BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 13TH MAY, 2012
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (1) FULHAM 0 (0)
Referee:- Phil Dowd
Assistants:- Mr. D. Bond & Mr. A. Halliday
Fourth Official:- Mr. S. Attwell
(Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Friedel; Walker (sub Nelsen, 49), Gallas (Capt.), Kaboul (sub Smith, 76), Bale; Livermore, Sandro; Lennon, Van der Vaart (sub Defoe, 60), Modric; Adebayor
Subs not used:- Cudicini; Giovani; Kane, Saha
Fulham (4-4-1-1):- Schwarzer; Kelly, Hughes, Hangeland, JA Riise; Duff, Diarra, Murphy (Capt.) (sub Kasami, 67), Frei; Dembele; Pogrebnyak
Subs not used:- Stockdale; Senderos, Briggs, Gecov, BH Riise, Trotta
Booked:- Hangeland (foul on Adebayor), Murphy (foul on Lennon)
Spurs do their job, now let Bayern Munich do theirs!
Spurs did their job, and set about it early with a second minute goal by Adebayor. The atmosphere around The Lane was electric over the first quarter of an hour, especially when we heard that West Brom had equalised against Arsenal, then had taken the lead. For a while it looked like Spurs' dream of third place could be achieved, but ultimately Arsenal came through to win 3-2 and snatch third. Former Spurs reserve keeper Marton Fulop had a mare for West Brom, and once again played his part in Spurs’ recent history. He was a loan keeper at Man City when Peter Crouch put us into the Champions League two years ago. Now he had to replace Ben Foster at a very late stage, and was exposed badly. Elsewhere, Newcastle lost at Goodison, so our fourth place was never threatened, but our season isn’t over yet, as we all become Bayern Munich fans for next week’s Champions League Final. Otherwise, as we all know, Chelsea would condemn us to another season of Europa League football.
Scott Parker’s Achilles kept him out of action, and with Bale having to play at left back, Harry Redknapp reverted to the successful 4-2-3-1 formation, with Livermore and Sandro protecting Bale and the rest of the defence. I thought the selection and strategy was spot on, as it allowed the attacking midfield of Lennon, Van der Vaart and Modric license to do just that – attack, and feed the ever enthusiastic (and successful) Adebayor.
Martin Jol (for whom there was a predictable love-in by Spurs fans) was missing Dempsey, but his star man really was Dembele, playing behind Pogrebnyak, and threatening Friedel a number of times after Fulham found their feet mid-way through the first half. Mahamadou Diarra also hit a few shots from the deep, and late in the game, Friedel had to make a string of good saves to preserve his clean sheet. Friedel was awarded the Spurs man of the match award in the hospitality suites, and is in the running on the “Spursometer” survey, along with Sandro and Adebayor.
That marvellous start came after only just over one minute. Adebayor picked up the ball towards the left and fed it across the area to Van der Vaart in a central position outside the box. Adebayor moved in and Van der Vaart threaded the ball back to him for a great right foot finish across the left of Mark Schwarzer. The celebrations began, and that meant that it wasn’t long before “We loved Martin Jol” and “He’s got no hair”. Some of us responded with “Harry Redknapp’s Blue & White Army”.
After 10 minutes, Jake Livermore linked up with Modric on the right of the area. Luka had a shot which Schwarzer could only parry, and Bale followed up, but saw his shot saved to concede a corner. Three minutes later, Livermore was operating in the same area, but this time with Aaron Lennon. Livermore got in the final shot, which was a good effort, going over the angle of the near post. Bale was still getting forward to good effect, and the advantage of him being left back of course was that he remained on the left side. He got all the way to the edge of the box, where he was fouled. Van der Vaart, Modric and Walker showed interest in the kick, but Walker had a go with a low level shot that hit the side netting.
Hangeland got a yellow card for a foul on Adebayor, and this time Van der Vaart tried and failed with a free kick. Now Fulham were finding their feet and getting forward more, without offering too much threat to Friedel’s goal. The Swiss Kerim Frei was testing Walker to the full though, and got in plenty of crosses. On the other flank, Damien Duff offered Bale plenty of challenge. Bale started a great Spurs move from the back after 33 minutes, with a ball to Van der Vaart. Adebayor featured prominently in a succession of passes between him, Modric and Lennon, before Van der Vaart hit a shot that curled away from the goalkeeper’s right post.
John Arne Riise, once of Liverpool, went on a run chased by Sandro, but got in a powerful shot which Friedel parried and Spurs managed to clear. Frei beat Walker to the line and crossed, but Pogrebnyak was forced back to the edge of the box by the Spurs defence. The Russian laid up the ball for Diarra who fired over from distance. Adebayor chased a long ball down the left and did well to force an attacking throw, from which Modric fed Walker, who tried a shot that went well over. Walker was then found hobbling, and presumably had had his bad toe trodden on. He struggled through the remaining minutes, and we all thought he would have to be replaced. Just before the break, Bale had a shot parried and Lennon picked up the rebound, feeding the ball back to Bale who should have scored here, but hit the ball over the bar.
Surprisingly, Walker did appear after the break, and clearly was seeking to run off his pain. He couldn’t though and was replaced by Nelsen, with Gallas moving to right back. Lennon was fouled just outside the area by former Spur Danny Murphy who got a yellow card for his trouble. Nothing came of that free kick, but from an attacking throw, Spurs won a corner after Lennon fed the ball to Modric to centre.
Gallas fed the ball to Lennon from the right channel, and Lennon chipped a cross which Sandro headed goalward, only for Schwarzer to save on the line with his hands stretched high. At the other end Dembele beat Friedel with a shot to his left, but the ball rebounded out off the outside of the post. Fulham were no bit part side here.
Van der Vaart was replaced by Jermain Defoe (with hair bleached), and within 4 minutes of his entrance, Defoe had added to his goal tally for the season. Jermain is no longer our highest scorer in all competitions (Adebayor has that honour), but he did get his 17th goal from just 21 starts and 17 substitute appearances. Both Defoe and Adebayor challenged for a high ball. Jermain won a battle to retain the ball, hitting it out to Lennon on the right. When Lennon returned the ball, Defoe was in position in the middle of the box to beat Schwarzer with a low cool finish.
Spurs fans now felt generous enough to applaud Danny Murphy off the field as he was replaced by Kasami, and there were more Jol chants. Defoe tried another shot from 28 yards after being fed the ball by Bale. Once Defoe had possession, the ball was only headed in one direction, towards goal, but this shot was over.
Younes Kaboul took a knock and had to be replaced by 21 year old Adam Smith. Smith is a right wing-back in the Kyle Walker mould. He first appeared in a Spurs first team in a Juande Ramos pre-season friendly against Borussia Dortmund nearly four years ago, and made a good impression. This was Smith's competitive debut for Spurs. I got the clear impression that he had been instructed to play safe, as the majority of his passes were back to Gallas, who reverted to centre back.
By now, the atmosphere had gone a little flat, as we had heard that Arsenal were 3-2 up, so we were anxiously waiting for another West Brom goal, which never arrived. Fulham had a mini-spate of chances. Kasami had a shot blocked, which led to a corner. Then Friedel made a good save from Duff, whose shot came from the right side. That led to another corner, and was followed by another fine save by Friedel from Dembele’s shot from 20 yards out. Finally, the veteran goalie was required to keep out a Diarra effort.
I was not aware of any Perryman chants during the game, but our former and legendary Club Captain was heartily cheered when Paul Coyte mentioned him at half-time. At the time of writing, Stevie is still fighting illness in hospital after his collapse at Exeter’s last game on 5th May. The most recent news seems to be that there is an improvement in his condition, which is great news. We all hope and pray for that continuing recovery.
Post match awards were made to Gareth Bale (Junior Members’ Player of the Year) and Scott Parker (Members’ Player of the Year).
The high drama of the final day’s Premier League action was elsewhere with Manchester City grabbing the title in added time with two late goals, and QPR surviving despite defeat, thanks to Cisse’s late, late goal last week. In his last three seasons, (and his only full seasons at Spurs), Harry Redknapp has achieved 4th, 5th and 4th again. It’s the first time in 47 years that we have had three successive finishes as high in the league. Redknapp deserves the greatest credit for what he has achieved with Spurs. Let’s hope Bayern Munich do their bit for us next week! That would give us (and Harry) Champions League football for the second time in three seasons!
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