Tottenham 4 Blues 1
Report of match 7th January 2004
Reporter Richard Barker
Blues suffered a second demoralising defeat in the last four league games as another team of Premiership strugglers hit four past them.
Dalmat 10,24, Davies 39, Keane 79 Savage 68 pen Match Report
Last month it was Blackburn, whilst this time round it was the turn of Spurs to inflict a heavy defeat upon Steve Bruce's men at White Hart Lane. In a ridiculously open game, Blues were actually quite good offensively, and caused Spurs problems throughout. Unfortunately, and unusally, defensively they were appalling, and Spurs made them pay.
With the injuries picked up in the FA Cup clash with Blackburn, Bruce was forced into two changes. Matthew Upson was replaced by Darren Purse, in what would have been a fairly straight-forward decision. However, what to do at left-back was always going to be more of a poser, and Bruce opted for Darren Carter ahead of Jeff Kenna's switching of sides, or Stephen Clemence's retreat into the defence.
The game started with both sides attacking - and continued in this vain for 90 minutes. Mikael Forssell and Clinton Morrison both looked lively up front for Blues, whilst Robbie Keane and Fredi Kanoute were their usual threatening selves at the other end. In-form Stephane Dalmat was also causing Carter problems, as the young midfielder struggled to cope with the Inter Milan loanee.
Blues were posing Spurs early problems, with Morrison glancing a header just wide from a Carter cross and David Dunn went close to putting the visitors ahead after a fine run was capped off with an excellent curling effort from some 25 yards that Kasey Keller expertly tipped over the bar. However, after 8 minutes, Spurs struck. Dalmat had obviously thought it was his birthday in being up against Carter, and was running him ragged. The French winger had Stephen Carr on an overlap, and in fairness to Carter, he was left exposed. Carter tried to cover the ball to Carr, which meant Dalmat stepped inside, and hit a fierce left-footed drive into the far corner of Maik Taylor's net.
From this point on, Blues were up against it. Whilst they kept trying to attack themselves, the trio of Keane, Kanoute and Dalmat was ripping them apart at the back. Steve Bruce is a strong emphasiser of the point that when you build a team, you need those few players who can 'make things happen', and the point was being illustrated beautifully by Spurs. Their other 8 players are perhaps no better than those they were up against, but the attacking three mentioned were all on top of their game, and producing the goods.
After 23 minutes, it was 2-0. By now Stephen Clemence was at left-back, and Carter had given up and gone into midfield where, in truth, he was a waste of a shirt. Following a Spurs corner, Blues couldn't clear the ball, and Keane had the ball to the right of the penalty area. Clemence should have done better defensively, but Keane was allowed to drive the ball towards goal at an angle, and whilst Taylor did save the effort, he was only able to parry it to the feet of Dalmat, who swept the ball home for his second.
Even now, it looked like Blues could get themselves back into the game if they could get a goal and sort the defence out. They couldn't quite do either though. Darren Purse was looking solid at the back, but otherwise things were woeful there. Up front both Morrison and Forssell were competing well and looking for balls into the channels to utilise their pace. Morrison of late has begun to show signs that there might be a football player in there just waiting to burst out. He showed many good attributes in this game - when he wanted to. He made intelligent runs, held the ball up well, and at times looked quite menacing. At other times though, he complained about decisions, and gave up on the ball too easily. At least there were signs though.
Five minutes before half-time the contest was effectively over, as Simon Davies made it 3-0. Blues had decided it might be worthwhile to try a third defensive combination of the 45 minutes, and so Kenna had now switched to left-back. However, it appeared that no one had told Damien Johnson to go to right-back, and so Johnnie Jackson was given the freedom of Tottenham to deliver an excellent cross which was prodded home by Welsh International Davies. Ironically, just like Carter, Jackson is a young midfielder who is being forced into playing out of position at left-back. Unlike Carter, however, Jackson (who was playing for Coventry City three weeks ago) wasn't tested by anyone like Dalmat. Would Blues have had more success if they'd let Dunn have a go at him, and tried to expose his weaknesses as Spurs did to Carter? Who knows.
Blues' possession and attacking didn't deserve a 3-0 half-time scoreline, but their defending probably deserved far worse - Keane had gone very close on two occasions too - so things probably evened themselves up. At half-time the disappointing Carter was withdrawn, and replaced by Olivier Tebily. The Ivory Coast man went to right back, allowing Kenna to stay at left-back, and the midfield to have a more usual look. The introduction of Tebily also meant more aggression, which was welcome. It was a change that was probably made 25 minutes too late - or even 45 minutes too late.
Blues had little choice but to go at Spurs during the second period, and this is what they did. They enjoyed plenty of possession, and again at times played some good football. Forssell drove a left-footed effort wide, whilst Morrison curled a shot wide with his left foot after some good work. Blues were also winning a host of corners, and one created an excellent opportunity - for Spurs, however. With striking resemblance to their North London counterparts, Spurs broke straight from an opponents corner, and Darren Anderton and Dalmat combined to tee up Kanoute who struck the crossbar.
Moments later, Blues gave their travelling fans (who after a shell-shocked first half got behind the team superbly in the second half) some hope by pulling a goal back. Dunn - who was looking back to his best - went on a ridiculous run in which he must have taken on most of the Spurs team twice. He was forced out to the left of the penalty area, and as he'd finally got past the last man and was looking to clip the ball over Keller, he was brought down by Dalmat. It was a pity, because had he finished it, it would have been a magnificent goal. However, the new David Dunn didn't even get up and argue with Robbie Savage over penalty-taking duty - he let Savage get on with it, and that he did, to make it 3-1.
An unlikely comeback was beginning to look a little more likely now, as Dunn was causing all sorts of problems. Minutes later, a magnificent lofted ball over the Spurs backline set up Morrison who was through on goal. The striker who at the weekend had said that he 'comes alive in the box' and obviously neglected to mention that he falls asleep on the edge of it. Words cannot emphasise what an opportunity this was, but Morrison dillied and dallied and in the end had no idea what to do, and Keller cleared up.
As Blues pushed on, Forssell again went close with a header from a Savage free-kick - but of course the danger was the Spurs frontmen on the counter-attack. Sure enough, just as Blues were building some momentum, Keane killed off their hopes with ten minutes remaining. The Irish striker found Kanoute who returned the ball across goal for Keane to tap in at the far post. This finally killed of Blues' hopes.
It was a strange game for Blues, because offensively, they played quite well, especially in the second half. Dunn was excellent, whilst Forssell was a threat, and Morrison looked good at time - though needs finishing lessons. Further back though, things were atrocious. Spurs' frontmen can be a handful at the best of times, but when you've got a mix-and-match defence, not helped by a poor team selection, they really will rip you apart. There certainly were a few positives, yet unless something is done in the transfer window, plenty more goals could be shipped in the next few weeks.
Surely the recall of Matt Sadler from his loan spell at Northampton would be almost like a new signing at present. It seems strange that 13 months ago he was considered good enough to start at Old Trafford and mark David Beckham - which he did very well - yet now he is not even mentioned. He is by far and away the best choice to solve the current problem at left-back, as none of Carter, Clemence or Kenna are good enough (Kenna may be, but it causes too much disruption). On this performance, both Sadler and Tommy Williams should be hauled back to the club and made to fight for the position prior to the Southampton game.
|Competition: Barclaycard Premiership Date: Wednesday, 7th January 2004 Kick off: 19:45 Venue: White Hart Lane|
Dalmat 10, 24
|4 - 1||Birmingham C.
Savage 68 (pen)
|7||Darren Anderton (Kelly 86)|
|11||Stéphane Dalmat (Postiga 79)|
|9||Freddie Kanoute (Ricketts 79)|
|34||Stephen Kelly (Anderton 86)|
|27||Rohan Ricketts (Kanoute 79)|
|8||Helder Postiga (Dalmat 79)|
|24||Darren Carter (Tebily 46)|
|9||Mikael Forssell (Kirovski 83)|
|26||Olivier Tebily (Carter 46)|
|Jovan Kirovski (Forssell 83)|
|Tottenham H. cards shown|
|Birmingham C. cards shown|