Sunday, April 08, 2012

Sunderland 0 Spurs 0

The point which Spurs took from the Stadium of Light lifted them temporarily into third place but Arsenal's late winner over Manchester City increased their advantage by two points.  It was a game where Spurs totally dominated possession as Sunderland, the home team, looked to capitalise from any Spurs error or from a set-piece.

Sunderland 0 Tottenham Hotspur 0
Team: Friedel; Walker, Gallas, Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto; Van der Vaart (Defoe), Parker, Sandro (Lennon), Modric, Bale; Adebayor (Saha)  Subs: (unused) Cudicini, Nelsen, Livermore, Kranjcar

This match with a lunchtime kick-off, never generated any level of excitement for the fans watching on television or in the ground.  A subdued Stadium of Light crowd have become accustomed to Martin O'Neill's negative tactics where they defend in depth for ninety minutes, hoping to snatch victory with a last ditch goal.  Sunderland retreated into defence as soon as Tottenham had the ball and allowed Spurs to pass it back and forward across the pitch at will.  This made for a very sterile match with little impetus and it was increasingly difficult for Spurs to make any forward movement.

Spurs started with the same team for their third successive Premier League match with Aaron Lennon among the substitutes to provide a further attacking option should it be required.

All the early threat, limited though it was, came from Spurs.  A shot by Benoit Assou-Ekotto from distance curled past the post after four minutes and then on ten minutes Luka Modric turned and shot from the edge of the area but it was saved easily.  A few minutes later, a free-kick was headed goalwards by Emmanuel Adebayor and struck the defender's arm but no penalty was awarded by referee, Chris Foy, no surprise there.  

At the quarter hour point, Spurs had had 75 % of possession and Sunderland raised their first positive forward movement on the break, with William Gallas putting in a blocking tackle for a corner which provided the home team with the type of opportunity they were looking for, to put the goalkeeper under pressure and try to create a goal scoring opportunity from such a situation.

Sunderland were content to play their containing game, looking to take advantage of any misplaced pass by Spurs.  This would enable them get forward on the break and try to create pressure through free-kicks and corners.  Spurs survived a period of such pressure and then Scott Parker had a shot from distance blocked after twenty six minutes.  The only threat to Spurs continued to come on the break and at set-pieces.  From one, the ball bounced up in the penalty area to hit Parker on the chest and arm.  In the final moments of the half, following close work by Spurs in the centre of the pitch they got forward and although it was very narrow, Rafael Van der Vaart managed to work his way into the penalty area but his shot was blocked.

It was a typical Martin O'Neill team performance - work hard, defend, look to counter attack and take advantage of free-kicks and corners.

Sunderland appeared to start the second half with a more positive approach but it wasn't maintained after a McClean cross nearly crept through.  Spurs continued to dominate possession but it was played in front of the well-marshalled and ranked Sunderland defence and didn't cause them any problems.  Modric and Bale worked well to set up Van der Vaart but he shot over.  Then after a rare home attack broke down Spurs attacked quickly but Adebayor was offside as he shot over.  A cross from Assou-Ekotto was headed over by Bale as Spurs continued to create the only goal scoring opportunities.

Brad Friedel made his first save of the day from a long range shot after an hour.  Sandro was booked for a foul but then was back defending  to make a clearance as Sunderland made a rare attack at pace.  Modric and Bale had crosses which were cut out just before they reached their intended target.  

In an attacking move Harry Redknapp replaced Sandro with Aaron Lennon and as Spurs continued to push forward, Gallas and Kaboul were positioned well inside the Sunderland half, so little threat were Sunderland causing to their goal.  On seventy minutes, Spurs had had 68% of possession in the second half.  Two minutes later a Van der Vaart shot hit a defender of the arm but play continued.

Louis Saha and Jermain Defoe were introduced late in the game as Spurs tried to find a way through but to no avail.  In the final minute, Bale broke away but was blocked by a solid last ditch tackle by the Sunderland defender.

This was the first scoreless draw in twenty two Premier League matches between the two clubs as Sunderland stifled the life out of Spurs and the match.

In recent months with the speculation of Harry Redknapp taking the England manager's position, we've had the David Moyes' and Brendon Rodgers' auditions for any vacancy which may arise at White Hart Lane.  With Martin O'Neill always touted as a contender whenever a top post becomes available, if yesterday was his audition, then it's a matter of thank you but no thanks.  The negative, defensive tactics applied by Sunderland killed the game as a spectacle and would not be accepted at Tottenham - it was even worse than George Graham at his worst.

Spurs now move on to play Norwich on Monday with the hope that they can take three points to give their challenge for Champions League qualification a more positive grounding, in the face of mounting competition from Arsenal, Chelsea and Newcastle United. 


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