Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Tottenham 3 Wigan Athletic 1

Spurs strengthened their hold on third place in the Premier League with a comfortable win over bottom side Wigan Athletic at White Hart Lane.  They are now only five points behind the two Manchester clubs who are level on points at the top.
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Tottenham Hotspur 3 Wigan Athletic 1
Scorers: Bale (2), Modric               McArthur       

Team: Friedel; Walker (Sandro), Kaboul, King, Assou-Ekotto; Kranjcar, Parker, Modric, Bale; Van der Vaart (Livermore), Adebayor (Lancaster)  Subs: (unused) Cudicini, Dawson, Rose, Pienaar
Gareth Bale
Spurs returned to their winning ways with a comfortable win over Wigan Athletic in which Luka Modric and Gareth Bale took centre stage.  The only concern following this success was the injuries to Rafael Van der Vaart, Kyle Walker and Emmanuel Adebayor.

Brad Friedel, Ledley King, Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Gareth Bale returned to the team after last weekend's FA Cup win over Watford and Niko Kranjcar started his first League start since September in place of the injured Aaron Lennon.  Jermain Defoe was unavailable due to injury.  

Spurs started brightly with a series of corners as Wigan concentrated on their defensive duties in an effort to deny Spurs.  Younes Kaboul came close to an early goal with a header from the second corner on four minutes which the goalkeeper, Al Habsi, saved well.  Spurs dominated the possession and it was only in a rare foray forward that Wigan showed any attacking intent although Spurs were relieved on nineteen minutes when Gomez just failed to take the ball with him as he reached the edge of the penalty area.

Immediately after this Kranjcar had a curled shot which the goalkeeper saved easily and two minutes later Adebayor played the ball back to Kranjcar on the edge of the area but his shot was deflected wide.  From Van der Vaart's corner Kaboul's header was hacked off the line with the goalkeeper beaten.

Tottenham continued to probe patiently, looking for an opening and it came after 28 minutes.  Luka Modric played a cross field pass over the defence and Bale stole in behind to control the ball on his chest and score his eighth Premier League goal of the season.  It was a delighful goal with Modric and Bale combining so effectively.

Two minutes after the goal the first injury of the evening saw Van der Vaart depart with Jake Livermore as his replacement.  This allowed Bale greater freedom to roam around the pitch creating more difficulty for the Wigan defenders as they never knew where he was going to appear.  He had a shot saved after good pass from Kranjcar to the left.

Modric scored the second goal on 33 minutes when a cross from Assou-Ekotto who was given plenty of room to get forward but didn't always make the most of the opportunities, was cleared by a defender but hit his own team mate and fell invitingly for Modric who with his back to goal, turned and drove it into the bottom corner of the net.  

It was now all so comfortable for Spurs who really appeared as if they could score at will, if they so desired.  Wigan had handed the initiative to Spurs from the start and had few attacking ideas themselves.  Just before half-time, following a good passing movement, Livermore had a shot saved which brought the goal attempts for Spurs to thirteen compared to Wigan's two.

The second half commenced as the first had ended with Spurs in the ascendancy and an early run and cross by Bale which Adebayor headed over.  At times Spurs were a little too casual as when Kranjcar gave the ball away on the edge of the area but Wigan were unable to take advantage and shot over.

Gradually, Wigan started to get more possession and looked to get forward and it took good defensive work by Kaboul to clear a dangerous cross after 55 minutes.  Bale responded with  a long range shot which Al Habsi saved easily.

After 64 minutes, Spurs, lifted by the crowd, suddenly moved up a gear and Modric collecting the ball in midfield, shook off two defenders and played a lovely cross field pass to Assou-Ekotto on the left wing, he played it in to Bale who took on his defender and fired low across goal and into the bottom corner at the far post, giving the goalkeeper no chance.

Into the final fifteen minutes and Spurs had to replace Walker and Adebayor due to injury with Sandro and Cameron Lancaster, who was making his first team debut, coming on.  Spurs became too casual and with ten minutes remaining Wigan pulled a goal back through substitute James McArthur and then they were almost caught out again when a cross sailed past the other Wigan substitute, Conor Sammon, needing only a touch for a second goal.

Spurs recovered their composure as Bale took on Wigan with a series of long, powerful runs and shots at goal which the Wigan defenders simply couldn't deal with.  From one such run the goalkeeper saved well and then Scott Parker fired wide.  Another run, after Lancaster dispossessed the defender on halfway, and Bale found the side netting.  In the final minute of added time, after another run, Bale put a ball across goal towards Lancaster, but like Defoe at Manchester City, his effort went into the side netting.

Tottenham were satisfied with their night's work - three points which brings them closer to Manchester City who lost at Everton and increases the gap to Chelsea in fourth by two points as they could only draw at Swansea through a last minute own goal.  Spurs still have their part to play in the title race but the matches in February - at Liverpool, against Newcastle at home, at the Emirates and at home to Manchester United - will be critical, as will be how they cope with the build up of injuries which has occurred in the past week.
  • Gareth Bale has scored 9 Premier League goals and has 7 assists this season.
  • Spurs completed 91% of their passes against Wigan.
  • They had 20 attempts on goal (13 on target) compared to Wigan's 10.
  • Tottenham's possession: 64%


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