Tottenham Hotspur – Arsenal
1 – 0 Keane (29)
1 – 1 Toure (64)
1 – 2 Adebayor (78)
2 – 2 Jenas (90)
A point gained from best away forty five minutes since the win at Bolton which is why there is a tinge of disappointment at the outcome. In fact it is probably a bit of frustration with a dubious offside decision, two posts and a crossbar denying the full three points. If Tottenham were in the ascendancy in the first half, the roles were totally reversed in the second. There were several good performances – Freddie was lively until his hamstring did for him, Adebayor led the line well, Fabregas dominated and Diaby was immense in his versatility. It is certain that in the very near future, the midfield axis will be Diaby – Fabregas if he keeps up this level of performance. For Tottenham, Berbatov certainly proved that the money that is being talked about for a summer transfer would not be wasted by anyone choosing to try to sign him.
It was a tight call to disallow Adebayor’s tremendous finish in the tenth minute. Ljungberg, apparently offside when the initial pass was made, definitely onside when he flicked the ball into the path of the Togolese forward whose powerful drive finished with the ball in the net before Robinson could properly react. A classy strike that counted for nought but seemed to be the perfect riposte to put Spurs on the back foot following on from their bright start.
In the end though, it is the team’s inability to stop conceding goals through school playground defending that has cost us dear, the one area of the team that is unlikely to feature in the PFA Team Of The Season. Keane’s opener is squarely laid at the door of Lehmann. His continual antics of jumping around, complaining of fouls where none exist has been irksome at the very best this season. This time around, his supposed squabble with Berbatov, led to yellow cards for himself, the Bulgarian and Diaby. The problem was that it broke the concentration of the defence, requiring a retake of the corner. A flicked Dawson header from that kick found Keane unmarked and the lead given to Tottenham. This is a problem that has to be addressed this summer, either taking Lehmann in hand and telling him that it is frankly not good enough or allowing him to leave, spending part of the transfer budget on a replacement. Much as I like the German, this weakness is being exploited game in, game out and can no longer be tolerated as it is severely impacting on his defensive colleagues.
Thereafter Tottenham probed and had chances but looked ultimately as if they were happy to defend the one goal lead, not a good idea for a team who have kept only one clean sheet in the Premiership since last November. With minutes left in the half, Eboue played a neat one-two that left him free in the area. His low drive beat Robinson but rebounded into the middle of the area, Adebayor in the right place at the right time to sky the ball over the bar. A lack of confidence in not scoring for two months in the Premiership or a case of being under pressure? You decide but for what its worth, my bet was the former.
The second began with more urgency, Fabregas introduction following on from Freddie’s withdrawal just before half-time seeming to give extra impetus. It was his curled freekick just past the hour that allowed Toure to drift to the far post unmarked and drive home from close range and off Robinson’s knee. 1 – 1 and it seemed to be a staging block for an away victory. Having thumped the bar with a header, Adebayor released his frustration at not scoring for a couple of months in the Premiership by stretching to reach Fabregas freekick, 2 – 1 and seemingly just reward for the second half performance.
Inbetween times in the 71st minute Eboue broke into the area, got to the bye-line and cut back with no-one in the six yard area following the ball. TV Replays showed clearly Malbranque kicking the fullback’s calf before the pass was delivered – a stonewall penalty in modern parlance. Did it get given? Not on your Nelly. Which makes Jenas’ equaliser all the more galling to concede, despite it being a cracking strike. It almost makes you wish for the defensive dourness of the Graham era when they knew how to close out a game for a one-goal victory margin.
At the end of the day it is a well-earned point that means ECL football is now but a point away or more likely, a failure to win in their next games by Bolton and Everton. Following on from a turbulent week, it is a good end to have avoided defeat at Tottenham, one of the games where the naysayers expected us to lose. A restful summer for the players is another week closer. For the rest of us, next season is here one Saturday sooner.