Tag Archives: Europa League

Tottenham Hotspur 3 – 1 Shamrock Rovers: Match Report

30 Sep

I have a confession to make… I didn’t watch the game live. I had somewhere else to be last night and to be honest, that was more important. No, I’m not telling you what I was doing and yes, it is probably what you think it was. However, what I did do, was go the long way, stop off at home and set my TV to record the football, with the intention of watching the game after I got home. What I didn’t anticipate was not getting home until 2am. However, Being the dedicated fan and blogger that I am, I watched it, from start to finish, including some of the build up and eventually I switched off my TV at 4am; safe in the knowledge I’d be able to write all about it. As it happens, only managing 3 hours of sleep and working through most of lunch tends to mean that your ability to write anything is seriously impinged upon. The quality isn’t great as it is, let alone writing whilst having to find that careful balance between a caffeine high and sleeping.

So, following my recent trend of including stupid footballing clichés, here’s your latest one… it’s probably more of a quote really, but never mind… ‘Football, it’s a funny old game’.

I have to admit, in many ways, the game went as I expected. The score-line wasn’t far off my own prediction, although it did take a Shamrock goal to inject a real sense of purpose. What I was surprised by, though, was the quality in our starting lineup and more notably, the quality of our play. Pav and Defoe upfront is a first team combination, even if it is not currently first choice. Aaron Lennon is admittedly making his way back from injury, but Kyle Walker was also again playing at Right Back.

Giovani, is a player with many critics, many of the Spurs fans who have yet to see him make a serious contribution at Spurs. I have managed to avoid judging him too harshly, but I will admit that I would have had no major regrets if we sold him either. I don’t know if he’s sorted out the problems that made Harry seem so reluctant to keep him, or if, in the absence of anyone else Harry is using him in the same way as Alan Hutton (i.e. when he has to). Regardless, tonight I thought he was excellent and a major aspect of our overall performance. In terms of the good sides to his play, he was quick and incisive and willing to take people on. Perhaps the more negative side is that with players like Kyle Walker often on the overlap, instead of laying the ball off, he would take it on himself, usually running infield. Still, he created the first with an excellent cross to Pav and smashed home the second following selfless build-up play from Jermain Defoe.

Overall we were quick, we looked driven and up for it and most importantly we scored the required goals. They didn’t come as the result of any particularly inspired play (except perhaps Gio’s) but as a result of Spurs making the most of the notable gulf in class, which is interesting given that the rest of the game seemed to involve much toil from Spurs and a disappointing end product.

Although the first half ended 0-0, Spurs definitely had the better of the chances, which included Defoe hitting the bar with a powerful effort. In reality, it was an excellent save from Rovers’ inspired keeper, who deserved the man of the match award for his efforts (I know not if he received it). That moment, like so many others was spoiled by the woeful commentary, which I can’t avoid mentioning. Graham Taylor, the expert ‘summariser’ or co-commentator immediately said, after Defoe’s shot is clearly deflected/saved by the keeper, ‘I think the keeper might just have got a touch on that’. 4 blatantly obvious replays and with Graham Taylor finally saying ‘I definitely think he got a touch on that’ I was ready to throw the TV out of the window. YOU THINK GRAHAM? YOU THINK HE GOT A TOUCH ON IT, DO YOU? Thanks for that, you blind, senile, imbecile.

Shamrock Rovers got their fairytale first goal and for 10 minutes they led the game. Finally, Spurs decided to stop trying to score and stuck it in the net 3 times over the space of 5 minutes, as far as Shamrock were concerned the game was done and dusted. Thankfully, for the fans at least, neither team stopped trying.

Of the younger lads, all performed well. Tom Carroll looked fantastic for the first 20 mins, playing incisive balls and keeping it simple when he had to. I don’t know if he started to flag, or if he got a bit too comfortable, but a few passes did start to go astray after that, but it’s clear that having heard very little about him until now, Tom Carroll is a major prospect. Danny Rose played at left back, making a recovery from injury and once again proved that he has a good career ahead of him and is actually a little unlucky to have to play understudy with Benny ahead of him. I also got my first glimpse of Yago Falque, who had some good touches and set up Pav for a half volly that should have led to our 4th. I don’t think he’s ready for the Premier League or anything like that yet, but there’s definitely promise there. Jake Livermore had another solid, but unspectacular game, which is no bad thing given what is required of him and the position he occupies.

Overall then, a decent if predictable result, with the high-point being the energy Spurs put in from start to finish, something I really think we’ve lacked in other games after going ahead, particularly when we think we’ve are already won.

Spurs’ Player Ratings

Carlo Cudicini 7.5
You could argue that the Shamrock goal came as a result of Cudicini choosing to keep the ball in play with his save. I think that’s harsh and he got a good punch/save out of the box. He got down to the shot coming back in, beaten by a last second deflection.

Kyle Walker 8
Got forward and made a real difference to the attacks, looks like a right sided Ashley Cole and without meaning to go over the same ground, with some work on the defensive side of his game, could be a ‘top top player’.

Vedran Ćorluka 7.5
There can be no denying that Charlie looks slow on occasion and we saw that again against Shamrock. He’s an accomplished defender and Luka’s best friend, Harry seems to like him too, shifting Hutton on, despite preferring him for large parts of last season. A great back-up option both at Right Back and Centre Half.

Sebastien Bassong 7
Seb has been unlucky, missing out largely due to Gallas’ arrival last season. His form has dipped as a result, there can be no doubt, but there is a defender in there and if Harry can keep him happy enough then I am glad we still have him. Didn’t have to do much last night, but didn’t do much wrong either.

Danny Rose 8
It’s great to have Danny back from injury. He suffered from a heavy challenge and coupled with a lack of match fitness he went off towards the end, but he looked lively and defended well.

Aaron Lennon 6
Something seems to have happened to Azza’s confidence and he just doesn’t run at players anymore. I don’t know if he’s lost a yard, if it’s the positions he’s taking up or the way players mark him, but he just doesn’t seem to be the threat he once was. It always seems that it takes him a while to get back into the swing of things after injuries, which are increasingly frequent, maybe he’s been rushed back one too many times, but I am becoming increasingly concened that he’ll never be the same player again. Maybe he needs to watch a few videos of his old self and see what it was he used to do.

Jake Livermore 7.5
Didn’t stand out, either for good or bad reasons. Tidy, but still has a number of aspects of his game to improve on. One of those players who could go on to be at Spurs for years, or ending up somewhere like Wigan. If he keeps plugging away, working on his game and getting experience in the first team, there’s no reason it can’t be the former.

Tom Carroll 7.5
Tommy started out really really well, I had half a thought of ‘why not throw him in against Arsenal’. It’s too soon for that and there were a few little mistakes, but the world is at his feet, if he works and doesn’t believe the hype he could be the next Gerrard or Lampard for England, or even Englands next Luka Modric. He just needs to get stronger and make sure to iron out the little flaws.

Giovani Dos Santos 8.5 (mom)
I’d just love Gio to make it, I don’t know why, maybe he’s a lovable rogue, but he’s got so much ability, he just needs to apply it. In this game we saw what he can do, lets just see it against better opposition on a consitant basis and he could be a world beater. It’s a big ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’ at the moment though.

Roman Pavlyuchenko 7
Pav did ok and looked like he was having a focussed day. He had a couple of chances, but got his goal and hopefully will keep putting in the effort to play a regular role.

Jermain Defoe 8
Scored with a header, but more importantly, put in the mileage for Gio’s goal without selfishly blasting it himself. Hopefully we’ll see plenty of him against Arsenal, I fancy him for a goal or two.

Sub ’46: Andros Townsend 7.5
Replaced Lennon: Added a great deal to the side. Put in some good balls and showed trickery. Shamrock may be more at his level than some other opposition, but showed more promise than I’ve seen from him before. Also did well when moved back to Left Back.

Sub ’73: Yago Falque 7
Replaced Defoe: Good to see him get a chance, but still raw.

Sub ’80: Harry Kane 6.5
Replaced Rose: I like Harry, but he had no time to shine or real goalscoring opportunities.

Referee

Gediminas Mazeika. It’s rare I say this, but I do feel I have a balanced view. I feel like the referee was biased in our favour in this game and we definitely got the decisions. We don’t need that kind of help and it was a little harsh on Shamrock, but they were half a step behind meaning they did give away a fair few legitimate fouls. The linesman also looked extremely ill. 7.5

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Tottenham Hotspur vs Shamrock Rovers: Preview

29 Sep

Europa League LogoEuropa League, Group A
Date: 29 September 2011 Kick-off: 20:05
Venue: White Hart Lane (London)
TV:
Radio:

You’d be forgiven for forgetting that we have a game tonight, with el verdadero clásico… or el clásico del norte de Londres as the Spanish will surely come to know it, on Sunday. Even Harry, in today’s pre-match press conference said, when asked about the weekend: “Have I got one eye on the derby? I’ve got two eyes on that.”

Harry’s team selections have made it clear that the Europa League is not high on our list of priorities, with the ‘Thursday Night, Channel 5’ chants particularly relevant to us tonight, it’s clear that a team with Champions League ambitions could largely do without the 800 additional games the latest UEFA Cup format provides; and that’s not even counting the knockout stages.

The Europa League will prove invaluable though, I am absolutely sure of it. Yes, it means extra fixtures, but it not only provides games to young talents like Tom Carroll (increasingly hyped as a rising star) and others, a benefit I have mentioned more than once previously, but it also gives these lads exposure to European competition. That is playing against unfamiliar clubs and styles of football after long flights and with increasing levels of pressure. If we do ever find ourselves consistently achieving Champions League football, this experience will offer those players a leg up which so many youngsters don’t get.

Harry has also said we’re going to try to get as far as we can in ever competition. Whilst the most cynical will suggest these are platitudes, comments encouraged by the club’s board, designed simply to keep Investec, our cup sponsor, from keeling over in disbelief that they have paid a fortune for a spot on a shirt which will only be worn a couple of times throughout the whole season. I personally think he’d love to pick up some silverware, particularly if he buggers of to manage England at the end of the season and whilst the Premier League will always be a priority, I still think he’ll put out a team he thinks is capable of winning.

When the draw was made and we saw how far we’d have to travel, knowign that one of our trips would only be as far as Dublin was music to the ears of both the club and the fans. I wouldn’t mind betting that we were high on the list of clubs that Shamrock Rovers were hoping to face this season too, so there’s a bit of romance that you just don’t get from playing the likes of NK Maribor or Wisła Kraków. The final injection of interest comes from Rohan Ricketts, our former Right Winger and young player of the year under Glenn Hoddle. His story has also been well documented of late, so I won’t go into it again, but I certainly thought he had something when he was at Spurs and his steady decline since has been sad to see. It’s interesting that his fortunes and those of someone like Aaron Lennon have been so different given the similarity of their early time with Spurs.

We should win this game

It goes without saying that Shamrock Rovers will not provide the type of test offered by the likes of Inter Milan or Werder Bremen last season. Of course we will have limited experience on the pitch, but the likes of Carroll, Ryan Fredricks and Harry Kane have shown potential thus far and that’s without even mentioning lads like Jake Livermore.

Not the most important game of the season, so far…

The old clichés seem to be invading either my mind or my fingers, despite the fact I hate them so. The latest one is ‘never look beyond your next game’. It makes so much sense and usually seems to be trotted out in the game before a big cup final, but it seems like its relevance needs to be considered now.

I am not entirely comfortable with Harry’s admission he is only thinking about Sunday’s game, no matter how much more important it is. Behind closed doors, fine, but we have people paying to watch tonight’s game and 11 players out on the pitch. If the likes of Pav, Gio or Rose are playing, they don’t want to be left feeling like they are only worthy of playing in games Harry considers to be a dead rubber, regardless of the accuracy of that.

Things I think about Shamrock Rovers

  • They look a bit like Celtic with those green and white hooped shirts, don’t they? That’s a bit of a co-inkydink.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo made his Real Madrid debut against Shamrock? That’s kinda cool.

Spurs’ Team News

It goes without saying that the big boy won’t be playing to night but even so, it might be worth reminding you that although many are unlikely to feature, we definitely won’t be seeing Rafa van der Vaart or Brad Friedel, neither of whom are registered for the Europa League squad. Also, although he’s not officially injured Ledley King is also guaranteed not to feature, with both the timing of the game and relative importance (or lack of) ruling him and his fragile knee out.

On the plus side, Aaron Lennon is now fit and likely to play, with this game providing the ideal opportunity to attain some match fitness, the same goes for Danny Rose and Steven Pienaar, both of whom could also start.

Injured: Michael Dawson, William Gallas, Tom Huddlestone.

Shamrock’s Team News

Ricketts aside, I am not ashamed to admit that once again my footballing knowledge doesn’t stretch as far as the minor European Leagues, so BBC, I am sorry I am stealing your informations again. (by that I mean, thank you please for being a useful and valuable source of information, without which I’d look even more thicker!)

Doubtful: Craig Sives, Ken Oman

Prediction

It may only be our boys, but after being unlucky not to beat PAOK (apparently), I fancy them to go out hungry to prove themselves as capable. These boys will, regardless of their age, fancy themselves for more first team action this season and will want to show it. That and a reasonable home crowd (thanks to Season Ticket eligibility) makes me think we’ll get a decent 4-0 victory.

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PAOK Salonika vs Tottenham Hotspur: Preview

15 Sep

So still in Greece myself, what can I say about this match? Not much. Occurring some miles north of my current location; the departures lounge of Athens airport, the match will be as good as done by the time I land in the UK. From what I’ve seen, it looks like it will be men against boys. Hopefully the talent of our boys will show through. Good luck to them and back to normal service when I’m back!

P.s. look out for my other blog over the next week for loads on Athens.

Tottenham Hotspur 0 – 0 Heart of Midlothian: Match Report

26 Aug

On a scale from 1 to boring, this might well be the most boring game of the entire season, despite only being the third. In fact the most exciting thing about this game wasn’t the game; it was the 2 transfers Spurs decided to announce during the match. I can’t even begin to understand their timing, but I must admit I’m delighted we’ve got them sorted and that we now have a striker who is big and does the goals. I don’t blame a single one of you if you stop reading right now and find something more exciting to do, like jumping up and down on the bed… or porn. I nearly decided to go, but in the end opted for the tellybox again, will be making my way up to White Hart Lane for the first time this season on Sunday.

Another game, another goalkeeper. We are three games into the 2011-12 season and now our three first team keepers have all had a run out. I have to admit, I wasn’t surprised although I had probably thought Gomes might get another run out in this game. He didn’t even make the bench, which might be telling for his Tottenham career prospects.

As expected, we saw a number of youngsters play, with first team debuts given to Tom Carroll, Ryan Fredricks and Harry Kane along with Jake Nicholson from the subs bench. Andros Townsend was also given his first start while Jake Livermore made his 3rd start in 3 games, despite the injuries, a massive vote of confidence from Harry. If I’m honest my lack of player knowledge when it comes to some of the youngsters meant I wasn’t really sure what formation we were playing, even more-so when the game kicked off, with what looked like a 3-5-2 being deployed. If not, Andros Townsend was playing as an exceptionally attacking Left Back. Hearts also fielded a young team, meaning we were given a game with a number of players hoping to prove their worth, but ultimately less quality than one would expect to see from Spurs at this level.

The match was a relatively even one, with chances presenting themselves to both sides. Hearts appeared to be playing on the break, with Spurs pressing but often lacking the killer ball or awareness needed to open up the Hearts defence. On the occasions Spurs did play well, though, it was often the youngsters who shone.

Spurs’ best chance to break the deadlock was from a Harry Kane penalty, saved by MacGregor in the Hearts goal. Kane won the penalty himself after being put through by Tom Carroll and felled by MacGregor. It would be easy to assume that under pressure in his first Spurs game that Kane did a Southgate, but that’d be very unfair, his firm low penalty was well saved, with the entire stadium willing it to go in, for Kane as much as for Spurs.

Before that Hearts had hit the bar with Cuicini well beaten and honours were pretty even.

The second half was a relatively dull affair with neither team looking to stretch themselves too far. Spurs left their big name on the bench and also, confusingly, Tom Huddlestone on the pitch. The big lad picked up a knock around the 10 minute mark and, having mentioned in my preview that I didn’t want to see him play in a game like this after his injury, Harry proceeded to leave him on for the full 90 minutes. Whilst it’s clear to see that perhaps he wanted Tom to get some minutes under his belt and also to provide the team with a little experience, this didn’t seem like the right time to do it.

To be quite honest Harry’s approach to injuries, which I would describe as ‘old school’ at best confuses and concerns me, but that is really an issue for another day. My hope had been that Kane, getting his opportunity in the first team might also have the chance to play with someone like van der Vaart and really get the full experience, along with the extra opportunities that might bring to score compared with playing next to someone like Pav. It’s no co-incidence the Russian striker’s name has barely come up in this report as his influence on the game was minimal to say the least.

In the end though, no-one really looked like scoring and my initial 3-0 prediction was left looking rather optimistic. With Spurs comfortably through to the next round, the game served as the ideal opportunity to give the youngsters so real action and help one or two others gain fitness or get a run out.

As an aside, I should also mention the Hearts fans. they were excellent and in great voice. Officially there were 2,500 there, but the man inside the tellybox suggested that 4,000 had made their way down. Great effort guys.

Spurs’ Player Ratings

Carlo Cudicini 6
Rarely called upon. Very obviously 3rd choice now, but by far the best 3rd choice of any team in the league!

Vedran Corluka 7
Looked slow, which he is, but generally assured.

Michael Dawson 7.5
Never seems to stop, all heart and one of my favourite players, for that reason. Wasn’t really stretched tonight.

Sebastian Bassong 4.5
A really disappointing game from the Cameroon Centre Back. In his first season he played well and I had high hopes, but last season seems to have knocked his confidence and last night’s was a poor display.

Ryan Fredricks 7
Young and raw, but quick and seemed to work hard for the cause, one for the future hopefully, but clearly not ready just yet.

Tom Huddlestone 7
Tommy still looks a bit unfit and although I can see that Harry wanted to give him minutes, would like to have seen a player who can really make us tick be a bit more protected.

Jake Livermore 7
Another decent game from Jake Livermore, suggesting he’s not only got a chance of making it, but that he is relatively consistent. Didn’t do enough to worry our injured regulars but should be a regular on the bench this season.

Tom Carroll 7.5 (mom)
Despite loking like a 14 year old boy (Don’t let Wenger spot him) he played well. I’d heard very little about Carroll before but I have to admit he’s shot up my list of young players who I think may just have a future at White Hart Lane.

Andros Townsend 7.5
Another game in which Townsend had the opportunity to show off his attributes, a bit of pace and some trickery. No where near as incisive or powerful as Bale, Townsend is a player more in Lennon’s mould, who just needs to learn his way around the full backs and practice his final ball to be in with a shot of first team action in future.

Roman Pavlyuchenko 5
Unfortunately, the Russian had a poor game, with the vast majority of his shots reaching the upper tier. He ran about a bit.

Harry Kane 7.5
Worked hard and I really want to see more of him.

Sub ’46: Younes Kaboul 7
Replaced Dawson, A straightforward replacement to save our defensive talisman for the weekend. I am surprised Bassong lasted the game though.

Sub ’61: Niko Kranjčar 6.5
Replaced Fredricks, typical game, will hopefully remain at the club, but needs to up his workrate if he wants a regular game.

Sub ’76: Jake Nicholson 6.5
Replaced Livermore, will have been pleased to get a run out, but didn’t have a great deal of time to make an impression.

Referee

Anastassios Kakos from Greece refereed the game. He looked like a referee and definitely had the full range of cards in his pocket, together with a whistle and a watch. No real gaffes and gave the penalty. 7.5

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Tottenham Hotspur vs Heart of Midlothian: Preview

25 Aug

Europa League Playoff – 2nd Leg
Date: 25 August 2011 Kick-off: 19:45
Venue: White Hart Lane (London)

This may very well be the easiest match preview I have to write all season. We are by far the better team in this match up and go into the game 5 goals to the good… Pretty, pretty, pretty good.

What all this means is that Harry has the luxury of leaving out some of the more important players and letting us see a few of our much heralded youth team play in a competitive match.

We should win this game

Harry mentioned in a recent press conference that we’d be likely to see Harry Kane, Andros Townsend and Tom Carroll play. Harry Kane is the player who excites me the most, his goal scoring record in our pseudo reserve team is second to none and he looks like he could be a really exciting player. We’ve seen it all before with Lee Barnard, but I really think if this lad can step up it will be fantastic. Andros Townsend is obviously quick although raw and with Tom Carroll we have a lad who has been praised a lot, but who I don’t know a great deal about.

The most important thing though is making sure that we don’t just stick a group of boys and unfit second string players out there. As much as I think Giovani Dos Santos and David Bentley have the ability to be proper Spurs players, if their heads aren’t in the game (I don’t know either’s state of mind) then it will do more harm than good to have them strolling around the pitch.

Harry Kane (Left)

So if we can see Harry Kane up front with someone like Rafa, at least for a half, and see how he gets on playing with real quality, perhaps the lad will earn himself a spot on our bench rather than in a league 1 side’s first team. I’d also like to finally have an excuse to sell Crouch, even if ‘Arry does love the only human/daddy-long-legs crossbreed ever released into the wild.

We’re through anyway!

Obviously we’re not strictly through to the next round yet, but I can’t see us giving up a 5 goal deficit. The thing is though, even if the stadium isn’t full to capacity (although it should be close, since it’s one of the Season Ticket games), lots of people have spent lots of money being there. With that in mind, we still need to go out there and put on a show. Maybe we won’t score 5 goals again and maybe it’s an opportunity to give Gomes another shot, or even Carlo, but I’ll be a bit miffed if we don’t take our opportunity to really express ourselves.

Spurs’ Team News

Predictably Luka Modrić is a doubt with his niggling injuries… and the fact Harry seems to keep suggesting he’s somehow become mentally retarded which seems to mean he can’t kick a white round object any more, but lets not dwell on the little man. Tom Huddlestone is also doubtful. I rather hope we don’t see him tonight as I think it’d be completely unnecessary to aggravate an ongoing injury in a game like this.

Injuries: Ledley King, William Gallas, Danny Rose, Wilson Palacios, Sandro and Steven Pienaar

Jenas is back in the frame and I’d put money on him starting in the centre of midfield.

Provisional Squad (BBC): Gomes, Friedel, Cudicini, Bale, Kaboul, Bassong, Dawson, Corluka, Walker, Assou-Ekotto, Townsend, Huddlestone, Lennon, Van der Vaart, Kranjčar, Modric, Livermore, Pavlyuchenko, Defoe, Crouch, Kane, Carroll.

Hearts’ Team News

Hearts’ manager has suggested that he will be making wholesale changes to his team (8 in all). As we established this time last week, the first team was lost on me, so I have no idea whether this will make much difference, although I imagine he is, sensibly, protecting his regulars for a gruelling season North of the border in which expectations from his lunatic chairman remain intense. No doubt the previous loss was a knock to the confidence too, so this exercise should protect bodies and souls.

Provisional squad (BBC): Kello, Hamill, Grainger, Jonsson, Webster, Black, C Elliott, Driver, Templeton, Obua, Sutton, Stevenson, McGowan, Novikovas, Skacel, Smith, Zaliukas, Robinson, MacDonald, Novikovas, Mrowiec.

Prediction

As before I’d like to see us score a decent number of goals. Players like Harry Kane have something to prove and to see him on the scoresheet would be enough to keep me happy. I’m going to plump for 3-0 in our favour, although they might pinch one.

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Heart of Midlothian 0 – 5 Tottenham Hotspur: Match Report

19 Aug

So, once again I’m not going to do this the traditional way and as ever there are a number of reasons for this, primarily revolving around my inability to do-so. I didn’t make notes during the game, I am not into all the stats and everybody else has already done it for me. I guess in reality this makes it more of a match review than a report, but what can you do?!

So I watched the match on TV, which never quite gives you quite the same picture you get from seeing the game live. On the other hand if you’re stuck behind the goal, half the time you have no bloody idea what the players up the other end of the pitch are doing. I hate the ITV punditry team. Andy Townsend being the worst of the lot. Anyone who talks about the keeper’s ‘goals’ instead of ‘goal’ (the keeper can only look after one at a time, it isn’t a plural you twat) doesn’t deserve to have his opinion taken seriously. Apart from that though, the game was thoroughly enjoyable.

If you read my preview, the basic theme was; we should tonk them, but based on all the evidence thus far, we probably won’t (I went for a 2-1 scoreline in favour of Spurs). Well I was right about the first part, but not the second. Barring a 10 or 15 minute spell at the start of the second half when we had some real and sustained pressure on our goal we genuinely looked a cut above and it seemed like we would score on every attack. My Newcastle supporting housemate’s assessment was simply ‘I think this game has taught us that Spurs are just better than Hearts’ and to be honest, that’s all we really learned here, and even that wasn’t much of a revalation.

In terms of individual performances, I was concerned that our make-shift centre midfield could get bullied, but Kranjčar showed his class (and a bit of his bloated gut), proving that you can stroll around the pitch, make the game look easy and still get away with it against some teams. Livermore, although not particularly defensively disciplined put in a proper shift and more than made up for Kranjčar’s laid back style. In terms of the front line, it’s easy to have doubts about the van der Vaart/Defoe pairing, but as long as no-one is trying to fling the ball into the box and one or the other can be a little unselfish it can work. Finally, the defense looked strong. Kyle Walker got caught out on a couple of occasions as you might expect from an attacking full-back. Assou-Ekotto is quite literally the coolest man in existence and the defensive partnership of Kaboul, which was once so fragile and inexperienced is beginning to come of age. We must be careful though, it’s Manchester United we must face next and they will provide a substantially stearner test of what we are made of.

It was good to see 5 different scorers get in on the act and to see both of our starting forwards score too, all too rare last season. Each of the goals was well taken, all generally similar looking placed shots into the corners from around 10-15 yards, although Bale did well to take the ball around the keeper with his first touch before slotting home at an angle. Whilst there was a hint of luck with van der Vaart’s first goal, bustling through a sea of players, each goal simply provided evidence of the gulf in class between the sides. There could have been more but once the air of superiority had set in, the attacking moves became a little over complicated, whilst the insisive breaks were those that generally yielded the goals.

Hearts certainly tried, particularly at the start of the second half, to salvage some pride, but the few shots they did manage to squeeze in were generally high and wide or dealt with by Gomes. The only real scare coming in a goal-mouth scramble which Hearts were unlucky not to score from.

In the end Spurs managed to effectively seal their passage into the Europa Lague group stages in just one of the two games, making the return leg at White Hart Lane a formality.

Spurs’ Player Ratings

Heurelho Gomes 6
Some dodgy moments, particularly in the second half, but a clean sheet will be great for the Brazilian’s confidence. Don’t be surprised to see Friedel start against United.

Kyle Walker 7
Looked like he may have picked up a knock in the second half, but played well. Link-up play with Lennon is currently non-existent and needs work in order to form a successful partnership.

Michael Dawson 8
Looked assured and revelling in his role as the team’s regular captain.

Younès Kaboul 7.5
Again, generally assured and confortable next to Dawson. Hopefully the second half of a consistent defensive partnership over the coming years.

Benoît Assou-Ekotto 8
Cool as a cucumber.

Aaron Lennon 7
Got his goal after a good cross from Defoe, but continues to drift in and out of games. He still doesn’t provide the searing pace and attacking thrust of old.

Jake Livermore 8
The youngster didn’t stand out, either for good, or bad reasons. Suggesting he could fit into this side on a regular basis. Whilst that wasn’t good enough to get Jamie O’Hara a game, Livermore appears to be liked by the current Spurs management. Took his goal well.

Niko Kranjčar 7
I’m not sure if the croation is lazy (like Le Tissier) or languid (like Berbatov) either way he’s both an example of class and frustration all in one package. He still doesn’t look fit and I’m not sure if his heart is in it at Spurs anymore.

Gareth Bale 8
A really good football player. I still think he needs a few more tricks and solutions up his sleeve, especially when faced with double marking, but he will create chances in every game. Scored a good goal.

Rafael van der Vaart 9 (mom)
Absolutely ran the show. Got the goal to set us on our way. Love his passion.

Jermain Defoe 7.5
Could be returning to his old (goalscoring) form. Needs to stop dropping deep, it’s not his game.

Sub ’59: Tom Huddlestone 7
Replaced Kranjcar, looked like he needed a run out. Showed his range of passing.

Sub ’70: Andros Townsend 6.5
Replaced Bale, Looked keen to impress, quick, little end product and too many long shots.

Sub ’79: Roman Pavlyuchenko 6
Replaced Defoe, didn’t have time to make an impression.

Referee

The BBC lists the referee in this game as ‘Tagliavento’, predictably he’s another man I’ve never heard of. He looked a little out of his depth but didn’t make any disasterous decisions. 7

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Heart of Midlothian vs Tottenham Hotspur: Preview

18 Aug

Europa League LogoEuropa League Playoff – 1st Leg
Date: 18 August 2011 Kick-off: 19:45
Venue: Tynecastle (Edinburgh)

Since I’ve had this thing for a little while now, it’s about time I did something constructive and write a preview of this game. I tried to write a season preview, but it was after the season had started (for everyone else) and I didn’t really have a great deal to say that I hadn’t already read. I am quite keen not to just regurgitate other people’s crap. I will also apologise now for only writing this about 3 or 4 hours before kick-off, it’s only just struck me that I have something to say!

With all that in mind, there are 101 different places you can find out who is injured or how many games Hearts have won this season compared with us. So I won’t bother with all that, because quite frankly I can’t be bothered to research it all and if I do it from memory I’ll only end up getting it wrong.

On that note, actually, if someone wants to get into writing a regular preview, or match reports for this blog, with proper stats and maybe some fancy boxes where you can compare top scorers or how many players on each team wear Nike football boots then that’d be really cool. Just because I’m not very good at finding the time to do all that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for such a thing.

In the meantime, since I am mostly all about opinions and bleating on about rubbish I’ll stick with that tried and tested formula. The most important bit (and best way of judging me and my opinions) is my prediction, which you’ll find at the bottom. Feel free to scroll past the following 600 words of crap to find the good stuff!

We should win this game

I held this opinion before we played Young Boys last season and although it took as two goes, eventually we did. This time around we’re playing a team from a similar (shitter) league and we don’t have to play on a stupid plastic pitch. Nor do we have the psychological pressure of trying to reach the Champions League. So, there really is no excuses for not winning here, except the fact we haven’t played as much football as everyone else.

I’m sure if we do lose, Mr Redknapp will find an excuse, I know already that it’s not his fault, so don’t even think about trying to blame him. (I’m warning you, the bloke has skin like kevlar).

I don’t really care about the Europa League

Now many of you may know this, but for the benefit of the yoof; back in the day there were 3 European competitions. The League Champions all went into the European Cup, Cup Winners into the Cup Winners Cup (funny, that!) and the best of the rest into the UEFA Cup. This inevitably ment that in any given season you would find Barcelona and Real Madrid split up between competitions, Manchester United, Liverpool Arsenal and Tottenham the same and so on throughout Europe. That meant winning any of those trophies really meant something. It meant that you had to get past some of the best teams in Europe regardless. Being in Europe meant everything, to paraphrase our greatest ever manager. Today being in the Champions League means everything. Money has meant that broadcasters and their audiences want to see the biggest teams fight it out. With it the other competitions diminished in stature and were re-branded in a vain attempt to restore them to prominence. Sadly now, we’re left with a competition with a ridiculous number of games in order to win a trophy no-one really cares about. It’s all gone a bit wrong.

In the end then, my main excitement here is finally watching a competitive game of football involving my beloved team and maybe one or two of our younger players getting a chance to shine. Unfortunately there are still no new faces to salivate over, but that’s a whinge for another day.

Spurs’ Team News

Sod it, I’ve changed my mind, I’ve just had a look at the Spurs website and to save any of you who have actually bothered to read through this doing the same, you can have a bit of info.

Injuries: William Gallas, Ledley King, Tom Huddlestone, Luka Modric (apparently), Jermaine Jenas, Steven Pienaar, Wilson Palacios and Sandro. (Basically every central midfielder, then. Start as you mean to go on and all that!)

The BBC says Alan Hutton is also injured although the official website hasn’t even bothered to mention him.

Normally I’d hope to list the squad of players Harry will be picking from here, but it seems that information just isn’t out there (at least none of the places I trust/bother to look at) so it’ll be a happy surprise for everyone when we see the line-up.

Hearts’ Team News

A cursory check of the BBC tells me that Medhi Taouil is out for Hearts. I have no idea how much that will affect them, because I’ve never heard of the bloke, but I am reliably informed he is a midfielder. They are also missing stikers Kevin Kyle and Calum Elliot, which may or may not be absolutely devastating for Hearts’ chances of scoring ‘an goals’.

Prediction

I have to say I’d love to see us score a hat-full and really get my juices flowing. Experience, both of Spurs in general and the pre-season specifically suggests that this is unlikely. We’ll probably have the run of play overall, have a few wobbles, go a goal down in the first half and at best, come back to win 3-1. For my prediction though I am going to go with an unconvincing 2-1 win.

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