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Looking ready!

Posted on 6 August 2011  - 12:00

Our pre-season campaign was rounded off by a 2-1 win over an impressive Athletic Club Bilbao side in front of an impressive turn-out at the Lane.

Our pre-season campaign was rounded off by a 2-1 win over an impressive Athletic Club Bilbao side in front of an impressive turn-out at the Lane.

Second half strikes from substitutes Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe turned around a first half deficit after Mikel San Jose had given the La Liga side the lead.

Niko Kranjcar also missed a penalty in the second half as we were once again given an ideal test ahead of next Saturday’s Premier League opener against Everton.

We opted to pack the midfield from the start with Tom Huddlestone sitting in behind Jermaine Jenas and Steven Pienaar with Aaron Lennon and Kranjcar on the flanks and Roman Pavlyuchenko alone up front.

The visitors set up in a typical Spanish 4-2-3-1 system and looked impressive from the off, carving out an opening in the first minute with a ball over the top that Ander Herrera latched onto, forcing Heurelho Gomes into an early low save.

Another warning sign came in the 11th minute when Bilbao talisman Fernando Llorente was only inches away from connecting with Igor Gabilondo’s corner in front of goal.

But we should have taken the lead on 15 minutes when Vedran Corluka played in Lennon and he pulled back for Kranjcar 10 yards out who should have hit the target.

We were punished on 25 minutes when a Herrera corner took a touch off the head of Pavlyuchenko and was neatly volleyed home into the bottom corner by centre-half San Jose.

To make matters worse, Steven Pienaar limped off just beforehand and was replaced by Luka Modric.

But the second half saw a completely different Spurs side emerge – literally!

We reverted to 4-4-2 with Crouch and Defoe up front, and a very attack-minded midfield four of Lennon, Kranjcar, Modric and Gareth Bale. There was also a first Spurs appearance at the Lane for Brad Friedel in goal.

It paid dividends when we found ourselves back on level terms just five minutes after the break. Bale, impressive throughout this pre-season, broke down the left and crossed for Crouch, who adjusted himself well to sweep home left-footed as he was falling.

And three minutes later, the comeback was complete. The visitors failed to clear their lines at a corner, the ball was worked back out to Lennon and he crossed low for Defoe to slam into the roof of the net.

Bilbao did come close to getting back on level terms just after the hour mark when Llorente’s touch at the near post from Herrera’s corner hit the bar and then Jon Aurtenexte’s follow-up shot deflected inches wide.

We should have put the game beyond doubt, however, with 20 minutes remaining when Lennon danced through the defence and was upended by David Lopez in the box. Kranjcar stepped up to take the penalty but hit it straight at Iraizoz.

However, both he and Bale came close to wonder-goals in the minutes that followed – the latter volleying wide from the edge of the box after Crouch’s knock-down and the Croatian showing great close control to beat a couple of men in the box before being foiled again by the goalkeeper.

Llorente put a header over on the stretch at the other end in response but the second half performance alone made us deserving winners.

The result rounded off what has been a solid pre-season campaign and takes us into next Saturday’s big kick-off in great shape.

Spurs (4-1-4-1): Gomes (Friedel, 46); Corluka (Walker, 46), Dawson, Bassong (Kaboul, 46), Assou-Ekotto; Huddlestone (Bale, 46); Lennon (Livermore, 80), Jenas (Defoe, 46), Pienaar (Modric, 24), Kranjcar; Pavlyuchenko (Crouch, 46)

Goals: Crouch (50), Defoe (53)

Bilbao (4-2-3-1): Iraizoz; Iraola, San Jose, Martinez, De Marcos (Aurtenexte, 46); Iturraspe (De Galarreta, 87), Gurpegi; Muniain (Toquero, 46), Herrera (Lopez , 62), Gabilondo (Susaeta, 76); Llorente
Subs not used: Fernandez, Ramalho

Goals: San Jose (25)