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+The Monday Verdict

Posted on 17 January 2005  - 12:00

Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) Football Club is located in North London. The club is also known as Spurs. Tottenham's home ground is White Hart Lane. The club motto is Audere est Facere (To dare is to do).

So the Manager of the Month award delivered its usual kiss of defeat. Well, that is one way of looking at it, following Martin Jol's presentation of the prize for December's exploits. Another would be to lament the award of a very suspect looking penalty.

Whichever view you take it was a good performance against a strong Chelsea side and the team should not allow themselves to get too downcast over the outcome. The fans certainly didn't and can see the progress Martin is swiftly making with his squad.

The Head Coach admitted afterwards that his side lacked a little punch in attack on the day, something he attempted to address by pushing Ledley King forward in the second half, but it was the home side who displayed the forward thrust throughout and were just undone by the penalty decision and an injury time strike while pushing for the leveller.

After just two minutes a rising shot by Erik Edman flashed just past Petr Cech's upright and, all over the pitch, it was a positive beginning from a team that showed two changes from the FA Cup win over Brighton last week. Noe Pamarot returned at right-back for Stephen Kelly and Noureddine Naybet to the centre in place of Anthony Gardner.

The crowd were fair on fizzing in an early atmosphere better than anything heard at the Lane this season. You would expect the Arsenal game to claim that one, but it kicked off at noon which diluted the fervour slightly. This had the feel of a proper London derby.

You suspected Pamarot would have an uncomfortable afternoon against the pace of Arjen Robben and the Dutchman showed him a clean pair of heels early on and you just hoped it was not a taster of things to come.

There was a big scare on 16 minutes when Didier Drogba latched onto a throughball ahead of Paul Robinson and, almost in slow motion, lifted his effort high and apparently goalwards. King was tracking the danger in his usual cool fashion and appeared ready to let the ball bounce before hooking away but the bounce, thankfully, took the ball towards the outside of the near post.

Two minutes later Jermain Defoe let fly with a swerving drilled drive that Cech could only parry away. It then took a typical interception by the new legend that is Ledley King to put the brakes on Drogba going full-flight in the direction of Robinson's goal. Just on the half-hour mark, Damien Duff nearly unlocked Robinson's gate, but his dinked shot was turned away by the England No.1. This actually followed a superb passage of passing by Martin Jol's boys that had the Lane literally purring in appreciation.

There was then a spot of verbal jousting and finger pointing between Naybet and Frank Lampard, Duff nearly saw red for persistant arguing and Mendes attempted a cheeky chip that forced Cech into a little backtracking.

It was all going so well until 38 minutes when the ball was zipped into Alexei Smertin in the area and referee Graham Poll adjudged King to have felled the Russian and awarded a penalty. Very debatable at first glance. Lampard stuck away the spot-kick to Robinson's left.

The second half began with all the hustle and bustle you would expect and the boys displayed a good response to the setback of falling behind ahead of the break. The danger was pushing on and getting caught on the counter, if this Chelsea side is short of anything it is not pace.

A corner from Keane just before the hour caused suitable mayhem in the visitor's area and the ball, via a deflection, zipped high across the face of goal.

Jol elected for change and it was Gardner introduced on 66 minutes in place of Reto Ziegler, with King converting into an unlikely centre forward - much to the delight of the crowd.

The switch certainly livened things up and Jol went further by adding Dean Marney to the mix in place of Pamarot. Marney responded with a brilliant cross that the recipient of the ball, Keane, blasted over the bar.

The final shuffle of the pack saw Mark Yeates enter play for Mendes with 13 minutes left on the clock, a clock that Chelsea were cynically running down with go-slow tactics.

The did successfully run it down - in much the same way Manchester United did against them in midweek Carling Cup combat - and even managed to double their advantage with a Lampard second in stoppage time.

It was a blow the team and the hugely supportive crowd of 36,105 did not deserve to suffer.