Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Tottenham 1 WBA 0 - Defoe, At Last

It was a difficult night for Spurs against a very well organised and hard working West Brom team but a second half goal from Jermain Defoe gave Tottenham the win they required as they moved to within three points of Manchester United in second place in the Premier League.

Tottenham Hotspur 1 West Bromwich Albion 0
Scorer: Defoe

Team: Friedel; Walker, Gallas (Bassong), Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto; Van der Vaart, Sandro (Livermore) (Kranjcar), Modric, Bale; Adebayor, Defoe.  Subs (unused): Cudicini, Rose, Pavlyuchenko, Giovani

Jermain Defoe
It was hard work for Spurs at the end of a busy holiday period as they played their fourth game in twelve days but it was a 'must win' match at the start of a run of four home matches in January with only one away trip.  A crucial period in Tottenham's ambitions for the season as Harry Redknapp made one change in the team as Jermain Defoe returned in place of the injured Scott Parker who was missing his first League game since joining Spurs in August.  West Brom whose away results are better than their home record came with a much weakened team due to injury but a team that was was set up as expected to deny Spurs and to maintain their run of three away games without defeat where three late goals have seen them snatch the spoils.

Spurs started with an early burst that saw them win five corners in the first four minutes and West Brom who had clearly come to defend were content to hammer the ball out of defence for their lone striker to chase.  It was the sort of play a team would normally employ in the final moments of a game as they tried to defend a lead or hold a hard-earned point, not something you see from the opening minute.  West Brom weathered the early storm and with everyone back they frustrated Spurs who apart from the occasional flash rarely caused much concern for the visitors.  Rafael Van der Vaart saw Foster push a shot over but on most occasions a defender made a crucial tackle or block to deny Spurs a clear shot on target.  A Van der Vaart shot from the edge of the box was saved comfortably by Foster while Brad Friedel was occupied with collecting long punts upfield by either the goalkeeper or defenders.  West Brom were hoping that a lack of concentration by a Spurs defender would create a chance for them and on a couple of occasions it nearly came off but Spurs recovered quickly.

Spurs bright start quickly faded and it became a matter of trying to pick a way through the maze of resolute West Brom defenders who invariably got a foot in at the crucial moment.  Play continued as such to half-time with Jake Livermore replacing Sandro after thirty minutes because of injury.  Little changed after the interval as Spurs became increasingly frustrated at their own inability to put in that telling pass which would be the key to success.  Emmanuel Adebayor managed a clever flick on to Defoe but it came quickly to him and he blasted over.  West Brom continued to be satisfied with their game plan to harry and frustrate so Friedel continued to act as a ballboy collecting the backpass as Spurs started another attacking move.

At last, with just over the hour gone Spurs managed to put together possibly their only quick passing moivement of the evening and were rewarded with the goal.  Benoit Assou-Ekotto advanced on the left as he had done for much of the evening and played a quick pass to Van der Vaart on the edge of the area.  He played it wide to Gareth Bale who was on the left of the area and he quickly played it into the middle towards Defoe.  The move appeared to have broken down as Defoe's first touch saw the ball rear up into the air but with his back to goal and four or five defenders around him, Defoe quickly regained control, swivelled and shot into the far corner of the goal - relief for all in White Hart Lane.

West Brom weren't shaken out of their style of play by the goal although Friedel was called upon to make his first save of the evening saving at his near post.  An injury to William Gallas meant that he had to go off to be replaced by Sebastien Bassong and later a clash of heads between Younes Kaboul and Livermore reduced Spurs to nine men as they received attention.  It was at this point with over ten minutes remaining that the visitors realised that there might be something in the game for them.  Spurs were stretched defensively as they tried to reorganise to cope with the temporary situation and it was Van der Vaart who showed unusual defensive attributes as he battled to stop a West Brom breakthrough.  Spurs survived, Kaboul returned and Niko Kranjcar replaced Livermore.

Encouraged, Friedel saved well from a powerful shot by substitute Somen Tchoyi and in the closing minutes West Brom won a series of corners which troubled Spurs and just as the visitors had done in the opening minutes the home side were quite happy to clear the ball anywhere to get it out of danger.  Spurs held on and played out five minutes of added time to take the three points.  

Spurs have moved within three points of Manchester United and stay six behind City who defeated Liverpool.  Chelsea are five points behind Spurs in fourth with Arsenal a further point behind, although Spurs have their match in hand over both London clubs and City.

On paper the home fixtures that Spurs have in January look 'easy' but that match showed what they will be like.  All three teams will come to defend and try to snatch something from the game - Spurs have been introduced to the tactics that they can expect through the month and it will require patience and hard work to breakdown resolute defences with only one thought - to survive and deny Tottenham the chance to impose their style of play on the game.

A week to rest and recover ahead of the Everton match which will be of benefit to the players who looked weary and not as sharp as they have been with tired bodies and minds as the busy holiday period took its toll.  A Happy New Year start to 2012 for Spurs - it wasn't the exciting football that they've played earlier in the season but the important thing was that they took the three points and at the moment anything continues to be possible for Spurs.


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