Tottenham (Jenas 73′) 1-2 Sunderland (Richardson 55′, Cisse 83′)
Stadium: White Hart Lane, London
Date: Saturday 23 August 2008
Competiton: English Premier League
Time: 15:00 BST, 10:00 EST
Sunderland picked up a huge win at White Hart Lane against Tottenham Hotspur. Soccerlens had the action live! Click below for the live-blog.
Welcome, everyone, to what should be an intriguing Week 2 matchup between two new-look squads that underwent extreme makeovers which would make the producers of “Extreme Makeovers” proud. I’m Victor and I’ll be covering Premiership matches all season. I missed last week because I had to go out of town, but, since I have no life, I shouldn’t miss too many more weekends (of course, you never know)….
Anyway, the transfer market might have been somewhat quiet, especially as compared to recent years, but that certainly was not the case at Tottenham. Hoping to improve on their 2007-2008 season – one in which they won the Carling Cup – they made several big acquisitions. First, they signed the gifted Croatian Luka Modric to the tune of 16.6 million. Then, they got Giovani Dos Santos from Barcelona, rising star David Bentley from Blackburn, and Heurelho Gomes to replace the erratic Paul Robinson in goal. They were also at the center of some protracted transfer controversies as they filed complaints against Liverpool over the Robbie Keane saga, and against Manchester United over Dimitar Berbatov. As Berbatov pleaded for a move to Old Trafford, Juande Ramos and the Tottenham brain trust used the opportunity to try to drive a hard bargain with Sir Alex Ferguson. They then got a taste of their own medicine as Zenit St. Petersberg held firm with regards to Andrei Arshavin. And, in what should an interesting twist of fate for this match, they sold three of their players, Pascal Chimbonda, Teemu Tainio, Steed Malbranque to Sunderland.
Clearly, Tottenham improved in the offseason, to the point where they were talking top-four this season. Then they went out and laid a gigantic egg against Middlesborough in the opening week of the season. Once again, it looked as if Tottenham had gone for style over substance as their big-name midfield struggled to provide the resurgent Darren Bent with any kind of consistent service. They suffered a couple of defensive breakdowns, and only avoided the shutout courtesy of a late Boro own-goal. It’s too early to be concerned, and with all that new talent, it was inevitable that there would be some growing pains. Still, they need to resolve the Berbatov saga and they need a strong showing against a similarly rebuilt Sunderland.
Speaking of the Black Cats, Sunderland opened up their checkbook in the offseason and Roy Keane went shopping. While Tottenham went for flash, Sunderland seemed to go for toughness. Last season, Sunderland played well at times; however, Roy Keane was vocal about his team’s lack of toughness, especially early in the season. They seemed to gel towards the end of the season and improved on their 2006-2007 standing. Still, Keane wanted more players cut from his mold, so he went out and acquired energetic defender Chimbonda, top tackler Malbranque, and hard-nosed Tainio from Tottenham, as well as talented, but injury prone, Djibril Cisse from Olympique Marseille. The most controversial signing, however, was clearly El-Hadji Diouf from Bolton, whose talent is only surpassed by his attitude problem. Still, at 2.5 million, he was a worthwhile gamble, especially if Roy Keane (who, no doubt, sees a little of himself in Diouf) can get through to him.
Anyway, Sunderland played very well against Liverpool and looked set to take a point until Fernando Torres struck late in the match. Time will tell whether Sunderland’s makeover was better than Tottenham’s. How they do against each other will go a long way towards resolving that question….
Tottenham: Gomes, Zokora, Assou-Ekotto (hereafter “Ekotto”), King, Woodgate, Lennon, Bentley, Jenas, Modric, Bale, Bent
Subs: Sanchez, Huddlestone, Gilberto, Gunter, Giovani dos Santos, Dawson, O’Hara
Hmm… Once again, Berbatov misses out as Juande Ramos has omitted him completely this week. And no, I have no idea if he’s at Carrington as we speak, watching film on Portsmouth. Tottenham’s crowded midfield means that new-signing dos Santos will come off the bench, although the team is saying it’s because of international duty. Ledley King returns to the starting lineup, moving Michael Dawson to the bench.
Sunderland: Gordon, Bardsley, Nosworthy, Collins, Higginbottham, Malbranque, Whitehead, Reid, Richardson, Diouf, Murphy.
Subs: Ward, Cisse, Miller, Chopra, Leadbitter, Healy, Stokes.
New signing Cisse should make his debut at some point in the match. Former Spurs Malbranque and Reid will start while Tainio will miss out. Sunderland’s website says Chimbonda will start while Tottenham’s has him omitted for Higginbottham. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.
90′ + 3 – There’s the whistle and we’re done! Tottenham are 0-for-2 now. It should be a long week for Juande Ramos and company. Thanks for following along! Be here tomorrow for West Ham v. Manchester City!
90′ + 2 – Cisse gets shoved to the ground, but no foul call. Welcome to the Premiership, Cisse.
90′ + 1 – Three minutes will be added. I’m sure Roy isn’t happy about that. Long pass to Huddlestone, who heads it forward. No one is there to receive it, though, and it’s out for a goalkick. Tottenham look like they’re done, but you can’t count them out.
90′ – Bentley tries to spring Giovanni, but even he isn’t quick enough to catch up to Bentley’s long effort. More time wasting from Gordon.
89′ – Once again, Gordon takes his time with the goalkick. Looks like someone’s been talking to Jens Lehmann in the offseason.
88′ – Huddlestone with a nice ball in. It evades Bent, but Modric gets it on the left edge of the box. He sends it back out, and Tottenham resets. Huddlestone sends it again, but Jenas can’t get there in time. Boy, did the wind go out of Tottenham’s sails or what?
87′ – Sunderland will make a substitution. Reid, who played his butt off today, is off and Miller is on. They’re still chanting for Cisse. Think he’s going to be big this year?
84′ – Well, Tottenham needs some offense here. They don’t have a lot of options on the bench. Especially since what’s-his-name isn’t here.
83′ – GOAL! Murphy with a beautiful cross into the box from the left-flank that finds Cisse in the middle of the box. Cisse with a powerful header that easily beats Gomes. Wow! What a great way to make a first impression. The Sunderland fans even have a chant for him already.
81′ – Giovanni on the right side now and he makes a run. He loses control, though, and it’s out for a Sunderland throw. Well, he’s got pace, got to give him that.
79′ – Tottenham back on the attack and Modric gets fouled outside of the box. Bentley’s lifts an enticing ball into the box, but Collins is there to head it away. Giovanni goes for the shot from the left edge of the box and Gordon punches it away. He’s down, though, as Woodgate kicks him in the stomach for the foul. Gordon takes his time getting to his feet, and he hears the boos.
78′ – Another great free kick from Bentley, whose curling effort forces a save from Gordon for the corner. Bentley takes the corner and it’s to Modric. Modric loses it, though, and Sunderland clears.
77′ – Gareth Bale goes down again, this time by Malbranque. He’s down and he looks like he might be hurt. No booking for Malbranque, though, who’s already on a yellow.
74′ – Sloppy play from Gomes as he catches the ball but steps out, giving Sunderland a corner. The corner is a good one. It finds Malbranque who has a great shot opportunity at the top of the box. It is blocked, though, and Sunderland are pleading for a handball on Tottenham. No dice, though.
73′ – GOAL! Well, we knew it was coming. Modric shoots it from long distance, but it’s blocked. Modric gets it back and charges at Gordon. Modric with a close range shot that is saved by Gordon. The ball goes to Jenas, though, and there’s the equalizer.
72′ – Giovanni wins the corner. Let’s see what they can do here. Bentley sends it in, but Sunderland clears it away from danger. Modric tries the long-range shot, but it’s easily handled by Gordon. Poor effort from Modric as that ball really lacked pace.
71′ – Bentley with a great long-distance shot from just outside the box that forces a great fingertip save from Gordon. Well, Tottenham are certainly knocking on the door.
70′ – Another good opportunity for Tottenham as Gomes’ long free kick bounces in the box and finds Jenas deep in the Sunderland box. Jenas tries to head it on off the bounce, but Gordon comes out to try and win the ball. Gordon misses it, but luckily for him, Jenas shot goes wide.
69′ – Woodgate concedes the corner on the free kick from Reid. Diouf sends it in, but Nosworthy slips and can’t do anything with the ball. Bentley and Nosworthy fight for the ball and Nosworthy wins it. He sends it ahead to Malbranque, but he’s off sides.
68′ – Modric sends it to Giovanni, who is unmarked on the right edge of the box. He tries to curl it into the goal, but it’s over the bar.
66′ – Here comes Cisse and it is for Richardson.
65′ – Richardson looks like he’s hurt and Cisse looks like he’ll be coming soon. Jenas makes a good run into the box as he shakes Bardsley out of his cleats. Jenas’ attempt goes out, though.
64′ – Good through ball to Bent from Bentley. Bent goes for goal and its deflected out by Collins. Bentley sends it in, but Diouf heads it away.
62′ – Modric sends it to Huddlestone, who cross it from the right edge of the box to Jenas. His header is saved, though.
61′ – Malbranque runs over Bale and Tottenham has a good free kick opportunity here. Bentley’s strike is a good one. He bends it in and it take a deflection that forces Gordon to make a great save. Wow. That was a great ball from Bentley. Becks would be proud. Actually, maybe not since he might lose his spot in the England lineup.
59′ – Bale sends in a cross that Gordon catches nonchalantly. So nonchalantly that he drops it. Luckily, he is able to regain it before anything bad can happen.
58′ – Malbranque goes into the book. Not sure why.
56′ – Double sub for Tottenham. Lennon is off for Giovanni Dos Santos (“Giovanni”). Huddleston comes on for Ekotto. On the replay, it looks like both Jenas and Richardson handed that ball before Richardson scored. I guess it evens out.
55′ – GOAL! Richardson scores the goal as he picks Jenas’ pocket and unleashes a rocket strike that easily beats Gomes. Richardson takes off his shirt and, thankfully, he gets a yellow for that.
53′ – Bentley makes a nice move, but he gets swamped by Sunderland. Richardson leads the attack, but it’s a poor pass to Murphy. Diouf gets it back and he lifts
the cross to Murphy on the left edge of the box. Murphy is a little out of position, but he tries to volley it in. It’s on target and Gomes has to make the save.
52′ – Reid sends in a great free kick to Collins, who heads it just over the bar. Collins probably should have scored there, although he didn’t get his head square on that ball.
51′ – Bale shoves Diouf to the ground for the foul. Dangerous challenge from Bale. He’s already been booked for the dive.
48′ – Modric wins a free kick as Whitehead fouls him. Long kick from Gomes finds Bent in the box. His header gets deflected out for a corner. Bentley sends it in and Bale has a free header that goes over the bar. He should have scored there. You know what Spur would have converted that one? I’ll give you a hint. His initials are DB – and it’s not Darren Bent.
47′ – Reid’s corner is easily cleared by Tottenham. Here we go with the Berbatov stuff again. Do you think this is a distraction yet?
46′ – Sunderland kick off and here we go! Murphy wins a corner and we’re off and running.
46′ – First half stats: Tottenham had a 53%-46% edge in possession. Sunderland had the edge on shots, 7-5, including the only shot on target. Also, according to the Bureau of Meaningless and Totally Unsubstantiated Statistics, the commentators mentioned Dimitar Berbatov’s name 50 times during the first half.
Well, it was a fairly eventful half, even though there were no goals scored. Tottenham really dominated possession, especially early on, but haven’t really come close to scoring. Sunderland has been counterattacking well and they generated the best scoring opportunity when Malbranque hit the post. There doesn’t look like there’s too much between these teams right now, even though Tottenham has much more talent, at least on paper. Tottenham had some success attacking down the flanks with Lennon and Bale. I’d expect some more of that in the second half, especially with those two and Bentley. As for Sunderland, they need some more consistent play in midfield, but it’s hard to criticize their play in the first half. Maybe we’ll see Cisse in the second half?
45′ + 1 – There will be one minute of added time. And before anything can really happen, there’s the whistle and we’re at the half.
45′ – Corner for Tottenham as Jenas’ cross into the box is headed out by Nosworthy. Bentley’s corner comes off Nosworthy again, and it’s another corner. Bardsley with good marking on Bent and he heads it away. Ref then calls a foul on Tottenham and it’s a goalkick for Sunderland.
44′ – Reid’s free kick is into the box and it finds an unmarked Diouf. Diouf handles it, though, and Tottenham escapes, but that was sloppy defending.
43′ – Sunderland on the attack and Diouf is on the break. Jenas comes in with a high tackle on Diouf that nearly catches Diouf in a really bad place, if you know what I mean. No yellow for Jenas, though.
42′ – Modric with the back-heel pass to Bale that didn’t look like it had enough pace to get there. Bale with a great cross from the left flank, but Collins knocks it out for the corner.
39′ – Malbranque is a better this time as he unleashes a rocket of a shot from 20-25 yards that beats Gomes but hits the post. Diouf gets it back for Sunderland and he tries the long-range shot, but it’s out for a goalkick.
37′ – Sunderland tries to build up their attack, but Malbranque’s service into the box is well off the mark and goes out for the goalkick. Well, that was a waste.
36′ – Ekotto with a nice cross deep down the left flank that finds an unmarked Lennon on the other side of the box. Whoops, Ekotto was offsides. Well, that explains why he was that far behind the defense.
33′ – Bardsley makes a great tackle on Bale (who stays up this time) deep in the box, and wins the goalkick.
32′ – Free kick hits Higginbottham on the back. Tottenham attacks as Modric makes a good run into the box. He loses the ball but Bentley is there and tries the cross. Gordon is out to catch it and he springs the counterattack. Diouf finds Murphy in the box, but he goes down after contact with King. No foul, though.
31′ – Sunderland on the attack. Malbranque gets fouled on the right edge of the box by Bale. Good chance for Sunderland here.
30′ – Ekotto misses badly from long distance as the commentators point out, diplomatically, that he’s not known for his shooting.
29′ – Bentley’s kick is about 35 yards out or so. Probably a little out of his range. It’s moot since his kick goes into the wall.
28′ – Modric, who’s really doing some great work winning balls in midfield, tries the one-two with Bale. Modric gets impeded when he tries to make his run to get the return, and he wins a free kick.
26′ – Reid’s corner finds Higginbottham, who tries to head it behind him to a teammate that isn’t there. Higginbottham is mad about that. Tottenham on the attack as Lennon makes a good run into the box and passes to Bale in the box. Bardsley is there for the challenge and Bale goes down late. Talk about a dive. That one was pretty cheap. Dean isn’t impressed and he gives Bale a yellow for simulation.
25′ – Long free-kick from Sunderland that finds Murphy on the edge of the box. He heads it to Diouf, who manages to split the defense. Diouf’s header is deflected out for a corner, though.
24′ – Gomes takes a few seconds to clear the cobwebs before putting it into play.
23′ – Short corner as Reid then sends another good cross into the box. Nosworthy goes for the header and collides with Gomes. Gomes holds on, but he’s down. He looks like he’ll be fine, though.
22′ – Reid with a nice run down the left and sends a great cross into the box that wins a corner for Sunderland.
20′ – Nosworthy knocks the corner out, so we have another one. Bentley sends one in that catches Gordon out of position. Bent is completely unmarked at the far post, but can’t control the header. It’s no matter, though, since the ref calls a foul. Sunderland just dodged a bullet there.
19′ – Lennon makes a nice run into the box and lifts a cross into the box for Bent. Nosworthy has to knock it out for the corner.
18′ – Modric with another takeaway and he sends it to Bentley at the top of the box. He gears up for a shot, but Higginbottham makes a great tackle on him.
17′ – Let’s see what Bentley can do here. It goes right across the goal and just evades Bent’s head. Close call for Spurs, but good service from Bentley, so they should be encouraged.
16′ – Tottenham on the attack. Lennon is deep in the right flank and tries to cross it to Bent. Collins knocks it out for a throw. Quick throw by Tottenham and Bardsley knocks it out for the corner.
15′ – Diouf wins a free kick as his shot takes a big deflection off Woodgate. Nothing doing on the ensuing corner, though.
14′ – Malbranque turns Modric inside out with a nice move. He tries to send it in to Diouf, but it doesn’t find the target.
13′ – Long pass to Diouf but King is there to win the 50-50. Good to see King healthy again, if you’re a Spurs fan.
12′ – Guess what Spur is dominating discussion amongst the commentators right now? Hint: his name rhymes with Smergatov.
11′ – Modric wins possession of the ball and passes to Bentley. Bentley tries a long-distance shot from just outside the top of the box, but it’s well wide of the mark.
10′ – Long ball to Lennon as he gets behind the defense. However Gordon is there to grab it before Lennon can get to it.
9′ – Apparently, Bentley gets to play wherever he wants in midfield. When did he become Cristiano Ronaldo again?
8′ – Murphy with a nice throughball for Diouf, but Tottenham is there to put a stop to that. Bentley takes a hard, but clean, tackle from Nosworthy. Keano would be proud.
5′ – Bentley with another enticing cross into the box, but it evades both Bent and Lennon. Zokorra then tries to send it in to Bent, but it’s too long. Goalkick for Gordon.
4′ – Bentley makes the cross from the left wing, but Nosworthy is there to stop it from doing any damage.
3′ – Lennon tries to take on Higginbottham, but Higginbottham is equal to it. If Sunderland’s back four holds up, then they could make some noise this year.
2′ – Let’s see what Bentley can do. He is the new Beckham, after all. Bentley’s corner evades everyone, but Modric recovers it. Malbranque greets him and tries to spring Murphy for a breakaway. Lennon is back to make the stop, though.
1′ – Tottenham kicks off and we’re under way! Mike Dean is our ref. Poor start from Sunderland as Whitehead muffs a clearance in the box and gifts Tottenham with a corner.
0′ – Chimbonda is, indeed, out of action today. Higginbottham will start. Roy Keane is talking to Juande Ramos. I wonder if Keano is telling Ramos cut his looses and sell Berbatov to Man Utd.
0′ – You know what bothers me about the whole Berbatov situation? If you’re Juande Ramos, what’s the point of keeping him at this point? You’ve dropped him in both of your matches so far. You’ve called him a clubhouse cancer to the media. If you really want to keep him at White Hart Lane, then why not start him? He is your best goalscorer, after all. Keeping him out of the lineup and calling him out does nothing but make him an even bigger distraction than he already is. Why not sell him to Manchester United, even if it is a little less than what you want (it is called bargaining, after all), and then use the money to buy someone who actually wants to be there? Or does that make too much sense?
0′ – Welcome everyone! We should be in for a great one today. Hopefully…
Well, Tottenham’s grand plans to break into the top four look like a pipe dream right now. They have zero points from their first two matches and they have some major issues on defense to work out. The Berbatov affair is clearly taking a toll on the team and Darren Bent has been largely invisible as the lone striker during the first two matches. It’s not all bad news for Tottenham. They showed they can generate chances on offense and David Bentley, Giovanni, and Modric are showing their worth. They’ll have to decide what to do with Berbatov, as well as whether Arshavin is really the answer to their problems on offense. They might be better off with his countryman, Pavlyuchenko, who is more of a traditional center-forward. Still, they have a lot of questions to answer before next week’s match.
As for Sunderland, they’ve played well against two teams that most people had in the top 5 before the season started. Their biggest problem last season was generating chances on offense. They did well today, though, and took advantage of the chances they had. While Tottenham controlled the midfield and had a big edge in possession, Sunderland looked far more dangerous, especially when Cisse came in. Their defense held up in the face of some intense pressure from Spurs in the second half. One area of concern is Craig Gordon, who looked unsteady and unsure of himself. He didn’t cost his team today, though. He might at some point later in the season.
Man of the Match:
Even though his team didn’t win, he was the best player on the pitch today. He was dangerous on most of his free kick and corner opportunities, bringing a dimension to Tottenham’s offense that they lacked last season. These kinds of displays will surely make England fans happy. Reid played well for Sunderland and would normally merit the M.O.M. title. He distributed the ball well and worked hard in midfield. Still, in a game in which there really wasn’t much between the two sides, Bentley clearly outshone his counterpart.