Saturday, April 01, 2006

Tottenham Bring about their own Downfall

Martin Jol has plenty to think about before next weekend
Newcastle United 3 Spurs 1

This game was settled in the first half hour. Newcastle, on the back of four successive defeats, were livelier and up for the game, desperate to respond positively to the criticism they've received. Spurs, on the other hand, after two wins and conscious of the need to win to maintain their Champions League placing, were again cautious and slow to get involved. As a consequence, Newcastle took an early advantage when Lee Bowyer scored after 65 seconds. Spurs were unsettled and stretched in defence where Anthony Gardner was replacing the injured Ledley King. Mido also started ahead of Defoe.

The experienced Bowyer, Solano and Shearer caused Spurs all sorts of problems and they could have been further ahead before Robbie Keane equalised after 18 minutes. In their first meaningful attack, Aaron Lennon centred for Keane to head home.

Having been given a lifeline to get into the game, Spurs spurned it when Newcastle scored twice in five minutes. The first came after Robinson parried a long range shot, hit powerfully by Solano and the second was from the penalty awarded when Davids made a rash challenge on Bowyer. This summed up Davids' day as he strugggled to cope with the Newcastle midfielder, and could have conceded an earlier penalty after they had scored the opening goal.

Before half-time Keane could have pulled a goal back but he hit the bar.

In the second half Spurs responded to Martin Jol's talk and were more purposeful and direct and had a couple of chances to get back into the game. The home defence was looking under pressure and a mis-directed header set Jenas free. He took the ball on, went past Given and had two options from inside the six yard box and to the left of goal - tap the ball into an empty net or roll it across for Keane who was in support. Instead he hit the ball into the side-netting to the great delight of the home fans.

This was the turning point in the game, it restored the home side's confidence and to ensure the win, Dawson was sent off with half and hour left for a second booking after holding and pulling back Alan Shearer. Although a Keane shot shaved the post and Defoe came on, with ten men they had little chance and Newcastle were in complete control.

A very disappointing result as the other scores went against Spurs. Arsenal are only two points behind with their game at Portsmouth in hand, although Bolton also lost to Manchester United. Blackburn and Wigan meet on Monday at Ewood Park.

This result certainly increases the pressure on Spurs but if they can set this result and performance aside, they still have a European place and even Champions League position in their own hands. However, it is getting more difficult by the week.

This is where Martin Jol can show if he is going to be a top manager, with the ability to raise the players' game for the vital games ahead. Dawson will miss the next game and King who injured an ankle in training may also be doubtful. Testing times ahead, with all areas of Spurs team needing adjustments to overcome recent failings.

This was a game where Spurs brought about their own downfall. They were too cautious from the outset and gave Newcastle the initiative that they never relinquished. Spurs remain in fourth place for another week with Manchester City the visitors to White Hart Lane next Saturday.


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