Date:Thursday December 30 2010
White Hart Lane
You sense that Alan Pardew is winging it slightly when being interviewed post-match. That impression comes from a scary recognition that the only quality we lacked in the defeat to Spurs was in the final third.
Sorry Alan but we lacked quality all over the park. Granted James Perch was deputising for Jose Enrique at left back and Alan Smith was filling in for the suspended Kevin Nolan, but for all the bluster there wasn't much to write home about over yesterdays performance.
Of course, 'winging it' was something the home side did to good effect, both their wide men contributing a goal each to prove to be the real difference between the sides. And in doing so, painfully exposed the ineffective contribution of our own wide men.
The first half was littered with bad tempered play but short of real class. Although good play from the home side saw Pavlyuchenko's goal-bound header brilliantly saved by Tim Krul. The young Dutchman tipping the ball onto one post, only for it to bounce across the line and hit the other post.
With tempers rising ever more in the 2nd half, captain for the day, Joey Barton, led the way for United with some increasingly irritating involvement with the referee, crowd and opposition. None of which would have mattered much if it had proved effective in anything other than detracting from his ability on the ball.
Both Simpson and Perch had tough tasks on their hands in keeping Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon in check. The latter struggled more than the former but neither were particularly troubled until just before the hour. Lennon's direct running saw him skip past Perch and drive the ball across Krul and into the bottom corner to make it 1-0. Perch's half decent performance then began to fall away as Lennon almost reproduced the goods not longer after, the left back watching the ball not the man and leaving Lennon in acres of space. Fortunately, the winger dragged his shot wide.
The signs were ominous with the home side settling into some decent football and Modric neat and tidy in the middle. But shortly after the first goal, Younes Kaboul got himself needlessly sent off for a clear and yet pathetic head butt on Tiote, who could easily have already been off the park for several niggling fouls.
Sensing a chance to get something from the game, Pardew swapped Gutierrez for Ranger and brought on Lovenkrands to replace Tiote. And it was Lovenkrands who nearly profited from a Barton throughball, the Dane beating the offside trap. But his first touch was poor allowing the defenders to get back.
Worse was to come when he gave the ball to Andy Carroll who was hustled off the ball by four defenders. Modric picked up the loose ball and drove forward before finding Gareth Bale. And the winger needed no invitation, as he tied Steven Taylor in knots before drilling the ball expertly past Krul and into the far corner to extend the lead.
Standing with a mate after the Manchester City game, I remarked with a pained expression that I wouldn't mind watching some of the football his team play on a regular basis. He's a Spurs fan and they were busy turning over Aston Villa. In truth, he's got a lot more class than a lot of other Tottenham supporters, so it wasn't too difficult to tell him. But the truth hurts, they weren't on great form yesterday but what we'd give to be in their position right now...
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Date:Thursday December 30 2010
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