Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tottenham Made To Pay For Missed Opportunites

In a result which could be highly detrimental to Tottenham Hotspur's push for fourth, a rejuvenated West Ham side held Redknapp's men to a 0-0 draw at White Hart Lane.
Mark Noble and Sandro

From even before kick-off it was clear what attitude Spurs were going into the game with. Harry Redknapp fielded an offensive line-up including Rafael Van der Vaart, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon. It was apparent to all that Spurs considered this game a "must win" especially with Champions League rivals Manchester City and Chelsea playing on Sunday.

From the first whistle Spurs were on the attack, and Jermain Defoe failed to score from what would prove to be the first of many chances he would miss over the course of the ninety minutes. Gareth Bale, starting his first match since Spurs' 1-1 draw at Newcastle several months ago, whipped in a dangerous delivery which Defoe could only prod wide.

 It looked as though a fruitful afternoon was in the offing, but as the half was slowly whittled away Spurs began to run out of ideas, and it was West Ham who were to spurn the next chance.

Having been quiet for the first twenty-five minutes, Demba Ba slipped a beauty of a ball through to Carlton Cole, who struck a weak effort straight at goalkeeper Heurelheo Gomes, as Cole wheeled away holding his head, the first tremors of discontent spread across White Hart Lane.

The half ended with Spurs still on the front foot, but there was now palpable sense of unease drifting around the ground after a Spurs performance of more perspiration than inspiration.

However, early in the second half, Jermain Defoe was once again presented with a clear goalscoring opportunity, but the English striker could only steer Luka Modric's clever cut back onto the legs of the outstanding Robert Green. Having missed a similar chance in the first half after Aaron Lennon's shot rebounded off the post, it seemed only a matter of time before Spurs' misfiring front man was given the axe, but a patient Redknapp refrained from making the change. With the misses piling up, Defoe was looking increasingly desperate and a look at the words "100 Premier League Goals" on his under shirt gave a clear indication why.

The clock was ticking, and still Spurs couldn't break down the stout West Ham defense, but even more worryingly for Harry Redknapp, West Ham looked highly dangerous on the break, making a sucker punch goal, a quite plausible result.

With twenty minutes remaining, Roman Pavlyuchenko came on for the injured Rafael Van Der Vaart, and he found himself at the heart of the action within minutes as Rob Green did well to save from two Pav shots in a minute.

The Spurs fans were becoming increasingly anxious, and with only ten minutes remaining it was no mystery why. However, the supporters weren't the only group getting stressed, the West Ham defense was starting to look nervous, as the waves of Spurs attacks began to become more and more fierce.

With five minutes left on the clock, Tottenham were presented with an ideal opportunity to steal the game at the death, a free kick from twenty-five yards, and standing over it, Gareth Bale. Having been quiet all night, Bale whipped in a sumptuous shot, which was saved on to the bar by man of the match Green. This latest stop was the fifth or sixth in a line of brilliant saves, and if Green can keep up this kind of form, then maybe an England recall isn't totally impossible.

Bale's attempt was to prove Tottenham's most significant of the final minutes, and groans were clearly audible as the final whistle blew on a nil-nil draw.

With Manchester City facing Chelsea tomorrow, this result isn't terminal to Spurs' fourth place dreams, but if they continue to drop silly points against teams from the league's nether regions, then they can expect Europa League football next season.

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