Spurs Review of 2009 Part X: Derby dismay
SPURS picked up a valuable point in Bolton after twice coming from behind to force a 2-2 draw. Ricardo Gardner put the hosts ahead after just three minutes from a typical Trotters set piece, but Niko Kranjcar restored parity...
2009 AT TOTTENHAM: REVIEW OF OCTOBER
By Ben Pearce
SPURS picked up a valuable point in Bolton after twice coming from behind to force a 2-2 draw. Ricardo Gardner put the hosts ahead after just three minutes from a typical Trotters set piece, but Niko Kranjcar restored parity before the break with his first goal for Tottenham on his first start - lashing the ball home from the edge of the box after Peter Crouch's knock-down.
Kevin Davies put Bolton back ahead, finishing off a well-worked team goal with 20 minutes left, but Crouch ensured Spurs returned south with a share of the spoils four minutes later.
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After the game Kranjcar, who had finally been deployed on the left flank in the absence of countryman Luka Modric, said: "I spent a lot of time drifting into the middle from the wing and that's where I feel most comfortable playing - in the middle.
"Is goal-scoring something I hope to bring to the side? I hope so, I was never really happy with the number of goals I scored at Portsmouth. I think it was only four of five, so hopefully I can score more than that. It's important for the midfield to chip in with goals, I think we've been doing that since the start of the season and I'm pleased with the start I've made."
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Three months on, Kranjcar has already netted six goals for Spurs, with four of them coming in his last four starts.
Having made just one start and three appearances, Roman Pavlyuchenko voiced his displeasure with life at Spurs, and told the Russian media that he wanted to leave north London.
Harry Redknapp's attempts to change his mind were half-hearted to say the least: "I've ended up with four very good strikers here, and at the moment he is struggling to get a game. But he has been out for a few weeks with an Achilles injury, otherwise he would have been on the bench for sure!"
Bookmakers suddenly slashed the odds of Redknapp leaving Spurs from 50-1 to 5-4 within hours, as the media reported that police would interview the Tottenham manager again over unpaid taxes.
The Spurs boss announced that had 'nothing to hide', adding: "This is about a discrepancy of about �10,000 of income tax over the past 10 years and this is what it's come down to. I'm sick of it."
An international break gave Spurs an extra week to prepare for a fascinating trip to Portsmouth's Fratton Park, as seven people had moved between the two clubs in the previous 12 months - Redknapp, first team coach Joe Jordan, Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch, Niko Kranjcar, Kevin-Prince Boateng and Jamie O'Hara, who was on loan from Spurs to Pompey and therefore ineligible to play.
"They really are incredible circumstances," admitted Jordan. "It's amazing, not only the relative positions now, but the number of people who used to be employed by Portsmouth and have moved to Tottenham, and vice versa.
"It just shows how quickly things change in the world of football. Who would have thought a year ago that there would be so much movement between the two clubs? It's very, very interesting and this weekend will be another chapter in the story of Tottenham and Portsmouth coming together."
As predicted, the key protagonists played a major part in the proceedings on the south coast. Kranjcar, who had only moved from Pompey to N17 a few weeks previously, delivered the corner from which Ledley King headed the opening goal, and Defoe then netted against his former club soon after - and for the second meeting in a row.
Spurs seemed to be cruising to victory, but ex-Spurs midfielder Boateng halved the deficit on the hour-mark, and matters immediately worsened for the visitors.
Moments after the restart, Defoe reacted to a challenge with a petulant stamp and was dismissed, forcing his team-mates to defend for the their lives for the remaining 20 minutes.
Spurs' eventual 2-1 victory owed much to the heroic goalkeeping of Heurelho Gomes, and the dreadful finishing of Pompey striker Aruna Dindane.
Former Tottenham midfielder completed the 90-minute soap opera when he was also dismissed late in the game.
After the match Redknapp laid into Defoe for jeopardising his side's chances of victory: "I was very disappointed with him, getting sent off and reacting like he did," he fumed. "I said it was a day for cool heads - don't react if you get fouled, just get on with the game. I repeated that to him at half-time on four or five occasions, and he did react and he disappointed himself and I was disappointed with him as well."
Club captain King also condemned the striker: "We can't complain, I don't think any of the players can complain about any of the treatment they received," he said. "From us it was just about doing our job and not letting the occasion overtake the three points. We spoke about their fans and their players trying to wind us up, and keeping cool, so that was disappointing."
Meanwhile, Redknapp admitted that he could finish his career at White Hart Lane: "Will Tottenham be my last club? I've said things like that before haven't I. I don't know, I hope so," he said. "I hope Daniel [Levy] keeps me here for a few years and I hope I keep doing a good job. But I loved it West Ham and I loved it at Portsmouth. I'd like to finish here but who knows, I may go back to Bournemouth one day. I'd like to get involved and help them in some form in the future, that's what I'd like to do."
Unfortunately, Tottenham's week ended badly as they suffered a shock 1-0 home defeat to Stoke. It was exceedingly harsh on the Lilywhites, who had nine shots on target, hit the post and were denied time and again by Potters keeper Thomas Sorensen.
With the minutes ticking away, and with the scores goalless, Redknapp used all three of his substitutes in a bid to avoid what looked like a damaging draw.
Then Aaron Lennon was injured in a tackle from Glenn Whelan, and promptly substituted himself, to the consternation of Redknapp and his coaching staff.
And, with four minutes left, Whelan grabbed an undeserved winner, after Ricardo Fuller beat Benoit Assou-Ekotto on the right flank and pulled the ball back.
Three days later Spurs advanced past Everton in the Carling Cup, winning 2-0 and once again booking their place in the quarter-finals.
Pavlyuchenko failed to connect with a David Bentley cross, the ball bouncing behind the Russian striker to Tom Huddlestone, who crashed a left-foot drive past Tim Howard after 31 minutes.
Spurs secured their passage in the 57th minute through Robbie Keane, who thumped the ball into the top corner from close range during a goalmouth scramble, which started when Howard saved his penalty kick.
Tottenham were now able to fix their sights on the Halloween north London derby. And, having scored a hat-trick against Arsenal during his time at Liverpool, Crouch admitted he was raring to go at the Emirates.
"It was probably one of the highlights of my career, I remember each goal clear as day," said the striker. "I've played in a Champions League final and played in the World Cup, but that hat-trick against Arsenal is right up there. But obviously that is in the past and, while I've proved that I can do it against those kind of defenders, I have to prove it again.
"I am really excited, I've been fortunate to play in some big derbies. Obviously Liverpool-Man United, and I played in the Birmingham derby and the south coast derby. I've played in a few, but this is certainly one that you look for when you're somebody who watches football. I always look at the north London derby and see how passionate it is and see the quality of the game, so I'm really looking forward to it."
Spurs travelled to Arsenal one week before the 10th anniversary of their last win over the Gunners - November 7 1999 at White Hart Lane - and Keane was full of confidence:
"If you look at the last four or five years then Arsenal have always got ahead of us, but not now. You look at the squad, the bench we have, and our bench is a little bit stronger than theirs," he said. "These are the games we want to be winning. Of course the six points against Arsenal this season could be vital - that was the case a few years ago with the lasagne scenario [at West Ham].
"Local derbies are a bit different than normal games. It will be a great occasion for everybody, for the fans especially. Of course, it's the fans' bragging rights that are the most important thing for them when they go to work on a Monday morning. I've been here a long time so I know how much it means to everybody around here, and I hope we can get a good result."
Redknapp was also talking a good game in the build-up to the showdown, insisting that Spurs would be positive and take the game to their arch-rivals at the Emirates.
"We always have a go, we only know one way to play," he said. "I wouldn't set the team up to play any other way, we always go and look to be positive, see if we can go and win the game, take the game to them. We feel that certain parts of our game can cause them problems, and we've got to make sure that we impose ourselves on them, not go there and sit back and worry about what they can do to us."
Inspiring words, but Redknapp then employed a negative 4-5-1 formation, omitting Kranjcar and opting for a defensive trio of Huddlestone, Jermaine Jenas and Wilson Palacios in front of the defence. Keane spent most of his time on the left flank rather than up front, leaving Peter Crouch wholly isolated.
The result was a dreadful 3-0 defeat and Tottenham's worst performance of the season. Robin van Persie put Arsenal ahead before half-time, and Spurs immediately threw the game away, gifting Cesc Fabregas possession from their own restart and then allowing the Spaniard to run through the entire team and score again.
Van Persie added further misery in the second half, giving Bentley an afternoon to forget as he stood in for the injured Lennon. There was to be no wondergoal this time in his first Premier League start of the campaign, and the ex-Gunners midfielder has since disappeared from view again.
Tottenham emerged from the dressing room to discover that they had drawn Manchester United away in the quarter-final of the Carling Cup.
Sebastien Bassong was less than thrilled when he was informed, rolling his eyes and sticking out his tongue.
"Oh well, I won't be playing!" he said, having pulled his hamstring minutes earlier in the derby. "I think if we're going to be in the top four we need to beat these teams - Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City - and if not it's going to be difficult," he continued. "I think it will be these head-to-heads that will make the difference.