Monday, December 11, 2006

That's More Like It!

Spurs finally dished out the sort of spanking on Saturday that a team packed full of quality should administer from time to time. It was hapless Charlton who were the victims, blown apart by a ruthless Spurs side who seem to reserve the last home game before Christmas for banging in 5 golden goals, having demolished Wolves in December 2003 and Saints in 2004 by the same number.

The game didn’t look like a 5-1 to start with as Charlton really looked like they were going to go for it, with two strikers and a lively Andy Reid in the hole behind them, they had all the possession in the first twenty minutes without really threatening. Spurs seemed to struggle to get a foothold in the game, and it is with credit to Martin Jol that he switched things around, matching Charlton’s 4-3-1-2 formation by moving Lennon into a free role rather than leaving him on the right. It paid dividends almost instantly as Lennon threaded the ball through to Berbatov, who controlled the ball on his thigh and toe poked it past Carson and into the net. Teemu Tainio then hit a speculative effort a few minutes later which found its way through a crowd, wrong footed Carson, and into the net for 2-0.

Charlton were dead and buried already by that stage, and it was great to finally see Spurs carry on looking for more goals rather than sit back and defend. As a result Charlton caught them on the break, with Tainio failing to tackle Reid properly on the halfway line, the ex-Spur ran down the wing, beat Chimbonda and crossed the ball only for Dawson to deflect it past Robinson. It was the predictable goal before half time that Spurs so often seem to concede, but they came out for the second half as if it hadn’t happened.

The best goal of the game was the third, with Tainio chipping the ball into the area for Berbatov to nod down to Malbranque who controlled the ball on his chest before steering it in with his left foot. He was chuffed, understandably after opening his account for his new club, and ended up getting booked for celebrating with the crowd. It was superb play all round, and even the Charlton defenders stood and admired the quality on display. The fourth goal owed everything to Lennon’s barnstorming challenge in midfield, and when the ball came to Defoe he lashed it in from twenty yards. At 4-1 Spurs carried on going and Robbo finally realised that you don’t have to boot it up field every time, as he threw the ball superbly to Berbatov who carried the ball from halfway to the penalty area, and when his attempted square pass to Lennon bounced off the defender he decided to smack it in himself for the fifth.

In the Telegraph review of the game, they state that if Berbatov had pace he would be one of Europe’s top strikers. How quick do they want him to be? You can’t score a goal like his second yesterday without being quick, and his goal away to Besiktas took similar ability too. He is not as fast as Eto’o or Henry, but he is intelligent in a Sheringham like manner, and his close control and twinkle toes make up for raw pace in spades. He is also excellent in the air (which speed merchants don’t tend to be), as Malbranque’s goal proved and indeed his own against Brugge in front of the Paxton did as well. He has nine goals so far in all competitions, and that is having missed a few games at the start of the season, so if he can plunder twenty-plus in his first Premiership season, then people will have to acknowledge him as a top striker.

Once the fifth went in Spurs eased off the gas, and quite rightly so with the number of games coming up this month. Murphy came on for Steed, Mido for Berbs and Stalteri for the ever impressive Chimbonda, and all three were surely being wrapped up for Thursday’s UEFA group decider with Dinamo Bucharest. Hopefully this game will be a watershed for Jol’s management of the team, as here was a perfect example of what happens when you go for the second and third goals in a game rather than sit back and defend what you’ve got. Not only do the opposition crumble, but you can take your main men off for a bit of a rest and avoid injury. There is the added bonus of entertaining the crowd, which is the point after all.

The icing was nearly added to the Christmas cake when Tom Huddlestone had a twenty-five yard screamer just dip over the bar. They had been lining it up for a while, like a rugby team setting the fly-half for a drop goal, and his attempt was not far away at all. The crowd encourage him to shoot at every opportunity after his thunderbolt against Port Vale, and he looks like he has the ability to score a few screamers each season. It was a shame not to cap a great performance by him and the team, but you can’t be greedy after waiting 57 games for Spurs to score more than three goals in the league.

A cracking game, and let’s hope there’s more to come this season.

The Waddler.