Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Match Report: Tottenham 2 Newcastle 0


Ten-man Tottenham moved into the top four of the Premier League with victory over Newcastle in a feisty affair.
Aaron Lennon broke the deadlock in the second-half, cutting in from the right to drill an angled shot from just inside the area past keeper Tim Krul.
Spurs had Younes Kaboul sent off on 65 minutes for appearing to thrust his head at Newcastle's Cheik Tiote.
But Gareth Bale made sure of the points for the home side, surging down the left and firing in a rasping effort.
The scoreline was definitely a deserved one on the balance of play, although the Magpies did well to frustrate their usually free-flowing opponents for much of the match.
Aware of the home side's potency on the wings, Newcastle boss Alan Pardew packed the midfield and was forced to bring in full-back James Perch for the more assured Jose Enrique at left-back.
It was an ideal scenario for Tottenham right-winger Lennon. But, apart from the cross for Roman Pavlyuchenko's first-half header, brilliantly saved by Krul, and the goal, Lennon was given little space by former Nottingham Forest defender Perch.
In fact, the visitors' defence performed admirably with much of what Spurs threw at them in the opening 45 minutes. A marked difference to the opening five minutes against Manchester City.
Most of it was last ditch, however.
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp's side are a credit to the Premier League for staying true to their unofficial motto of "attack, attack, attack" and left-sided dynamo Bale has often led by example this season.
Midway through the first half he cut in from the left, eluded two Newcastle challenges and swept into the area before his attempt to shoot from little more than six yards was blocked by the biting Alan Smith.
Dutchman Rafael Van der Vaart, arguably this season's best signing so far, then tested Krul with a 25-yard free-kick which his compatriot had to tip over.
Van der Vaart then tried to create some room for himself inside the area but saw his shot blocked by Fabricio Coloccini.
And the closest the north Londoners came to scoring before the goal was right on the stroke of half-time when Krul produced an extraordinary save to deny Pavlyuchenko.
Perch had the right to claim he had Lennon "in his pocket" in the opening half, but he was all at sea for the opener when the England winger bore down on goal, after coming in from the right, before drilling a shot that deflected off the left-back and past Krul.
Tottenham were now looking to open up a Newcastle side who did well to keep the potent Londoners at bay.
But the home side suffered a setback in their quest when Kaboul was shown a straight red when he appeared to thrust his head at Tiote, who had forcefully, but cleanly, tackled him seconds earlier.
Instead of packing the defence and seeing out the match, Redknapp brought on forward Peter Crouch.
It was a bold move, although it was the slightly more defensive-minded Bale, who settled the match in typical fashion.
Wales international Bale was sent on his way down the left by Luka Modric before charging inside and rocketing an unstoppable shot with unerring accuracy past the reach of Krul.
That was essentially game, set and match.
The victory meant that Redknapp's side stepped up their Premier League challenge in what is one of the most open title races in recent years.
It was also the first time since the opening day of the season that Spurs kept a clean sheet - more of those and, come May, the men from White Hart Lane could be toasting an event that has not occurred since 1961.

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