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West Brom v Spurs, 11.09.10

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 11TH SEPTEMBER, 2010
WEST BROMWICH ALBION 1 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1)

West Brom scorer:-
Brunt, 41

Spurs scorer:-
Modric, 27

Attendance:- 23,642

Referee:- Howard Webb
Assistants:- Mr. D. Cann & Mr. M. Mullarkey
Fourth Official:- Mr. R. Shoebridge

Teams;-
West Brom (4-1-4-1):- Carson (Capt.); Jara, Tamas, Olsson, Shorey; Mulumbu; Odemwingie, Scharner (sub Reid, 73), Brunt (sub Barnes, 78), Thomas; Fortune (sub Tchoyi, 86)

Subs not used:- Myhill; Pablo, Cox; Bednar

Booked:- Jara, Brunt

Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Cudicini; Corluka, Gallas, Kaboul, Bale; Huddlestone (Capt.), Palacios; Lennon (sub Crouch, 77), Van Der Vaart, Modric (sub Kranjcar, 32); Pavlyuchenko (sub Keane, 64)

Subs not used:- Pletikosa; Bassong, Ekotto; Jenas

Booked:- Gallas

Spurs struggling with the bread and butter games

Two weeks ago, Spurs suffered a surprise home defeat against lowly Wigan, and today they were expected to do better than a draw at The Hawthorns, where despite a bright start, Spurs could not have claimed injustice had West Brom grabbed a win, which they would have done had it not been for a glaring miss in the 90th minute by defender Tamas, after Wilson Palacios had failed to get in a crucial tackle as the Baggies advanced down the Spurs right channel. Spurs had to withstand considerable second half pressure and Cudicini was called into desperate action more than once. In the circumstances a point was the most we deserved, and one to be valued.

Spurs fielded two debutants – William Gallas and Rafael Van Der Vaart. Gallas had a mixed game, and could be blamed for West Brom’s equaliser when he failed to commit for the ball, but chose to wait for a non-existent whistle as Odemwingie was allowed to get to the bye-line and send in a high cross which caused sufficient confusion on the Spurs goal-line for Brunt to score a close range equaliser to Modric’s earlier goal.

Modric had been one of Spurs stars in the opening stages, and was astounded not to get a free kick from Howard Webb, when he was seemingly fouled near the touchline. Instead, Luka was penalised for handling the ball as he fell to the ground. Modric was injured in the challenge – of a nature typical to many that were allowed by the lenient referee – and played no further part in the game, being replaced by his compatriot Niko Kranjcar, who also wore a headband. Not all Croatians are obliged to wear such attire though, as Corluka wore nothing in his hair!

The much anticipated debut of Rafael Van Der Vaart should be regarded as very positive overall. He might have been surprised by the physicality of Premier League football, but he works hard, and can tackle, as well as offer some very clever and incisive passing, such as a back heel that gave Aaron Lennon a great chance in the first half. Van Der Vaart operated behind Pavlyuchenko, and they were supported by Lennon and Modric on the flanks. Huddlestone and Palacios played the holding midfield role, whilst Gareth Bale played at left back, with less forward runs than we normally see. I’m afraid that Bale was exposed two or three times in the match, and continues to have defensive frailties.

West Brom played Mulumbu at the back of midfield, and he was voted as man of the match by the home sponsors. Fortune was West Brom’s lone striker, but he was amply supported by the runs of Jerome Thomas ( a former gooner) on the left, the roving Odemwingie, and former Wigan man Paul Scharner and Chris Brunt through the middle. Roberto Di Matteo has certainly got his players working hard for him and each other. The home crowd was very vocal too, and mysteriously the Spurs support was relatively quiet.

Bale’s early errors were evident when he allowed Fortune too much space for a forward run, then subsequently skewed an attempted clearance that another defender did clear. Van Der Vaart’s skill was to the fore after 6 minutes, when Modric fed the ball out to Lennon and Corluka, the ball came inside where Lennon continued his run for Van Der Vaart’s clever back-heeled pass. Lennon's shot went just over the bar. It was a while before Spurs’ next incisive attack, and that started with Corluka’s ball to Pavlyuchenko who headed down for Van Der Vaart. Pavlyuchenko made a run for the return, then fed Bale whose deep cross was just too high for Lennon.

On the run of play, Spurs goal was well deserved and it came after more good work on the right and Van Der Vaart’s final ball. Pavlyuchenko challenged and the defender only partially cleared – to the feet of Modric who was delighted to plant the ball beyond the reach of Scott Carson. Unfortunately, Modric did not last long after the goal, and Spurs lost momentum from that point on. Kranjcar did hit a free kick straight at Carson from 22 yards, but West Brom responded with a shot by Scharner going just over the bar, before the equaliser came in the 41st minute. Gallas failed to make the ball his, and the cross from Odemwingie was high and not held by Cudicini, who was under challenge. The ball reached Bale and Brunt at the back post, and it was Brunt who got the better touch. Thomas was allowed to get past Palacios and hit a decent shot that was held by Cudicini.

After the break, Spurs had another excellent move from the back, started again by Corluka, then through Lennon and Van Der Vaart, despite close attention from opponents. Van Der Vaart sent Bale away with a great ball, and Bale really should have scored with his shot, but Carson did get a hand on the ball to concede a corner. Carson also made a good save from a rocket shot by Kaboul, who took a touch from a short free kick.

West Brom were putting Spurs under plenty of pressure now. Thomas fired over after a corner, and there was plenty of desperate defending being done. Bale got fouled twice near the corner flag, but Howard Webb only spotted the second infringement, from which Bale’s kick was put wide by Gallas. Lennon was tried on the left, and received the ball from Kranjcar on another break, before sending the ball in for Huddlestone, whose shot was wide. Pavlyuchenko had been replaced by Keane, who got predictable boos from his former Black Country opponents, and Crouch came on for Lennon. Huddlestone had another shot wide after a Bale throw, but then Cudicini made two great saves to keep Olsson and Odemwingie at bay.

After West Brom’s glaring miss in the closing stages, there were 4 minutes of added time, during which Crouch headed out Bale’s throw and Keane hit a 25 yarder straight at Carson. The report indicates more chances for Spurs, but we did not work their keeper as much as they worked Cudicini, and I for one to not begrudge the Baggies their point. As I have said, we could have come away with nothing.

Next up is the Champions League game at Bremen on Tuesday, for which I expect to see Ledley King and Benoit Assou-Ekotto back in the defence, allowing Bale to play where he is best. If Modric is out again, Gareth will be needed!

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