MATCH REPORT: SPURS 6, READING 4
Dimitar Berbatov netted four goals as Reading were overcome by a 6-4 scoreline in the thriller at the Lane.
Dimitar Berbatov netted four goals as Reading were overcome by a 6-4 scoreline in the thriller at the Lane.A fairly sterile first half was totally eclipsed by the second where, from defeat looking very much on the cards, victory was snatched in style.
There was just one change to the starting line-up from the side that began against Fulham last time out, Jermaine Jenas made his return from an ankle injury and took the place of Jamie O'Hara alongside Tom Huddlestone in the heart of midfield.
Ledley King retained his place in central defence after his successful comeback on Boxing Day, but it was another defender, Young-Pyo Lee, who pumped in the first shot in goal - one which Marcus Hahnemann sprung to his right to gather.
We didn't have to wait too long for the deadlock to be broken, just six minutes, and it was the promptings of Steed Malbranque that unlocked the Reading gate. The Frenchman prodded forward into the path of Robbie Keane who, in turn, cut the ball across the face of goal where Berbatov was waiting to apply a gleeful finish.
Unfortunately, the feelings of elation lasted only a further nine minutes as a free-kick aimed into the area by Nicky Shorey caused avoidable problems. Paul Robinson called for the ball but his path towards it was obstructed by Younes Kaboul - among others - and, as a result, not enough purchase was put on his clearance. The ball then fell kindly for Kalifa Cisse to drive back and into the net.
It was a foothold in the game that Reading had done little to merit and the visitors were lifted and began to attack with a little more conviction. They had the chance to take the lead from an inviting free-kick position ten minutes before the break after Aaron Lennon was probably wrongly adjudged to have impeded Bobby Convey, but Shorey failed to trouble Robinson.
The first half was not proving to be a great spectacle and the ball was pinging around a lot in the air and half-time was not an unwelcome break in proceedings, although Keane would have sent us in happier had he made a connection with Berbatov's low centre right in front of goal, but he appeared to attack it with the wrong foot.
Reading were the quicker out of the blocks at the start of the second period, but it was a Keane spin in the area that came closest to securing an advantage from a Berbatov flick-on. Pascal Chimbonda then made a superb sliding block after Dave Kitson had evaded both King and Kaboul.
From the resulting Shorey corner on 52 minutes, Ivar Ingimarsson climbed highest and nodded downwards past Robinson to register an unlikely lead. Moments later Robinson was forced to be particularly alert to deny Kitson.
Frustrations were growing and King made way for Defoe on the hour, just before Robinson was once again forced into action - diving to his right to thwart Stephen Hunt.
On 62 minutes fortune smiled on us when, from a Defoe low cross, Shorey passed the ball to Berbatov and the end result was the roof of the net rattling and an air of relief wafted down from the stands.
Lennon was withdrawn in favour of Kevin Prince Boateng with 23 minutes left for him to make an impression, but the next one was made by Kitson in the 69th minute when he stole to the front post from a Shorey corner and, with a decisive flick, steered the ball into the roof of the net to make it 3-2.
The drama was not over, on 71 minutes a Jenas corner was headed skywards by Chimbonda and there to pluck the ball out of the sky and covert on the spin was Berbatov with a memorable hat-trick goal.
Hunt then set Kitson away and he executed an excellent finish to make it 4-3 before, on 75 minutes, a combination of Lee and Huddlestone found Malbranque inside the area, who typically scrurried and worked himself a shooting position before dispatching into the top corner.
Two minutes later Keane was chopped down in the area by Ibra Sonko and referee Mr Stroud awarded a penalty. For the second time in a week, Keane's spot-kick was saved, but this time it fell kindly for Defoe to head back into the net. If you are losing track, this made it 5-4.
It was not over, on 82 minutes Berbatov was sent galloping away by Kaboul and from around 15 yards cracked the ball right-footed towards goal and, despite Hahnemann connecting with his hand, the net was rippling again!