FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SUNDAY 22ND OCTOBER, 2006
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1) WEST HAM UNITED 0 (0)
Referee: - Steve Bennett
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, King (Capt.), Ekotto; Lennon (sub Ghaly, 77), Jenas, Huddlestone, Davids; Defoe (sub Keane, 77), Mido
Subs not used: - Cerny; Gardner; Murphy
Booked: - Defoe, Mido, Davids
West Ham (4-4-2):- Green; Pantsil, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Konchesky; Reo-Coker (Capt.), Mascherano (sub Tevez, 68), Mullins, Benayoun (sub Cole); Harewood (sub Dailly, 81), Zamora
Subs not used: - Carroll; Sheringham
Booked: - Konchesky, Mascherano, Harewood, Pantsil
There was an element of deja vue for Spurs fans about this high-tension game, after Mido had scored what turned out to be the winner on the stroke of half time. It was the Egyptian striker that gave Spurs a first half lead in last year’s corresponding game, only to be cancelled out by Anton Ferdinand’s last gasp equaliser that sent the West ham horde home happy. This year, Spurs could and should have won by a wider margin. Ex-Hammer Jermain Defoe was guilty of at least two failures to convert excellent opportunities, and much as the exciting Aaron Lennon dazzled and delivered into the danger zone, Spurs could not give debut keeper Robert Green a stiff enough test, and the home fans were grateful for the final whistle after three minutes of added time.
The game had been billed as a “must win” for both sides, and defeat leaves West Ham firmly rooted in the bottom three, with their seventh consecutive defeat, and a seventh failure to score a goal. Bobby Zamora – the Hammers’ top scorer – was lively in the first half, testing Benoit Assou-Ekotto down the flank, but Paul Robinson had the easier time of the two keepers, neither of whom had to make any great saves. Alan Pardew gave Javier Mascherano a start today, leaving his compatriot, Carlos Tevez, on the bench, but perhaps Mascherano’s most impactive contribution was when he lay “doggo” after a feigned head butt by Jermain Defoe, after the Argentine had brought the Spurs striker down. Both “combatants” saw yellow for the contretemps which led to a melee in the middle of the pitch. Read "Jermain Defoe - The Biter Bit!"
West Ham skipper Nigel Reo-Coker was asked to play out on the left today, to accommodate Mascherano, and it is changes like this surely that must be unsettling the Hammers’ squad. There is not too much respite in the offing for West Ham, who face Arsenal in a couple of weeks, and also have trip to Chelsea to worry about. Still, why should we Spurs fans worry about The Irons? The result means that Spurs have hauled themselves towards mid-table – level on points with Liverpool and Middlesbrough. With a short trip to Watford next week, we have every reason for optimism.
Martin Jol rang one or two changes today, but was able to field his first choice defence. Tom Huddlestone continued in the middle – to good effect too – with Edgar Davids replacing Murphy on the left side of midfield. Aaron Lennon made his first start since his recent injury, and Berbatov was rested completely, with the strike partnership being switched completely from that which started at Besiktas.
Inevitably, there was plenty of banter between the vocal sets of fans, with the Hammers having a go about “Lasagne-gate” and Spurs fans making very clear that WE are still on a European tour!
Spurs conceded an early free kick, after Reo- Coker was fouled. Harewood took the kick from distance, but his shot was deflected out for a corner, defended successfully. Anton Ferdinand seemed to be struggling with a knee injury after only three minutes, but recovered to play the full 90 minutes. After 7 minutes, Spurs broke out of their half, and Defoe did well to hold the ball under pressure, turn and pass to Aaron Lennon. Lennon advanced down a middle furrow, and hit a shot that was just wide of Green’s left post. After 20 minutes, it was Lennon returning the compliment, feeding Defoe from the right. Defoe had space and time to pick a better spot than the one he chose, which allowed Green to make a save.
Mid-way through the half, Harewood did get the run of the ball, after an attempt by Reo-Coker. Harewood’s shot was parried by Paul Robinson, and cleared by the ever-efficient Pascal Chimbonda, having a superb first season at The Lane. Ledley King treated us to an excellent piece of defending under pressure from both Zamora and Harewood, reading the game well, and clearing with ease. Of the back four, only Ekotto gives a little concern now and again, but this was Spurs sixth clean sheet in twelve games so far this season. West Ham would bleed for such a record, and only the top seven in the Premiership have a better defensive record at this stage. We know where our problems lie in the League, and the strikers need their scoring boots!
Having witnessed the melee a few minutes before the break, it looked as if the excitement was over for fifteen minutes, until Edgar Davids popped up with the ball down the left side, crossed low, and Mido – short of the near post, flicked and turned then struck the ball from a sharp angle across Green, and into the net rebounding off the post, right in front of the West Ham crowd! Running towards this group, pulling off his shirt was not a clever move and referee Steve Bennett was obliged to wave his yellow card again.
Konchesky was one of those who got a fond reception before the game when his name was announced (Teddy Sheringham was the other), but after his booking for a cynical foul on Lennon in the first half, Konchesky got booed every time he touched the ball in the second half, not least because the referee failed to punish him for what looked like another unlawful challenge. Mr Bennett is usually more reliable than I found him today. He was certainly not a “homer”, and he easily wound up the home fans as the game wore on.
Defoe was brought down after 48 minutes, and Jenas hit a good kick from 25 yards, punched clear by Green. Lennon was starting to give Konchesky a torrid time, and jinked into the box, passing back to Davids whose shot went over the bar. Tom Huddlestone also tried a shot after nicking the ball off Mascherano, firing wide whilst the Argentinean protested to the referee that he had been fouled.
By now the West Ham fans were becoming frustrated and tried a chant of “You let your country down” at Paul Robinson. They were soon drowned out by a chant that went around the ground lauding “England’s Number One”. Huddlestone has every reason to be satisfied with his first 90 minutes in a home game for Spurs, and regularly played successful passes to the flanks. This time he was on the right and passed low into the box, from where Mido hit a low shot towards the post, where Green saved again.
Mascherano was replaced by Tevez, who re-inforced Harewood and Zamora, as Pardew tried a 4-3-3 formation. Spurs were coping comfortably at the back though A Tevez free kick was cleared towards Konchesky, whose header did not prevent the ball over the top, picked up by Jermain Defoe, with Lennon nearby. It looked like Spurs were away, and Konchesky appeared to foul Defoe, but the referee was the only one on the field who didn’t think that was the case. If he had given the free kick, he would surely have been obliged to send off Konchesky, who was already on yellow.
Lennon and Defoe attacked Konchesky again, after a swift ball from Robinson. Defoe hit a left footed shot that was too weak, and easily held by the West Ham guardian. Now it was Chimbonda and Lennon threatening down the right, and Huddlestone got a shot that was wide of the mark. After a round of substitutions, Chimbonda crossed from the right with 8 minutes to go, and Mido’s header hit the top of the bar and rolled out of play. Substitute Robbie Keane appeared to be felled by Gabbidon in the box, but I am told it was an excellent challenge, and the referee’s decision not to award a penalty was correct. Keane was subject to a cynical foul by Pantsil in injury time, which got the West ham defender the seventh yellow card of the game, but no further reward for Spurs.
There is no question in my mind that Spurs deserved the three points today. As has happened too often, we made heavy weather of securing victory, but we are on the up and up. A win at Watford next week should see us in the top half, where we belong! See you in March, Hammers’ fans!
· "Jermain Defoe - The Biter Bit!"
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