BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 21ST SEPTEMBER, 2008
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0) WIGAN ATHLETIC 0 (0)
Attendance: - 35,808
Referee: - Steve Tanner
Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Zokora, Corluka, Woodgate, Ekotto; Bentley (sub Lennon, 63), Jenas (Capt.), O’Hara, Bale (sub Huddlestone, 79); Pavlyuchenko (sub Campbell, 46), Bent
Subs not used: - Sanchez; Gunter, Gilberto; Giovani
Booked: - Corluka (Handball), O’Hara (foul on Zaki)
Wigan (4-4-2):- Kirkland; Melchiot (Capt.), Boyce, Bramble, Figueroa; Valencia, Scharner, Palacios, Koumas (sub Kapo, 71); Zaki (sub Camara, 81), Heskey
Subs not used: - Pollitt, Kingson; Taylor, De Ridder, Kilbane (note that Wigan had two substitute goalkeepers!)
Booked: - Boyce (foul on Pavlyuchenko), Palacios (foul on Zokora)
Bentley (and Spurs) fail to deliver again
Spurs managed only their second league point of this season, but still seek that precious first win. This was yet another disappointing team performance from a group of men who are still playing like strangers. That’s no surprise really, as Juande Ramos made no less than five changes after the Krakow win. We have also seen three different captains this week. Jonathan Woodgate led the team out on Monday. Club Captain Ledley King made one of his guest appearances on Thursday and Jermaine Jenas wore the band today. There are still so many problems with Spurs, but one of them is the issue of leadership, and I feel that of the three Woodgate is the most appropriate leader, bearing in mind the perpetual absence of Ledley King.
Of course, another weakness for Spurs is their lack of a midfield battler. Jamie O’Hara made his first start of the season next to Jenas and made a brave stab at providing the necessary ingredients, and without doubt was the best of the midfield starters. Jenas made too many mistakes; Bale was not as prolific as usual, and as one of my friends said after the game, it looks like Spurs paid £15 million for Bentley who left his right foot in Blackburn. Only when Lennon replaced Bentley did Spurs play with some zing that had Wigan panicking. Unfortunately, some of the most cynical play by left back Figueroa upon Lennon went un-punished by the referee.
Vedran Corluka played beside Woodgate in the centre of defence and looked very solid in this role, where he also managed several decent accurate passes to the forwards. Michael Dawson was not even on the bench, where right back Gunter sat un-used whilst Didier Zokora was given the job. Now Zokora did okay, but wouldn’t it be nice to play a right back at right back? This is one of the issues where I am looking for the club to “Gimme Some Truth”. How soon can we expect to see Alan Hutton back in the team? What is the status of Luka Modric’s injury? Will Ledley ever be able to play regularly again?
There was little for the Spurs fans to shout about, but to their credit, in the second half, they did try hard to rally the troops, to no avail.
O’Hara did well on the half way line after 8 minutes to win the ball, and pass on to Pavlyuchenko, who after an exchange with Bent tried a shot which whistled over Kirkland’s bar. Three minutes later, Spurs had a good spell of Spurs pressure after Bale won a header to get Gomes’ ball. A Bent shot was deflected and from the subsequent corner, Jenas had a speculative drive, which went wide of the post. After 17 minutes, Jason Koumas was caught in possession, and Darren bent was heading goalward. His first shot was blocked, and then a follow-up was saved and held by Kirkland. Boyce saw yellow after a series of fouls upon Pavlyuchenko who was showing a bit of guile, but was still to be replaced at half-time.
Corluka was adjudged to have fouled Heskey outside the box after a mistake by Ekotto, but Koumas’s free kick was held by Gomes. Gomes had to save again, this time from Scharner, who latched onto Heskey’s nod down. Now Corluka got booked for an alleged deliberate handball to block a driven shot from outside the area. Koumas laid off this free kick for Figueroa, who skied his effort.
Fraizer Campbell replaced Pavlyuchenko at the break, and for 45 minutes again showed the level of desire and commitment that we would love to see replicated 11 times over. He’s not even a Spurs man of course, and I would put O’Hara and Lennon as the only others to give a similar level of verve to the game. O’Hara was perhaps harshly booked for a foul on Zaki, before Palacios saw yellow for another cynical foul on a Spurs runner. This time it was Zokora who was stopped in his tracks after receiving a short pass in the midfield from Bentley. Bentley was then replaced by Lennon, whose first touch was to receive a diagonal pass from Campbell, beat Figueroa and cross into the danger zone. This cross was blocked but went back to Lennon, who had possession, pushed the ball a yard or so behind him, turned to continue, but seemed to be brought down by Figueroa for a stone bonker penalty. Mr. Tanner waved the appeals away, and was heavily jeered by the angry crowd (including yours truly!). Figueroa then body-checked Lennon outside the box, surely deserving a card. Jenas’s free kick was wasted.
Just for a change, Darren Bent did win an aerial challenge from Gomes’ ball after 73 minutes, and headed down to Campbell, who sent Lennon away on another exciting run. Lennon’s shot went wide. A poor Jenas pass led to Wigan coming forward, but Corluka not only retrieved the situation but sent a good ball down the right channel where Gareth Bale was lurking. Bale’s cross/shot passed across the area and well in front of Campbell.
Bale was then mysteriously replaced by Tom Huddlestone, who to be honest was ineffectual for his 11 minutes on the pitch. I would have liked to have seen Bale move back and Giovani inserted for Ekotto to give both the Wigan full backs more to worry about. Bent won another long ball, and his lay-off to O’Hara was not quite as good as it could have been. Jamie pushed his shot outside the post. Campbell received another long ball, and laid this up for Huddlestone, who did hit a shot on target, held by Kirkland, who had not been given enough trouble during the game. As the game was played out, Wigan threatened more and Gomes made a good save from substitute Kapo three minutes from time.
Spurs stay bottom of the table then, and the only way is surely up. I was asked on Setanta Sports News which direction now for Spurs. The answer was north-east to Newcastle on Wednesday night, to see who will be the unhappiest fans after that game!
· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
· Read the preview for this game.
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