A match bathed in sunlight saw Spurs and West Ham fail to hit the net in
a goal-less draw, but the game was full of goalmouth action and that
saved it from being ruined by a petty match official.
The fact that there were a number of talking
points was despite and not because of Mike Dean, the referee, who seemed
to take great pleasure in the small things in life and let some
important decisions go by un-noticed. The fact that he asked
Gareth Bale to leave the field to change his cycling shorts because they
were not the same colour as the majority of the team's shorts hinted
that not only did Dean want to let everyone know who was boss, but that
he had no shame in undermining his own by bringing it to everyone's
attention that he had failed to properly check the playing equipment of
the players. The fact that he failed to play advantage, chose to
deal with injured players who were off the pitch and let shirt-tugging
and late challenges go without a word to the offender meant that the
players had to do a lot of the things in the game themselves.
Spurs had returned to the one striker up
front formation, leaving Jermain Defoe isolated until he had Roman
Pavlyuchenko as a partner for the last 20 minutes. Rafael van der
Vaart was deployed behind him, but West Ham's intentions were clear from
the start when they ran like mad things to close down any space
However, within four minutes the bar had
come to their rescue when a free-kick in the left hand corner was worked
by van der Vaart and Modric to Dawson ten yards out to the left of the
goal in the area and the Spurs captain curled a neat shot beyond Green's
reach, but the ball smacked against the crossbar on it's way over the
top. Then, two minutes later, Gareth Bale, back in the starting
line-up, raced away from Jacobsen and put in a low ball into the area,
where Defoe was sharp to the chance, but although he beat his marker Da
Costa to the ball, he could only nudge it wide of the goal. Sandro
had a shot flick off a West Ham body and go wide, before Aaron Lennon
struck a shot over the bar, as he couldn't get over the effort.
West Ham started to come into the game
after being pegged back for much of the opening ten minutes.
Carlton Cole had been paired up front with Demba Ba in the absence of
Piquionne and he struck the first effort on target in the 12th minute,
when a long range shot went gently into the midriff of Heurelho Gomes.
In the next minute, he ran behind Gallas and Dawson to reach Hitzlsperger's dinked cross into the heart of the Tottenham penalty
area, but could only meet it on the volley with a flick and looped it
over the bar. Had West Ham had a lethal finisher, then Spurs could
have been in trouble, but then the same applied the other way around
When Spurs next attacked, a corner
resulted and Rafael took it short to Modric on the right corner of the
box, taking the ball inside as a West Ham player came out and then
curled a shot across goal that went a yard wide. Then another
set-piece saw Spurs go close, as the roles were reversed for the next
corner and a low ball in saw the Dutchman's first time shot on the
half-volley fly just wide of the West Ham goal. With all the
pressure, you wondered if the failure to make it pay might cost Spurs,
especially when Ba played Cole through and past Dawson to run in on goal, but as Gomes spread himself, the Irons
striker could only hit the ball into the chest of the Tottenham keeper
with 20 minutes gone.
Just past the half hour mark, spurs went
close again, with Defoe and Modric swapping passes to allow the
Croatian to hit a shot that bounced across Green and missed the far post
by inches. The next effort was closer with Lennon being played in
on the left side of the box in the 40th minute and he beat Jacobsen,
hitting a shot across Green that beat the keeper and bounced off the
post to Defoe, but it came too quickly and he could only scramble it
wide. As the first half entered added time, van der Vaart had two
shots on goal ... one from a free-kick that was taken comfortably by
Green and the other a right foot shot that went straight at the keeper
from 20 yards out.
At half-time the celebrity chat was about
the Champions League and both Alan Mullery and Mark Falco thought we
could beat Real Madrid, but unfortunately, there was the more prosaic
matter of trying to beat West Ham before us. It looked as though
harry had played the wrong formation with just Defoe up top, as he went
for JD and Pav away at Wolves and we got three goals. The central
defenders of the visitors buffeted and bumped Defoe off the ball, with
Dean giving him scant protection. With two men in attack, there
defenders would have had more to worry about and there may have been
more opportunities to bring Lennon and Bale into the play with two men
needing to be taken care of in the middle.
As it was there were no changes at the
break and West Ham kicked off the second half attacking the Park Lane end. The
warm sunshine kept the crowd buoyant with West Ham consistently singing
about bubbles that fade and die, but their fortune wasn't hiding today,
as it favoured them throughout the match.
A minute into the half, they did test
Gomes with a cross-shot by Cole, although a few minutes later, a neat
move between Modric and Corluka on the right opened the way for Defoe to
turn inside the six yard box and hit a low shot that Green stuck a leg out to
keep it out. It looked like being one of those days, even though
Spurs were working the ball into dangerous areas and a clever pass form
Modric put Defoe in, but there were too many players in front of him and
when the ball came to Bale, he could only get half a proper shot off and
it went gently through to Green.
Ten minutes into the half, on one of
their infrequent attacks, West Ham's Senegalese striker Ba shot, but the
ball was blocked by Dawson and flew into the air, where Noble,
previously booked for a crude challenge on Bale, threw himself under the
ball and hit an overhead kick that got the Irons supporters very
excited, as they thought it had gone in, but the ball went a yard wide
of Gomes' goal. Carlton Cole then went in the book for a late
tackle on Sandro, with Parker having been shown yellow in the last
minute of the first half for a bad tackle from behind on van der Vaart.
The lack of application by Dean could have seen Parker sent off, as he
did commit a couple of other niggly fouls, including one run by Modric,
in which the West ham midfielder pulled him back by the shirt three
times. Ba also could have been cautioned, with three kicks at Bale
in one run by the Welshman.
As it was, Spurs had to play their own
game and cope with whatever West Ham threw at them. Noble got in
the way of Modric's shot on the edge of the box, Sandro had a long range
shot three yards wide and Defoe was put away when he was hauled down
cynically by Upson, who became the fourth visiting player to get a
yellow card. In between, Ba got released in the left side of the
box and struck a powerful shot as he cut into the middle of the pitch,
forcing Gomes to dive full-length to keep out the shot that would have
crept inside the post in the 64th minute. The Brazilian keeper
gets roundly criticised for mistakes he makes, but this was a fine stop,
with his concentration maintained when he hadn't had a lot to do.
Noble was getting forward to support the
front two of West Ham and one move on the right saw the ball played into
him, just inside the 18 yard line. He shimmied inside Michael
Dawson and had a free shot on goal, but, having done the hard work, he
tried to take it with the outside of his foot and the ball squirted off
it and went a long long way wide. That was with 20 minutes to go
and Spurs decided that a change had to be made, with the tiring van der
Vaart coming off with Pavlyuchenko replacing him to partner Defoe up
Almost straight away, Roman got on the
end of a Corluka cross, but being 15 yards out, could not get a lot of
power in the header and this was followed by a run and cross from
Lennon, with the ball coming out to Bale, who hit his volley into the
ground, but unlike last season's goal by Modric, this one went over the
bar. Pav's introduction seemed to liven up the Tottenham attack
and he had a shot blocked by Da Costa, then stung Green's hands when
cutting onto his left foot from the middle of the goal to hit a powerful
effort with ten minutes to go and then Green got behind another shot,
this time less convincingly, as the Russian's drive bounced off the
keeper's chest and was hacked away.
It was all Tottenham now and when Upson
fouled Modric on the edge of the box with five minutes remaining, Bale
stepped up and dipped his free-kick over the wall and it was heading
into the top left hand corner of Green's goal until the goalie got a
hand to it and knocked it up onto the bar. Jacobsen cleared the
ball away before a Spurs player could latch onto it.
In the closing minutes, twice
Pavlyuchenko put Defoe in for shots on goal, one flying wide of the post
and the other blocked just in time by Bridge, as Defoe closed in on the
ball inside the area. The two linked again, with Pav shooting wide
in added time and Modric hit a shot too high before the final whistle
went and the West Ham fans cheered as if they had won the right to
occupy the Olympic Stadium. The five ring circus might be full for
games like this, but the way that West Ham played the majority of the
game wasn't pretty, although their supporters will care little for that
in the position they are in.
But in the final analysis, neither side
were happy with a draw, although other results weren't too bad for them.
It wasn't even really a blood and thunder London derby, with Spurs
playing the majority of the football and the effort put in by West Ham.
The real meaning of the result will come
for both teams at the end of the season. A point apiece might not
be enough for either team to achieve their aims come May.