Date: Saturday 11th Feb, 2012.
Referee: Andre Marriner.
For Newcastle United, this was a day to forget – started poorly, defended poorly, played poorly” Those words uttered by Sir Alan Shearer just about summed up this game for us. To be fair, Alan equally poured lavish praise on the performance of Tottenham Hotspur, who started well, attacked incisively with pace and skill, and pretty much outplayed us in every department.
We can have no complaints. This was not a game where the score flattered to deceive, in fact it could have been a lot worse. Yes it might have been different if Tiote had been sitting in front of the defence, if Cabaye had been available to manufacture some bullets for our Senegal strike force to fire, if Ryan Taylor had been there to put the free kick over the wall, if Steven Taylor had been in defence.
Sadly, that’s all ifs and buts. The truth is that the 11 men we sent out to play this game just weren’t at the races. Alan Pardew took the blame for getting his formation wrong, but how many of us before the game didn’t want to see both Ba and Cisse up front in our favoured 4-4-2 formation? Personally I expected Tottenham to score, especially against the defence we had out and without Tiote to protect it. So in my book we needed some potency up front. And looking at the players actually available to Pardew, there wasn’t a great deal of scope to change things in a way which would have produced an improvement.
Sir Kevin Keegan, a pundit on ESPN these days hit the nail on the head. “This Newcastle team reminds me of my own team when I was manager… but it’s dangerous to go to Spurs gung-ho”. That wasn’t hindsight, by the way, that was Kevin speaking before the game.
This was one of those games where we needed to get to 20 minutes with the score at 0-0, keep things calm and not allow the opposition to get their tails up. It didn’t work. In truth, Spurs had this game won inside six minutes. With the clock on 3 minutes 3 seconds Adebayor put the ball across goal, eluding three United players and Tim Krul to leave an open goal for Assou-Ekotto, who left-footed into the back of the net from close range. Tottenham Hotspur 1 Newcastle United 0
With the clock on 5 minutes 30 seconds Adebayor lumbered down the right again, crossed into the box past Coloccini and Williamson, and there was United old boy Louis Saha to tap a mid air shot past Krul. Tottenham Hotspur 2 Newcastle United 0
Tottenham then handled the ball in the area on 12 minutes, right in front of referee Andre Marriner, who just pretended it hadn’t happened. It was becoming obvious this wasn’t going to be our day. Cisse at this stage was foraging for the ball as a right winger, and managed to put in a couple of good crosses which no-one got on the end of – he can’t be expected to be in two places at once, I suppose.
Just before the 20 minute mark Spurs went further ahead. Modric put the ball into the box from the left, Adebayor tapped it a couple of feet to Saha and he rifled it in with Williamson and Coloccini both turning their backs as he shot. Tottenham Hotspur 3 Newcastle United 0
On one of United’s rare forays into the Spurs half, Ba was brought down by Parker on the edge of the box. Parker was booked and Ba’s free kick was fingered away by Friedel, but the referee decided it should be a goal kick not a corner. We then proceeded to have our best spell so far, actually passing the ball to each other for a change and playing some of the game in Tottenham’s half. It couldn’t last, and sadly it didn’t. After 33 minutes Saha put the ball into the box from the left, Adebayor shot against Krul and Kranjcar ran in to blast it left-footed into the net. Tottenham Hotspur 4 Newcastle United 0
Kyle Walker was booked for a tackle on Perch 7 minutes before half time whilst the Spurs fans demonstrated their mathematical prowess by telling everyone that there was “only one Harry Redknapp”.
Shane Ferguson started the second half as a replacement for Gabriel Obertan. Personally I couldn’t believe how quiet the Spurs fans were – 4-0 up with their team in total command stroking the ball around and yet it was like a library.
We continued to give the ball away freely on the odd occasion we managed to get hold of it, and Tottenham were playing at practice match pace, no doubt wanting to take a breather.
On 63 minutes Assou-Ekotto crossed from the left, Saha headed it a short distance to Adebayor, who turned and scored as Williamson turned his back and fell over. The goal was a bit like the one Demba Ba scored against Manchester United when we beat them 3-0 on January 4th 2012. Tottenham Hotspur 5 Newcastle United 0
At this point Redknapp took pity on us and sent on Defoe and Lennon, who came on in place of Saha and Bale. Our Silver Supremo responded by sending on Gosling for Papiss Cisse. One of Gosling’s first acts was to chop down Lennon and get himself a yellow card for his trouble.
The Spurs fans in the 36,000 crowd burst into song “Harry Redknapp, we want you to stay”. Alluding of course to the fact that Redknapp is favourite to take over the poisoned chalice that is the England Manager’s job. It’s understandable they should want him to turn the job down, as ‘Arry himself famously put it:
“When I came ‘ere, they only had two points after eight games.”
On 74 minutes Ledley King was replaced by ex-Blackburn Rover Ryan Nelson. Three minutes later Guthrie hit a good cross into the box which Ba got on the end of and headed at Friedel, the ball then bounced to Gosling who hit it over the bar when it would have been easier to score. Defoe provided Adebayor with a couple of good chances which he thankfully scorned.
With 4 minutes left, Lovenkrands came on for Guthrie, and shortly afterwards Defoe blatantly dived in the box trying to get a penalty but wasn’t booked. The Geordie faithful woke the Tottenham fans up with the usual chant about the quality of their support. Spurs fans responded questioning the quality of the United’s defence – can’t argue with them there. And that was pretty much it as the game fizzled out.
Just one of those games really, best forgotten. Our passing was largely abysmal and we didn’t press the ball the way we normally do – we gave them the space to play in and they took full advantage of it.
Positives we can take from the game? Well, Cabaye, Tiote and Ryan Taylor will be back for the next game. And even after this defeat we’re still incredibly only one point off fourth place with everything to play for. But I suppose the biggest plus is that we won’t have to play a side every week in the form that Spurs showed here. Oh yes – and we must be improving, as we only lost the second half 1-0! Man of the Match? We didn’t have one.
Tottenham Hotspur: Brad Friedel (G), Kyle Walker, Matt Dwason, Ledley King (Ryan Nelson 74), Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Kranjcar, Scott Parker, Luca Modric, Gareth Bale (Lennon 67), Louis Saha (Jermain Defoe 67), Adebayor
Subs: Carlo Cudicini, Aaron Lennon, Jermain Defoe, Danny Rose, Jake Livermore, Ryan Nelsen, Bongani Khumalo.
Newcastle United: Tim Krul, Danny Simpson, Mike Williamson, Fabricio Collocini, Davide Santon, Gabriel Obertan (Shane Ferguson 46), James Perch, Danny Guthrie (Peter Lovenkrands 86), Jonas Gutierrez, Demba Ba, Papiss Demba Cisse (Dan Gosling 67)
Subs: Rob Elliot, Hatem Ben Arfa, Peter Lovenkrands, Mehdi Abeid, Dan Gosling, Shola Ameobi, Shane Ferguson.
Goals: Benoit Assou-Ekotto (4), Louis Saha (6. 20) Niko Kranjcar (34), Emannuel Adebayor 64.
Yellow Cards: Scott Parker (24), Kyle Walker (39), Dan Gosling (69).
Red Cards: None