Familiar failings for Tottenham on pre-season tour
Tottenham’s striker issues show no sign of improvement after Spurs’ front men all drew a blank in their opening two pre-season fixtures in South Africa.
The Lilywhites were beaten 1-0 by the Kaiser Chiefs on Saturday afternoon, going down to an injury-time winner, before drawing 1-1 with Orlando Pirates on Tuesday evening, with Rafael van der Vaart’s free kick being cancelled out before half-time.
That left Harry Redknapp’s side without a win from their first two matches – and without a goal from open play in 180 minutes, with Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Robbie Keane all misfiring.
Crouch has come the closest so far, drawing a stunning diving save from Kaiser Chiefs keeper Itumeleng Khune at the weekend, and the 6ft 7ins England striker was not in the squad that faced the Pirates last night.
However, Defoe, Pavlyuchenko and Keane all appeared in both matches – and did little to suggest that any of them can shoulder the goalscoring responsibilities in the coming campaign.
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Pavlyuchenko was particularly poor against the Kaiser Chiefs on Saturday and was virtually anonymous in the second half after coming on at the interval.
In truth, it was an uninspiring performance from Spurs in general and, tellingly, Tottenham clearly missed the dynamism of Luka Modric, who missed the match with an ankle injury.
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Modric returned to face the Pirates last night though – captaining the side as Brad Friedel made his first appearance in a Spurs jersey.
Unfortunately, it was a game to forget for the 40-year-old, as a poor piece of goalkeeping gifted Orlando their equaliser five minutes before half-time.
Van der Vaart gave Tottenham the lead after 17 minutes, sweeping a glorious 20-yard free kick into the top left corner after David Bentley had been hacked down.
Gareth Bale, who was in his element in an entertaining and open game, continued to cause havoc down the left flank – but the Pirates levelled in the 40th minute when Friedel failed to get a strong enough hand to a routine-looking lob from a tight angle, allowing the ball to drop into the net.
It was exactly the kind of ‘Gomes gaffe’ that had forced Redknapp to sign the Aston Villa keeper, and Spurs came under intense pressure after the goal, conceding again before the interval but seeing the strike ruled out for offside.
Defoe and Van der Vaart were replaced by Keane and Pavlyuchenko as Redknapp made six half-time changes, but it was Lennon who came closest after the interval, exacerbating the usual complaints about his end product by miscuing horribly after Bale had crossed the ball low across the goalmouth.
Jermaine Jenas and Niko Kranjcar replaced Modric and Bale on the hour-mark, and Kranjcar nearly made an immediate impact, exchanging passes with Keane and dinking the ball over the keeper, only to see his goalbound effort spectacularly cleared off the line.
That was as close as Tottenham came in the second half and, although the sight of youngsters Danny Rose and Kyle Walker bombing eagerly forward made for encouraging viewing, the Lilywhites produced precious little in the way of goalbound attempts.
Instead, it took a last-ditch tackle from Michael Dawson to deny Oupa Manyisa a clear sight of goal, and Friedel could only watch as a 30-yard Mark Mayambela effort swung away from his left-hand post at the last moment.
The quality of the opposition was undeniably strong but the familiar old problems remain, at both ends of the pitch, and Redknapp will have plenty to ponder ahead of the final game of the tour on Saturday.
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs