drive home the equaliser. It had been coming for a while with the crowd getting anxious with the players, but it came as a result of an individual error that could have happened at any time.
With the fans apprehensive that our big chance to extend our points tally in the league had gone, Spurs hit back within two minutes. Keane and Carrick linked for the England man to release Lennon on the right with a pass inside Gray. Knowing Aaron's pace, there was no way the Blackburn defender would catch him and as he cut across into the box, Gray was helpless as Lennon hit a low cross across the six yard box and Mido slid in at the far post to hit the net ... just. His body took the ball into the net, but it only just went in under the bar, but that was all that was needed to reinstall Tottenham ahead in this match.
Frustration was now getting to Rovers because they did not make their possession pay and the yellow cards started to mount up. Gray went through the back of Lennon and Steven Reid fouled Lee, after Lee had been booked for a foul on him. Andy Todd's expected yellow arrived when he went in late on Robbie Keane and Mido got caught up in it all when he picked up a caution for fouling Reid too. Spurs managed to keep the ball up at the Rovers end for a while and Keane went on a solo run that ended with him trying to chip a pass through to Mido, but Nelsen's extended arm stopped the ball. While Webb had seen the fouls, he managed to miss this handball, but then he had missed Keano's earlier.
Spurs had decided that the best form of defence was attack and Jenas hit a free-kick into the side netting, while Lennon and Murphy both had shots go wide. Keane had the best chance to finish Blackburn off, when he was freed by Carrick's pass and looked up to try and chip Friedel, but the ball always looked like it would go just over the bar. And that was where Michael Gray's header went from Lucas Neill's cross. The crowd held their breath as it glanced off the top of the bar, but Robinson had judged it well and knew it wasn't going in.
All that was left was for Lennon to break away in added time and square a pass to Mido in the box with just Friedel to beat. The striker took the pass and decided to go back around the keeper, by which time there were three defenders back and his shot was deflected wide. But earning a corner was as good as a goal, because by the time it was taken, time was all but up.
Perhaps Tottenham rode their luck today, but then we are due some after the appalling decisions that have come our way over the last few years and the five point breathing space will be most welcome ahead of our trip to Chelsea next week.
MEHSTG TOP MAN : - ROBBIE KEANE
Well, where do I start. Battered and outfought for much of the game, with many questions raised against our much vaunted defence, Spurs found a way to beat a well-drilled and much improved Blackburn side that look a good bet for 5th place.
Although the boys worked hard throughout, it took a lot of luck and a fair bit of opportunism to counter the flair, slick passing and movement of the north-west outfit. If not for the imbecilic officiating, we could've been bang in trouble. Unusually, big Ledley had a real shocker, aiding Blackburn in their goals, while Lee actually had a good game for once, often clearing danger with his left foot. Now, if only we can get him to CROSS with his left foot, we could be in business. Dawson must also take some blame for the first Blackburn goal, but he then put in another commanding display at the back, winning every header that came his way. It seemed that most of the action was coming down our left side, so Stalteri wasn't worked as hard this time, therefore not giving him a chance to c**k up again.
In midfield, Jenas had yet another infuriatingly frustrating game, where he didn't do much wrong but also failed to create the spark needed. He was out of position again but still, at £7m, you expect a bit more bang for your buck.
Tainio was restored to the left but didn't get much change out of Neill and often drifted inside, leaving Lee exposed. Davids improved on his last two showings but was again off the pace and looks a spent force. Considering his ample wage, it wouldn't be a disaster if he walked away at the end of the season. We've got Murphy, Carrick, Jenas, Tainio, Ghaly, Huddlestone and O'Hara, all capable of filling that role. With Lennon sure to start regularly next season and Routledge returning from his loan spell, that central midfield position is open only to players that are fit, focused and not prone to f**king about, like Davids did against Sunderland, Wigan and West Ham.
However, our man Carrick was dominant and great with his distribution of the ball, complementing his performance for England last week. I think it's now a question of who will partner the big Geordie in midfield next season. My money's on a fit Murphy, who was a class act at Liverpool.
Up front, Mido worked hard and was a constant menace to the Blackburn defence and it was his clever throw that led to our opener. His clever running off the ball causes problems for any club and Chelsea will find out all about it this coming Saturday, assuming of course that Rob Styles isn't officiating this one.
Keano was on fire and capped the best week of his life by scoring a brace to put us 2-0 up. With Spurs being Spurs, it soon went pear shaped from there but we had the luck of the Irish on our side. Not only did he score a brace, he toiled, chased and tracked back throughout the game.
Crucially, after shipping an equaliser, it was Keano's vision that found little Lennon burning past Gray to set up Mido for the winner. Quite what Defoe made of it all is anyone's guess. Stripped for action and set to come on, he was told to sit back down because of the sheer force of Keano's play, his all round game and the guile shown in telling Murphy to take a short corner to kill time. Would Defoe have done that? Doubtful, in his eagerness to show the England boss what he can do, he'd sooner go for glory than do the right thing for Spurs. We've seen last minute, even last second goals (often against us) so the Irish captain got his tactics spot on. Poor little Defoe, out in the wilderness once again. Will he even get back in the starting line up again this season? Doubtful, injuries not withstanding. I just hope that he's mature enough to think about it, look at the situation and continue to ride the storm.
If he works hard, takes his chances when he comes on and has a good World Cup, Jol will be hard pressed not to give him another run in the side. If Defoe isn't going to do it for that reason, maybe he should do it because Lee Barnard has 22 goals for the reserves this term and could soon be after a permanent place on the bench. Mark Yeates will return for pre-season, along with El Hamdaoui, so Defoe must not sulk and keep plugging away. He has a contract and I can't see Spurs selling him anytime soon.
Last but definitely not least, Robbo was again outstanding in goal. Faultless for the goals, his distribution was again impressive and he made a match-winning save from Bentley, at a time when Blackburn had all the momentum. What price now, I ask ? £20m ? £30m ? Nah, he's E.N.O. He's priceless.
So, in conclusion (yawn), we came up against a genuinely strong side and were promptly battered for 90 minutes, yet we still came away with a win and three points. Tottenham are 4th in the league ... still, 4th in the league. God, that sounds good doesn't it. Makes for good reading that, doesn't it. I'd like to think that it'll sound even better at the end of the season.
You have to laugh (unless you
support Arsenal, Blackburn, Bolton or West Ham).
First, before we review the game, congratulations to Spurs for securing Robbie Keane for the next four years. I am sure I am not alone when I say he is my favourite player. All the time he has been at WHL he has given 100%. Every game I watch, he chases all the lost causes, rouses his team mates and ensure we get over the winning post. To secure him for another four is excellent news ! Next up, Ledley !
There are few matches where I sit for the whole 90 minutes on the edge of my seat. Spurs v Blackburn goes down as one of those! What a game! The papers will be going through their dictionaries to come up with the superlatives to accurately describe on of the games of the season. So people will read tomorrow papers and brush it off as hype, but what a game. Sitting hundreds of miles away in Newcastle, the atmosphere was electric. I can only imagine what it is like to be in the ground for one of those games. That being said, we are lucky we came out of the game with anything. For the home side to only have 14% of the possession for certain periods is poor and you would not expect the same team to win. Blackburn, full of thugs and crap players (so the rumours go), must feel that they have been robbed. Only Sunderland, that we narrowly beat 3-2 also, will be able to sympathise after just being beaten by us earlier in the season. But a win is a win is a win as they say ! As the old cliché goes, sometimes in football you do not get what you deserve and Blackburn did not deserve defeat.
The three points in this game were crucial. In the last 6 games, 6 points was all we had accumulated. A point a game is relegation form and you really need to be looking at a season average of almost 2 a game to challenge for Champions League places. We are currently at 1.75 points a game and I honestly think we need to shift up a gear as we approach the end of the season, especially as the majority of games are away from home. I feel we need another 20 points to secure the Champions League spot. To achieve that, 12 points from 12 is needed at home. That is going to be difficult as the games are West Brom, Man City, Man United and Bolton. If we get 9 from that, it would need 11 away from home and that looks even more difficult. Chelsea, Birmingham, Newcastle, Everton, Arsenal and finally, last day of the season, West Ham. Difficult but not impossible ! Although I have thrown a lot of numbers in, what really matters is we match the results of those around us.
I honestly feel, maybe controversially, that 4th spot is a little beyond us. Yes, we have been there all season but I don't think we will finish 4th. But that should not be a disappointment. After the last season, a place in Europe was the aim and should we finish 5th or 6th, we will have achieved what we set out to do. It would be awful, but I just feel the teams is a little young and immature to see out fourth. I think that showed today and the man brought in to solve that, Edgar Davids, is failing miserably at the moment. I thought he was very poor at Sunderland and today at Blackburn. As we approach the final hurdle, the pace is catching him out.
All that being said, I would love to be wrong and see Spurs finish 4th !
I wouldn't mention this again - honest - but for the fact that I've already raised the subject with regard to the Wigan game, where their seemed to be a colour clash. This time, according to the commentator on Murdochvision, Blackburn were set to appear in their away kit of silver until the ref deemed this was too similar to ours, so they took the field in their home kit. Still, despite the passes still seeming to go regularly astray we got more goals than they did (the first being a belter).
The sooner we stop relying on the refs (and FA) or make their job easier by wearing simple white shirts and navy blue shorts (joy) the better.
All the Best
|Other scores this weekend :|
|Newcastle United||3||Bolton Wanderers||1||Saturday|
|West Bromwich Albion||1||Chelsea||2||Saturday|
|West Ham United||2||Everton||2||Saturday|
|Wigan Athletic||1||Manchester United||2||Monday|
|9||West Ham United||27||12||6||9||41||36||40||+5|
|17||West Bromwich Albion||28||7||5||16||25||42||26||-17|
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