Tottenham Hotspur 2 Blues 1 .. Ron's Report

Last updated : 29 August 2009 By Richard Barker

There was something particularly sickening about Aaron Lennon's winner at the death here though. It really clawed at your insides.

Perhaps it was the fact that Blues actually looked to have seen off the Spurs threat? For the last ten minutes of normal time and then throughout injury time Blues looked comfortable and Spurs seemed to have run out of ideas. Blues were killing the game off well, getting Spurs to make silly challenges and then just taking the pace out of the game.

You're obviously not happy about conceding a last gasp goal, but you can almost accept it when you've been under siege throughout the closing stages. That wasn't the case here though which made Lennon's strike harder to stomach following Stephen Carr's moment of madness.

Now, I'm not going to be criticial of the decision to play Carr at left back for a number of reasons. Firstly, there's no real other options. Stuart Parnaby looks a lot more comfortable on the right and really struggles on the left, whilst Franck Queudrue's needed in the middle at the moment, plus his fitness means he struggles in the more active wide role.

Secondly, Blues have actually defended fairly well this season, so to be critical now would be taking advantage of hindsight, and had Carr not turned inside and slipped, we'd be talking about another excellent defensive display.

However, it was pretty much a direct result of having a right back at left back that caused it. Barry Ferguson's ball to Carr was fine and put him under no pressure. It's a comfort thing though, that when at that stage of a game and trying to see a game out, you do what is natural to you, so rather than clearing the ball up the line or going outside on his left foot, Carr tried to come inside onto his right, slipped, and the rest, as they say, is history.

As I say, him being a right back in that situation didn't help, but there wasn't really any other way around it. Shit happens.

So, yes, rather gutting really. I'm writing this less than three hours after the game finished and I still feel a little deflated, but I'll try and be objective.

What I will say is that this was a cracking game and I'd like to think that even the most ardent of Spurs fans would agree that Blues played their part in that. What made it such a cracking game is that both sets of fans could probably argue that their team deserved to get all three points, and both would have decent cases.

Spurs had far, far more possession, played quick, neat football and always looked dangerous. However, bizarrely despite being on the back foot for most of the game, I'd say that Blues had the greater number of good chances. Well, the more clearcut ones anyway.

The first half was tough for Blues, as anyone would have expected. Recently Spurs have been flying, not only results-wise but performance-wise too and they'd have viewed this as a home banker. As such, they started quickly and Blues were under the cosh.

However, Blues through some luck and some good defending (Roger Johnson and Queudrue were both superb again) managed to keep themselves in the game and then started to grow themselves. By the end of the first half, despite taking a battering at times, Blues had quietened down the crowd and in a couple of Seb Larsson efforts (very much against the run of play) had probably had the best two chances.

Spurs were impressive in the first half, until it got to the penalty area where they weren't really able to test Joe Hart. In midfield though, Luca Modric and Wilson Palacios (namesake of some fat midfielder Blues had on loan a few years back) ran the show and Benoit Assou-Ekoto terrorised Stuart Parnaby. With Modric constantly drifting infield from the left in a sort of free role, Assou-Ekoto basically played left back and left wing. He's fairly fit, that boy.

Fairly early on in the secoond half Modric got injured in fouling Lee Bowyer and was forced off (good news for England next week). He was replaced by Peter Crouch which both adversely affected Spurs' play but improved them at the same time, if that makes sense? It doesn't, I know, so I'll try and explain.

Modric had been magnificent in keeping the play ticking over in their fluid football. He was Barcelona's Iniesta or Xavi. He was Milan's Pirlo. He was Birmingham City's Ferguson. So, once he went off the ball fell off the conveyor belt, if you like, and Spurs' fluid play suffered. With Crouch coming on though, it meant Spurs could go more direct, which they did, which brought about their best chances.

There we go, did I explain it?

Anyway, after hitting the bar and going close a couple of times, Crouch did finally score. Hart possibly could have done better, but having watched Maik Taylor in the week, there still should be no questions about who should be playing. It probably had been coming all game, and you sensed that Blues would possibly crumble now after holding out for so long.

They didn't though, and Christian Benitez was introduced alongside Garry O'Connor as Blues went 4-4-2. O'Connor really had struggled in the first half, partly because of lack of service, and partly because he's not very good. It seemed strange to me that, after Benitez proved himself so adept at hold up play and bringing others into the game when playing alone up front at Southampton in the week, O'Connor was preferred to him when his main talent is getting tattoos.

However, Benitez was immediately bright and O'Connor seemed to enjoy having someone alongside him. Not long after going 1-0 down, Blues were level after a good move seemed to have died down only for Benitez to pressure Carlo Cudicini and Spurs defender Alan Hutton who made a right mess between them and conspired to give Bowyer an open goal to tap into.

Surprisingly, from then on, Blues were the better side. O'Connor should have done better than hit the side netting after more good work from Benitez, and then Johnson volleyed over from close range after an excellent nod down from O'Connor.

In the final stages Blues played some cracking football and it was Spurs who were creaking. Blues then got to the very, very late stage and decided to settle for an excellent point, which is when Stephen Carr turned inside...

In thinking about Blues, I think we need to consider Spurs for a second.

Colin Farrell, when considering heaven, hell and purgatory in 'In Bruges' says, "Purgatory's kind of like the in-betweeny one. You weren't really shit, but you weren't all that great either. Like Tottenham."

It's funny because it's true.

However, this season I personally feel that Spurs might not be shit, and might actually be quite good. Their squad is beginning to look excellent - I'd argue that they have greater depth than Manchester United or Liverpool. They have the choice of Jermain Defoe, Robbie Keane, Peter Crouch and the Russian one with the long name up front, then the likes of Modric, Lennon, Tom Huddlestone and Palacios behind them. They could possibly do with a centre half so that Ledley King can finally retire to a care home, but their squad is tremendous.

This season there's signs that, for once, they're translating that squad into results on the pitch. They won't challenge for the title, but I genuinely believe that they will seriously challenge for a top four place. I don't just mean, stay close until March and then fade, like a certain team from near to Blues who reckon that they "challenged for the top four" last season. I mean really, genuinely do so.

So, in saying all that and praising them, I think in turn you have to praise Blues. Had Blues performed as they did here at Anfield or the Emirates, we'd be full of praise. We'd be gutted, but we'd be full of praise. Come the end of the season, I suspect that White Hart Lane will be mentioned in the same breath as those other two grounds, and so I think Blues will be able to look back with some pride at their performance.

Yes, they got battered at times and dragged all over the place by a quick Spurs side, but for the final 15 to 20 minutes it was Blues doing all the dragging around of the opposition and dictating the play. Before that it was all Spurs.

I'm not saying that Blues did deserve to win, but even so, what happened was cruel. Looking back though, it has to be said, if you were looking at a seesaw with Dave Positive and Fred Negative on, as with most games this season, it'd be Fred Negative left with his legs dangling in the air.

Blues just need to start doing it against the lesser clubs, and the next two games against Aston Villa and Hull City will be an opportunity for them to show whether they can or not.