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Spurs v Arsenal, 21.09.10
Carling Cup Rd 3

CARLING CUP ROUND 3
TUESDAY 21ST SEPTEMBER, 2010
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0) ARSENAL 4 (1)
(a.e.t. – scorer after 90 mins – 1-1)

Spurs scorer:-
Keane, 49

Arsenal scorers:-
Lansbury, 15
Nasri (2 pens), 92,96
Arshavin, 105

Attendance:- 35,883

Referee:- Mr. L. Probert
Assistants:- Mr. S. Beck & Mr. S. Child
Fourth Official:- Mr. A. Marriner

Teams:-
Spurs (4-1-4-1):- Pletikosa; Naughton, Caulker, Bassong (Capt.), Ekotto; Sandro (sub Kranjcar, 96); Giovani (sub Keane, 46), Palacios, Livermore (sub Lennon, 46), Bentley; Pavlyuchenko

Subs not used:- Cudicini; Hutton; Huddlestone, Jenas

Booked:- Livermore, Pavlyuchenko, Naughton

Arsenal (4-1-4-1):- Fabianski; Eboue, Djourou, Koscielny, Gibbs (sub Clichy, 102); Denilson; Lansbury, Nasri, Wilshere, Rosicky (Capt.) (sub Chamakh, 73); Vela (sub Arshavin, 73)

Subs not used:- Almunia; Sagna; Eastmond, Emmanuel-Thomas

Booked:- Koscielny (block on Keane), Lansbury (foul on Sandro)

Weak side given lessons

Harry Redknapp chose this game against our hated rivals to field the weakest team I have seen under his leadership, and in truth for some considerable time. Ironically, Arsene Wenger (who served his one match ban from the touchline tonight) fielded one of the strongest ever Arsenal League Cup sides. The addition of Keane and Lennon at half-time made a difference for Spurs who got back on terms, but then succumbed to two early extra time penalties, before Arshavin embarrassed Naughton and the defence with a dash to receive a quickly taken free kick, and a goal across Pletikosa. Thousands of Spurs fans left early, but those who remained defiantly chanted their support in the closing stages against the hordes of gloating Arsenal supporters.

The one real plus for Spurs was the excellent debut of Sandro, signed at the beginning of the summer from Brazil, who played out the season at home, before arriving at Tottenham two or three weeks ago. As Ray Lo reported last week, Sandro really does “look the business”. He is a tall and light-footed individual; a great tackler; and a great player of the ball even with an opponent “in his face”. Nominally, Sandro played behind the rest of the midfield, but he got up and down the pitch to serve in all areas. He will be a great asset to Spurs, and I look forward to seeing him again. There were just a few occasions, when a simple touch, rather than fancy football, would have been more effective, but everyone loved his game.

There were also Spurs debuts for Stipe Pletikosa in goal, and 18 year old Steven Caulker at centre-back, next to Captain for the night – Sebastien Bassong. The fact that Bassong was skipper illustrates the weakness of the Spurs starting line-up, of whom only Ekotto had started on Saturday against Wolves. Caulker lasted the full 120 minutes (apart from an attack of cramp towards the end), and apart from one or two errors under pressure acquitted himself really well against the superior opposition. Jake Livermore made his first start for Spurs, playing next to Wilson Palacios, and whilst he started quite well, he was replaced at half-time, when Harry Redknapp made an incisive double substitution of Lennon and Keane.

It would be unfair perhaps to pick on weak links in the Spurs side, but David Bentley could learn from his old team, who do not stand still when they pass or lose the ball. Bentley succeeded with a couple of fancy flicks down the left flank, where he played all night, but actually disappeared from the picture late in the game. Kyle Naughton was caught out a few too many times for comfort over the game too. Roman Pavlyuchenko struggled to hold and control the long balls sent his way, but in fairness there could be as many as 6 red shirts around him to challenge for the ball.

The key, as often illustrated by Arsenal teams at any level was sharpness, fitness, speed, passing ability, and willingness to get in opponents’ faces when not in possession. Spurs produced good football only in spasms over the 120 minutes, except for their bright start to the second half. Once again, Harry Redknapp might be criticised for seeking to match his opponents’ formation, rather than concentrate on the strengths of his own team. When he did this and reverted to 4-4-2 in the second half, Spurs could so easily have taken the lead, and it is true to say they had chances to win the game, before that double penalty whammy.

There was a minute’s applause for Bobby Smith before kick-off, and many Arsenal fans joined in with this show of respect. At half-time, there was a good filmed tribute to Bobby too.

Spurs did start fairly brightly, with Sandro and Livermore operating well in the middle and spraying some decent passes around. After 9 minutes, Pavlyuchenko chased a ball down the left channel, and when he was fouled, Bentley hit the free kick over the bar. Sadly, that bright start faded as Arsenal started to take control, and too often had a man over, where Spurs left space. Such was the case in the fifteenth minute, when Wilshere crossed from the left and Lansbury had an easy finish at the back post.

Ekotto sent out a good ball for Bentley, who on this occasion did beat his defender with a trick, before heading for goal, but firing over the bar. Rosicky had a shot deflected by Spurs, to win a corner, and Arsenal were in the ascendancy, without actually testing Pletikosa’s goal. Spurs had a good move in the middle, featuring Sandro, Giovani and Palacios, whose ball reached Pavlyuchenko, who cut inside and fired into the side netting. Later, Caulker made a good run down the right flank, and hit a cross/shot that passed just over the bar. Livermore, Pavlyuchenko and Naughton all took bookings in the first half, at the end of which Spurs had done well to only be one goal down.

Out came Keane and Lennon, and Sandro took up a position next to Palacios, who adopted the more defensive duties, with Sandro expressing himself more and more. Spurs got on level terms within minutes, and it was a cross by Naughton that gave Keane the chance as he fired just inside Fabianski’s left hand post. The keeper got a touch, but the ball still beat him. Robbie sought to fire up the Spurs crowd, who had been out-chanted for much of the game by the 4,500 visiting fans. Immediately after the goal, Keane fed Pavlyuchenko for a great chance, but the shot went wide.

Eboue had a shot go just wide, before Vela headed over but was adjudged offside anyway. Spurs best chance to take a lead came after 70 minutes, when Keane played a brilliant pass that split the defence and allowed Lennon a chance from which he should have scored. The shot was blocked and a corner ensued. At the other end, Ekotto collapsed in pain and Wilshere was allowed time to shoot, but somehow Spurs blocked the effort. Arsenal then made their own double substitution and Arshavin and Chamakh arrived on the scene for Rosicky and Vela.

Koscielny got a deserved card for a cynical block on Keane after Bentley’s ball was dummied by Pavlyuchenko. Lansbury also saw yellow for blocking another Keane advance in Arsenal territory. Keane hit the post with a shot from a Bentley kick, but was given offside anyway. Pletikosa made a decent low save from Lansbury’s shot, and also late in ordinary time from Denilson. Pletikosa also made a save from Eboue in a late goal-mouth scramble, when Arsenal might have grabbed a normal time win.

Perhaps it would have been better to have gone down honourably by the narrowest of margins, because extra-time was too painful to bear for many Spurs fans. Nasri looked offside to me, as he fell under a nudge by Bassong, and got up to score the penalty. Bassong was not even booked, let alone punished for preventing a goal-scoring opportunity. Similarly, Caulker grabbed Chamakh, and was not punished, other than by the award of a second penalty and a conversion by Nasri, who had been excellent for Arsenal all night.

The tiring Sandro was replaced by Kranjcar, who might have been one of the starters, as he has had little football so far this season. Similarly, surely Hutton might have started tonight? His replacement provided a good cross and a great scoring opportunity for Bentley, who headed into the side netting from the back post, when scoring was surely easier. Arshavin deliver the coup de grace, after he had been fouled by Naughton. Whereas Naughton stood still and waited for something to happen, Arshavin was up and through the defence receiving the quickly taken free kick, and able to hit his shot beyond Pletikosa and into the net. It was the ultimate lesson to Spurs about speed of thought and action, and how to take an incisive free kick.

Robbie Keane had a chance cleared off the line from a corner, but the rest of extra time was played out to less and less home fans. Those who stayed can be proud of the support they showed, but nothing can take away the disappointment of another defeat to Arsenal, and an early exit from the Cup Competition in which we have showed most success in the last 11 years. Whoever plays on Saturday at Upton Park will need to be on their mettle, because The Hammers did win at Sunderland, and their confidence will be good.

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