FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
SUNDAY 25TH APRIL, 2004
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (0) ARSENAL 2 (2)
Referee:- Mark Halsey
Spurs (4-4-2):- Keller; Kelly (sub Poyet, 78), King, Gardner, Taricco (sub Bunjevcevic, 90); Davies, Brown, Redknapp (Capt.), Jackson (sub Defoe, 46); Keane, Kanoute
Subs not used:- Hirschfeld; Ricketts
Booked:- Redknapp, Keane
Arsenal (4-4-2);- Lehmann; Lauren, Toure, Campbell, Cole; Parlour (sub Edu, 66), Gilberto, Vieira (Capt.), Pires; Bergkamp (sub Reyes, 79), Henry
Subs not used:- Stack; Keown, Clichy
Never mind the fact that Arsenal actually secured the Premiership Title (for the third time) here at The Lane today. Spurs played with such fire and passion (particularly in the second half) not seen at any other time this season, and not for a considerable time at all, to come back from a half time two goal deficit, to send their fans home happy after a dramatic penalty award by Mark Halsey in stoppage time, after Lehmann bundled Robbie Keane to the ground under the crossbar at a Davies corner. After a lengthy pause for discipline to be administered, Robbie Keane stepped up and coolly fired above the diving keeper to create a cacophony of noise from the ecstatic Spurs fans.
The club did a great job of building up the atmosphere, with the music of Orff, and videos of recent goals against Arsenal, starting with Gazza's 1991 free kick, and ending with that of Ziege in the last home fixture in 2002 against the old enemy from down the road. The noise was incredible, and I don't think I have heard quite so much since the semi-final at Old Trafford in 2001.
There are a couple of questions about Spurs that come to mind. Firstly, why has it taken all season (with one or two exceptions) for the management to realise that the best centre-back partnership is Ledley King and Anthony Gardner? Not that these two always got it right, and indeed Ledley nearly paid the price for a terrible pass to Henry late in the second half, but of course they do have more mobility and skill on the ball than any other potential pairing at the club. The second question is a bit of an old chestnut, and that is why do Spurs not find the desire to at least match their opponents, and play with the passion we have demanded against opposition other than Arsenal? If only they could find such energy and application, we would not be in the lowly position we find ourselves in today.
Whilst the point ensured that Arsenal won the title, due to Chelsea's defeat at Newcastle, the point for Spurs was also precious, as it really does mean Leeds have to win all their games to get above us. Whilst we have dropped to 16th place, we ARE safe.
That early passion from the fans was soon dissipated in the third minute, as Arsenal turned on their "goal-scoring button" to break and score with ease from a Spurs corner. It was Henry who picked up a loose Spurs header on the edge of his own area, racing down the field and putting Simon Davies under pressure as he was one of the two covering defenders. Davies suddenly had both Bergkamp and Henry to contend with, and no cover. Henry slipped the ball to Bergkamp, and by the time he hit a low cross into the centre of the area, the Arsenal skipper, Vieira had popped up to slot home.
Arsenal started to stroke the ball about, and Spurs only threatened in spasms without too much effect in the early stages. Presumably a big part of Davies' task was to police Pires, so there was little width on the right, with Kelly fully occupied defensively. Once again Kelly has acquitted himself well, at the toughest level, but he does not give Spurs attacking options. John Jackson got one or two crosses of note into the area, but it was no surprise when he was sacrificed at half time for Jermain Defoe, who had been relegated to the bench at the expense of Robbie Keane. Kanoute was winning a few headers, but unfortunately rarely finding a team-mate to continue the attack. His height was a blessing though, giving the partnership of Toure and Campbell something to think about throughout.
Michael Brown grew in stature during this game, but in the 16th minute, he failed in an attempted tackle on Bergkamp whose run ended in a shot which was on target but into Keller's arms. Five minutes later, Spurs were awarded a free kick on the left edge of the box, in front of the South Stand. Jacko shaped to take it, then Brown slipped the ball to Jamie Redknapp who hit a low driven shot that Lehmann had to dive to the right to save.
After 26 minutes, Brown intercepted in the middle and sent Taricco away. "Treacle" used Keane as a wall, then hit the top of the net with a great shot. Brown was Spurs man of the match in my view, and gave Vieira quite a lot to think about as the game progressed, but also cutting out attacks and starting Spurs moves. Redknapp too probably had his best game for Spurs, capped by a great second-half goal.
Kanoute tried an audacious over head kick, after Brown had lifted the ball into the area, but the ball went several yards wide. In the 35th minute, the visitors increased their lead, with too much ease. Pires, in the middle, found Bergkamp, who passed to Vieira on the left. The Captain's low cross was all too easily prodded home by the Arsenal number 7. It was looking ominous, and all too predictable. Spurs never gave up though, and Kanoute soon had a shot at least on target, whilst Davies hit a 20 yard effort just over the bar.
Three minutes before the break, the Spurs defence was indecisive as Campbell of all people had got forward and threaded a ball to Bergkamp. Ledley had been taken out of the equation, but Keller was out to the edge of his area to save from Bergkamp. Bergkamp was next teeing up Henry for a hot from a sharpish angle on the right, which Keller saved again.
Defoe took up station next to Kanoute, and Robbie was given a free role behind them, working from middle to left. From the kick off, the ball was worked through to Kanoute who got a long distance shot in, but wide. Robbie Keane then got a great ball down to Davies on the right, and Campbell managed to get the ball out for a corner, taken by Davies, and contested by Kanoute and Lehmann, with the keeper winning out.
Jamie Redknapp got booked for showing two feet to Parlour, such was his commitment. Having won the ball, he was a little unlucky, but in fairness to Mark Halsey, he refereed this very competitive game very well. Keller was in action again in the 58th minute, as Henry hit one with his right foot from the left side of the box. Kasey saved well at his right post.
Now it was Spurs turn to break from the back, as Brown slipped the ball to Defoe, about 15 yards inside the Arsenal half. Brown kept up with Jermain, and was on hand for the ball cut back, then obliged Redknapp's desperate call, with a short pass for a spectacular 25 yard shot inside Lehmann's right post. Now the home crowd was up for a contest again, and the noise reached another crescendo.
Arsenal could, and should, have had two more goals though. First, Kelly gifted the ball to Pires in dangerous territory, and ultimately, Henry had a great scoring chance from close range on the right. The Frenchman smiled at his mistake, but most of The Lane breathed a sigh of relief. Two minutes later, Brown was brought down on the edge of the box, and Redknapp's free kick was tipped over for a corner. Shortly after there was great confusion (not least from Kanoute) who had intercepted an Arsenal throw, and was inside the box with only Lehmann to beat. Albeit, he was at a sharp angle, Kanoute seemed to be waiting for a referee's whistle, and such was his hesitation, that when he did shoot it was straight at the keeper. (Memo to Fredi - you cannot be offside from a throw-in, especially when it is taken by the opposition!)
There was another let-off for Spurs, as Gardner presented Henry with the ball, and Pires hit the underside of the bar with his shot. Kelly was sacrificed for Poyet, and Davies reverted to right back. Spurs pressed and pressed, and their efforts were rewarded in that dramatic finale. Toure was leaping up and down in anger at the award by Mr. Halsey of a free kick for a foul upon Kanoute. Defoe took this kick, which Lehmann pushed over for a corner, taken by Brown. His kick actually grazed the bar as the ball went right across the pitch, but underneath the bar a mini-battle was going on between Lehmann and Robbie Keane. Lehmann was all over Keane, bundling him to the floor, and even had his hands round Robbie's head. As they got up from the behind the goal-line, and into play again. Lehmann pushed Keane and Robbie retaliated in kind. There was no little havoc in the penalty area, and Lauren seemed to be suggesting to the referee that he should show a card to Keane. Mr.. Halsey consulted his linesman, booked both protagonists, then calmly pointed to the spot for a penalty to the incredible delight of the Spurs fans. Vieira gave Lehmann some advice, which Robbie over-heard, before he lifted a shot above Lehmann as he dived to his left. It was the best moment I can remember this season, but then there have not been many to savour.
Taricco was doing a Nobby Styles type dance in front of the South Stand, which of course included the away fans, and then before the kick-off could be taken he collapsed with an apparent injury, having to be replaced by Bunjevcevic. Now, far be it for me to suggest such a thing, but could Taricco have been engaging in "Argentinian Practices" to slow the game down before a re-start?
The final whistle came, but of course, like most home fans, I applauded my "brave lads", before slipping away from the stadium, so that the Gooners could celebrate on their own. I did notice Lehmann slope off the pitch, whilst his team-mates danced in front of their support. A certain number 23 may have discretely slid away too.
This report is dedicated to Patrick Healey and his son Kevin, who flew over from Cork to watch the game. Kevin has never seen Arsenal beat Spurs. Well done Kevin, and thanks for coming. Make sure you come next season!
· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
· The preview for this game can still be read here
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