Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tottenham vs. Sunderland

It is not that I at all underestimated the whole-hearted manner that Roy Keane and his troops would bring with them to the Lane, but the result yesterday surprised and disappointed me. From the moment I arrived at the West Cornwall Pasty stand at Liverpool Street station that had been annexed by a red and white shirted army and faced the screaming chants of the Mackems, I knew that there would be no shortage of spirit in the Sunderland team or support from the corner of the South stand. Having once been to Watford vs. Sunderland a few years back and seen the Sunderland fans effectively seize control of the city centre I knew how seriously these guys took their football.

Buoyed by the recent signings of Cisse and Healy as well as the Ramos rejects, it was no wonder they were in good heart, it is probably the best position they have been in since Mr. Kevin Phillips was at the top of the Premiership scoring charts...

Anyhow, after making our way to the ground I remembered there was another bad omen in the form of my only being able to get seats in the West lower. This was an annoyance that due to the privilege of my Bronze membership I got to get my ticket a day early. The downside was that I ended up in the West stand (rather than the South) and paying a lot more for it. I won't go into my many issues with the club and the ticketing policies....

The bad omen was in the fact that the last time I was in the West stand we lost 4-0 to Chelsea in the cup, with only the privilege off seeing Le Saux being sent off to show for that trip.

Everyone was talking about Berbatov's non-appearance, but the worry about this was offset by the fact that King and Bale were starting. This in turn was offset by the fact that BAE was also starting. Surely Bale should be playing left back with him on the bench (if not dispatched).

The sun was out, I had supped a calming beer and positivity was slowly returning. Surely we had to win...Sunderland didn't even have a decent striker on the pitch (though they did have four strikers on the bench).

It is quite difficult to describe the first half except to point out that it was boring. Sunderland didn't really threaten, Woodgate and King looked relatively solid, and though we had conceded a few too many corners things looked OK at the back. Up front unfortunately there was hardly any action. Bent was starved of the ball, Modric and the rest of the midfield were hounded and kept very quiet. Bentley looked the only spark and his set-pieces provided the main threat without worrying the solid Sunderland back four unduly. Half-time arrived and the crowd seemed left mainly bemused by the lack of action, not something I have grown used to at the Lane.

The second half opened with some glimpses of goalmouth action, Bale and Woodgate should both have scored before Richardson made some space and curled one into the top corner. Sunderland's shooting had previously been woeful and this pearl of a strike surprised everyone and left the crowd in shock. The Sunderland fans went mad (as they had done for pretty much every touch and certainly all their corners) and the Spurs faithful took a little while to recover.

Huddlestone and Gio came on and though they added a bit of spark, Steeeeeeeeeeed still seemed to be the most effective midfielder on the pitch (he had also hit the post in the first half). Then the almost anonymous Modric burst into life and into the area, shooting for Gordon to parry out to Jenas, who tapped home.

Relief burst out of the ground, and a belief that the game was there for the taking. A few stuttering attacks took place and the lively Dos Santos certainly caused some trouble for the visitors' defence, but then the hammer blow. Zokora failed to cut out a cross from Murphy and our vaunted centre back pairing was left to gape at Cisse as he powered a header past Gomes. Absolutely shocking defending from all involved. With finishing like that it adds further to the recriminations over the recent lack of Spurs signings.

I am certainly not saying Cisse was the man for Spurs, but he would certainly be useful in the current situation. To be fair, given our current plight, we should have snapped up Dave Kitson as a backup striker. He may not be fast or prolific, but he has a footballing brain (apologies for the cliché), he can score goals and he is a real Spurs fan. He certainly seemed to enjoy scoring two goals at the Lane in the goal-laden Reading match last season. As for defenders with Kompany joining Coloccini and Cuellar as recent Premiership recruits, Ramos really better have someone up his sleeve before the transfer deadline...

As for the rest of the match, there were some spirited attacks but as with the rest of the game no clean cut chances. The layers left to jeers and everyone was left to worry about the trip to Stamford Bridge next week. Without doubt we will perform with spirit, up the quality of play, put up a fight but ultimately lose.Villa at home now looks like key match which Spurs will have to win, if only to get out of the bottom three...

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