Newcastle United 1 – Tottenham Hotspur 1
Aaron Lennon had a moment of brilliance in the 90th minute to secure Spurs a share of the spoils from their trip up to St. James Park after a sublime goal from Fabricio Coloccini and a resilient Newcastle kept the high-powered Tottenham under wraps for the majority of the match.
Coming into this match, much was made of Spurs inability to win at Newcastle in recent years with the home side taking maximum points in 8 of the last 9 meetings. There were some changes to Tottenham’s line-up due to injuries with Carlo Cudicini replacing Gomes in goal, former United captain Jermaine Jenas in for Wilson Palacios and Gareth Bale moving to left-back for Benoit Assou-Ekotto, which allowed for Steven Pienaar to make his Spurs debut in Bale’s usual position.
Right from the whistle, one could sense this was to be a different story altogether. Within the first few minutes, Spurs made their intentions known as Jermain Defoe lashed a shot narrowly wide after some good work from Man of the Match Aaron Lennon. Tottenham was flying around the pitch, playing some attractive football, until Gareth Bale had to be subbed off due to injury at the 11 minute mark. He was replaced by former Newcastle player, Sebastian Bassong, much to the delight of the home crowd. Alan Pardew must have been pleased to see Bale not being able to cause headaches to his side for the remainder of the match. The majority of the first half consisted of Tottenham trying to break down a stubborn Newcastle team who, when in possession never seemed to threaten. Only once during the opening period did Newcastle ask questions of the Tottenham back-line and to be honest, they were unlucky not be a goal up when Leon Best clipped the underside of the crossbar after some neat work and a fine cross from Jonas Gutierrez, who gave Alan Hutton problems all throughout the entire 90 minutes. For the remainder of the first 45, it continued to be one-way traffic and should have been 1 nil to the visitors when Rafael van der Vaart, after some neat work from new signing Steven Pienaar, played the ball into the path of the on-rushing Jermain Defoe. He seemed destined to score, but some excellent keeping from Newcastle keeper Steven Harper denied the England striker. This opportunity was basically a microcosm of Tottenham’s strikers inability to finish chances this season. The halftime whistle came and I am sure Defoe’s miss was the first thing Harry Redknapp spoke about in the dressing room.
While the first half was all Tottenham, Newcastle came roaring back from the start of the second 45. More good work from Gutierrez allowed Best another free header, which he pushed wide as Newcastle brought men forward. These openings almost led to some counter-attacking chances for the visitors, but Spurs wasted these chances with poor passes and lapses in concentration, with new signing Pienaar being guilty of many of these opportunities. Tottenham were left to rue these spurned chances as Newcastle took the lead, against the run of play, after a long ball from Danny Guthrie into the box that was controlled well by center-back Coliccini, who took a few touches to take tortured right-back Alan Hutton out of position and make space for him to fire in a shot, that should have been beaten away by Cudicini, but instead went into the back of the net. With their backs against the wall, Spurs pushed forward and almost equalized shortly after when more good work from Lennon made space on the left, and only a fine save from Harper at the near post prevented the diminutive winger from getting on the score-sheet. The disappointing Jenas was replaced by striker Peter Crouch as Harry rearranged the team into a 3-5-2 with Lennon and Hutton as wing-backs, as he felt a more direct approach might result in a goal for the visitors. Unfortunately, this almost resulted in a second goal for the visitors. Only a fine save from Cudicini prevented substitute Peter Lovenkrands from putting the home side out of reach. At the other end, midfield maestro Luka Modric rattled the crossbar with a stinging drive after another fine move by Lennon. At this point of the match, it was strictly Tottenham attacking and Newcastle playing the counter, which they did to almost perfection when a four on two resulted in a wasted cross that put Gutierrez out of play. As it looked like the match was Newcastle’s, the ever-pesky Jermain Defoe managed to knock-down a long-ball, get the ball out of his feet and to an on-rushing Lennon, who jinked back and forth, turned Danny Simpson the wrong way, and fired in a low shot past Harper and low into the near post. It was at least what Spurs deserved after controlling most of the match.
Talkng Points/ Questions
I ask this question almost after every loss or draw, why is it that individual errors continue to haunt us? How could Cudicini not have stopped the Coliccini goal? How many times did Hutton need to be skinned before Harry realized that he should not be our starting right-back? Why wasn’t the ineffective Pienaar replaced earlier as we have the ultra-talented Niko Kranjcar who loves playing on the left side of midfield? How many times are we going to let our best striker, Roman Pavlyuchenko, sit on the bench and stick with the ineffective Crouch and Defoe? Why wasn’t Sandro played as a defensive midfielder as Newcastle is quite the physical side? And the number one question…..WHY DOES HARRY INSIST ON PLAYING JERMAINE JENAS? We loan out good players and keep the bad ones, why?Follow @TrfficTottenham