Looking Forward

 

SUNDERLAND (Home)

Premier League

Saturday 8th February 2003

With an FA Cup tie that went into extra time and penalties behind them, the Sunderland team might be physically worse off that Spurs, but they will have the boost of actually having won against Blackburn Rovers, albeit in a  shoot-out.  Mind you, Spurs will be fighting to put out their first choice team as injuries have struck again in crucial areas.

The loss of Dean Richards, Robbie Keane and now Anthony Gardner have been particularly noticeable and it is hoped that the first two will be available for this match.  However, Sunderland seem to have a worse injury crisis than Spurs at the moment - hard as that is to believe.  They have six players out ... McAteer (hernia), Reyna (knee), Myhre (thigh), Poom (back), Piper (flu) and Bjorklund (hamstring).

This has allowed Thomas Sorensen to return in goal and although he has had a tough time since he's been back, the three own goals put past him in the last league match against Charlton didn't help.  He is an agile keeper and big enough to dominate in the box, however, the defence in front of him will have to work hard to stop the Spurs players getting those efforts in on goal.  Their own forwards have not been scoring many, but the defence have only West Ham and Bolton as back lines more leaky.  Steven Wright was signed from Liverpool, but you can understand why they let him go.  He lacks the concentration required from a Premiership defender and although he can be dangerous on the overlap, he does leave gaps behind him when doing so.  With Stanislav Vargas looking at a move to Celtic, Jody Craddock and Phil Babb have formed the central defensive partnership.  Craddock adds height, but Babb is not blessed with great pace and Robbie Keane might make his Republic of Ireland team-mate pay if he makes the match.  Michael Gray is almost a veteran, but isn't that old at 28.  He is still a good user of the ball and Spurs will need to block his passage to the dead ball line.  Julio Arca could come into the picture as he has recovered from injury and loan signing Talal El Karkouri from Paris St. Germain might be utilised as a stopper.

The midfield tends to be quite workmanlike, but the introduction of former Tranmere Rovers starlet Sean Thornton on Wednesday produced some moments of skill.  Spurs were in for the young Irishman, but he opted for Sunderland and has just started to get the odd game.  Gavin McCann will work hard, as will Darren Williams or Paul Thirwell, who can scrap in the midfield area.  They have pace on the flanks in the middle of the pitch, with Kevin Kilbane and the much sought after David Bellion.  The Irishman loves a dribble, while the Frenchman is being touted as the "new Thierry Henry", with his blistering pace.  George McCartney is a player who has been played in defence, but can also break things up in midfield.

Kevin Phillips has come back into a bit of form with six goals in the last twelve games.  Hopefully as he scored on Wednesday, this will be the second of the "one every two games" he scores in !!  Rumours about him coming to Tottenham were still circulating on the eve of the transfer window and that has gone quiet now, but should Sunderland be relegated, then they will be stoked up once again.  Although he hasn't had much action since his move from Ipswich Town, Marcus Stewart is a lively striker, who has a knack for getting goals.  Expect him to appear on the bench.  With Niall Quinn retired, there are fewer options up front for the Stadium of Light side, but there is one goal-scorer who we haven't mentioned yet and that is the two goal man from the Charlton match.  Unfortunately, both were in his own net !!  Michael Proctor will be looking to make amends if he does get on the pitch, so Spurs had better be aware of him in the box ... either one that is !!

Howard Wilkinson has hardly done much better than Peter Reid, but with time behind him, Reid thought he couldn't take the team any further and wanted to hand over to a new face.  Well, Sunderland got one of those, but it was an old one !!  Steve Cotterill is highly regarded as one of the new breed of coaches in the game and he is obviously being groomed to take over from Wilko at some stage.  If they sink to Division One, then he could be the man to take the helm to try and steer them back up.  The side have been lacking confidence, but that might change now.  However, they are not great on their travels and have only one win at Leeds, although they have drawn a fair percentage of their away games.  Take away their cup wins and their last three points came against Liverpool back on Dec. 15th.

While the Black Cats are bottom of the League, they have one victory over us already this season and this game will not be a forgone conclusion.  They will be buoyed by the FA Cup result and will be fighting for every point they can get.  A lot depends on who Tottenham are able to put out, but I predict a narrow win ...

PREDICTION : -   Tottenham  1    Sunderland  0

For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.

 

 

Tottenham  4    Sunderland  1                 (Half-time score : 2-1)
Premier League
Saturday 8th February 2003
Venue : -  White Hart Lane
Kick Off : -  15.00 p.m.
Weather : -  Dry, mild
Referee : -  R. Styles (Waterlooville)
Crowd : -  36,075
Teams : -  
Tottenham : -  Keller; Carr, Taricco, King, Richards; Bunjevcevic (Freund 77), Anderton, Poyet (Etherington 75), Davies; Sheringham, Keane (Doherty 21)
Unused subs. : - Sullivan, Acimovic.

Sunderland : -  Sorensen; Wright, Thome (Piper 70), Craddock, McCartney; Thornton, Arca, Karkouri, McCann (Thirlwell 61); Phillips, Proctor (Flo 59)
Unused subs. : - Macho, Babb

Colours : -  
Tottenham  -  White shirts, navy blue shorts, white socks with navy blue turnovers

Sunderland  -  Light blue shirts, white shorts, light blue socks

Scorers : -  
Tottenham  -  Poyet 15, Doherty 45, Davies 68, Sheringham 85

Sunderland  -  Phillips 27

Cards : -  
Tottenham  -  None

Sunderland -  Phillips (dissent) 39, McCann (foul) 51

A vintage performance from one of Tottenham's veterans and a milestone for another marked an easy-in-the-end victory for Tottenham over rock-bottom Sunderland.  Despite this, Spurs allowed Sunderland to appear everything but an all-but-relegated side, during a 20 minute spell in the first half.

The threat from the visitors was mainly powder puff, but there was enough chances for them to enter the half-time break ahead rather than behind.  New Moroccan signing Karkouri produced an early elaborate overhead kick that carried little power and Proctor could have nodded the Black Cats ahead from a bouncing ball into the box, but he lost his bearings and probably didn't know what to do after scoring two own goals last week !!

Simon Davies had put an early Anderton cross over the bar with his head, but when along kick downfield by Keller found it's way to Keane, he passed on to Anderton on the left side of the area.  Just when it looked as thought he scoring chance had gone, with Anderton choosing not to shoot, he wrapped his left foot around the ball and squared it for Poyet to sneak in behind the static defenders and slip it home from close range.

In fact, Gus had an even better chance a couple of minutes later, when Taricco's pass found the Uruguayan in the clear and past the defence, but he failed to work out where he was and with only Sorensen to beat, he put the shot into the side-netting.  It was around this time that Robbie Keane twisted his knee when he tried to turn and stepped on the ball instead.  He soon left the field to be replaced by Doherty.

Spurs pressed forward and Bunjy hit a cleared cross on the volley, but it went well wide.  Gus was having a purple patch and it was only the Sunderland keeper's right hand that stopped him grabbing his second from a powerful header that ended up being pushed over the bar.  Spurs even fancied a goal from the Dazza-Teddy corner combination, but Ted's shot sailed over the bar.

At this stage Tottenham were dominating the play, but they suddenly started to sit off Sunderland a bit and this allowed them to come forward at Spurs.  They had already conceded a silly corner, when a good cross was bent in low by McCann behind the Lilywhite defence, which stood and watched as Phillips nipped in before Keller, lobbed the ball up in the air and was first to it, smashing into an empty net from a yard out.  It was a poor goal defensively, but after that there were few opportunities for Sunderland to add to their poor away scoring record.

For a while Tottenham struggled to get any sort of flow going, but eventually they maintained their hold on the game.  Anderton fizzed a long range free kick just over the bar and Doherty made his presence felt by nodding down in the box to set up Poyet, but his shot was blocked by a defender.  Gus was probably hoping that a Sunderland defender would put it in for him.  Indeed, Craddock cleared a cross with a header that rocketed past the angle of his own goal.  Last week he would have stuck it away - no problem !!  Bunjy looked like he fancied a goal today and was again left with a shot, this time from a Deano knock-down, but the Dane in goal, got down well to it.  Just when it looked like Spurs wouldn't be able to take a lead into half-time, Gary Doherty rose at the far post to head in Darren Anderton's deep corner past a statuesque Black Cats defence.  While there have been questions asked about his inclusion as a striker, the Irishman can be useful if you play to his strengths.  He is not the same player as Keane and it should be realised that that is the case.

With two strikes in the net and Robbie Keane off the pitch, it was touch and go how Spurs might approach the second half, with more goals needed to make the three points safe.  Poyet started the second period as he started the first, with a shot across the Sunderland goal that had Sorensen scurrying to make sure it wasn't going inside the post.  Anderton then produced a great run on the left to meet Sheringham's pass, but his angled drive just flicked the keeper's hand before it missed the far post by inches.

The best chance for Spurs to extend their lead came when freed down the left side of the box, having beaten the offside trap.  Unfortunately, he spent so long looking back for defenders to catch him, that he forgot where he was and Sorensen came out at his feet to block his shot.  What he should have done was square the ball to Davies who had broken through with him and was unmarked five yards out.  However, that was on the hour and Spurs only had to wait a few minutes more before adding to their lead.  Spurs got a free-kick when Thome was adjudged to have pulled Poyet down and after having his first effort headed out, Anderton played the ball in low to the edge of the box from a central position.  Gus flicked the ball on for Simon Davies to nutmeg his marker and finish clinically past the keeper.

Sunderland made a couple of substitutions to try and shake things up, but Tottenham pressed on.  Despite Thirwell hitting a shot that skimmed the top of the bar from 25 yards, it was Spurs who finished the stronger.  Knocking the ball about confidently now, they opened the North-Easterners defence up and a set-up for Steffen Freund almost opened his Tottenham account.  His effort took a huge deflection and again Sorensen had to scramble along his line to make sure it went wide.  There was no respite from the corner, as Anderton's corner into the heart of the six yard box was met by Sheringham's head for his 300th career goal.  His T-Shirt message told the story and I am not sure how long he had been willing to wear it if he hadn't scored today !!

In truth, Tottenham were always a step above the visitors and it is difficult to see how they lost at the Stadium of Light.  The Black Cats are on such a poor run that you can't realistically see them getting out of trouble at the bottom of the League.  There were few plus points for them, apart from the keeper keeping the score down.  It is a shame, as they have had some success in staying in the Premiership, but Wilkinson and Cotterill will have their hands full in trying to get them back up should they eventually go down, as seems likely.

As for Tottenham, Richards was outstanding at the back, Ledley comfortable and Carr back to his best form.  In midfield Simon Davies covered so much ground and took his goal well, Bunjy had one of his better games and Anderton was instrumental in setting up the win.  Teddy took his goal well, but once again, some of his fancy flicks didn't work and it looks bad when that happens.  

Is Europe a possibility ?  Yes, if Spurs can play like this more often than not, but the other sides might be a bit more organised than Sunderland, who were all over the place at times. All Tottenham can do is win the games that they have left.  Not all easy, but they have to have a go. 

MEHSTG TOP MAN : - DEAN RICHARDS

THE POLYPHANT

 

THE THREE TONS

 

Tottenham have a horrible habit of losing games that they should win (see the first match of the season between these two sides at the Stadium of Light).  However, on this occasion they answered Glenn Hoddle's plea for ruthlessness.  Not that the opposition put up much of a fight.

Spurs started well, but they could easily have found themselves behind as Proctor almost got on the scoresheet with a header at the right end !!  He completely mis-timed it and with only Keller to beat, he was not to get a better chance.  Indeed, Gus Poyet had more chances himself than the whole of the Sunderland side put together.  And it was he who tucked away Darren Anderton's unselfish low ball into the six yard box in the fifteenth minute.  He was twice denied the opportunity to add to his personal tally, when he dragged one shot wide and another headed effort was well tipped over by Sorensen.

Just when it looked like Tottenham might score again, they got pegged back to 1-1, when McCann slid a cross in behind the defence and in front of Keller, which Phillips read first.  He managed to toe-end the ball up into the air and while Keller tried to prevent him getting that ball, as it dropped the Sunderland goal-poacher was left with nothing more than a tap in to put his side level.

Sunderland had briefly threatened to take a grip on the game through the poor-man's David Beckham (look-a-like) Sean Thornton, but the weight he appeared to be carrying made him fade from the game.  His attempt at "Tonight Matthew I will be ..." was pretty convincing to the point of having a flick at an Argentinian (Taricco), while on the floor.  If only Kim Nielsen had been refereeing !!

Spurs made heavy weather of the middle of the first half and had to wait until the final seconds of the half to regain the lead.  It was a straight forward affair, with Anderton placing a corner to the back post, where Doherty rose unopposed to head home.  Spurs had just about edged the half on chances, if not possession, but the way they had been lax in letting Sunderland dictate a period of the match was of concern to Hoddle, who made an unaccustomed first half appearance on the touchline.  Perhaps the missing John Gorman (replaced on the bench by Calderwood) would have taken charge, but Hod felt he needed to direct proceedings from down below.

Sunderland had even fewer chances in the second half.  A Phillips free-kick made Kasey save, while Thirwell struck a hard shot that hit the bar on the way into the Park Lane crowd.  Apart from that there was little for them to do except defend.  Poyet, Anderton and Doherty all had good efforts on goal before the third arrived.  Doherty's was the clearest and he muffed his opening with a poor choice of final ball.  He tried to shoot low past Sorensen, when he should have looked up as Simon Davies was alongside him and unmarked with an open goal in front of him.

It was Davies who got the third, when Anderton played the ball along the ground to Poyet on the edge of the area.  He touched the ball off the side of his foot to put Davies in the area, where he nut-megged Craddock, took the ball on one pace and as the goalie moved to his right, the Welshman stuck it past his left hand.  It was a piece of class from an ever-improving player.

The day was almost complete, when Steffen Freund strode forward and hit a shot from outside the box that caught a Sunderland defender and looked like it was going in.  That was last week's thing and this time, it slipped past the post to the right.  While Freund was convinced his original shot was going to hit the back of the net, referee Styles indicated to him that it was going about two yards wide !!

The respite was brief as the fourth goal came with a few minutes remaining.  It was fitting that it should be Anderton's corner that Teddy headed home past an unchallenging defence, as Darren has probably made the majority of Sheringham's 300 goals in his career.

Spurs looked as though they meant business today, although they went to sleep a bit in the first 45.  To score four with Robbie Keane off injured after 21 minutes and a makeshift partnership up front of Sheringham and Doherty was a minor miracle.  It is something we have patently failed to do enough of all season.  Perhaps the movement and passing that was exemplified in this match might be put to more use in others between now and the end of the season ?

Carr was playing very well with an attacking bent down the right, while Taz was a bit more withdrawn on the other side.  In the middle King and Richards were back to their best, but the goal will raise question marks about who is marshalling the defence and making the decisive move to stop the ball getting to where it did.  I must admit that the presence of Bunjevcevic puzzles me.  What does he do ?  He rarely makes a bone-crunching tackle and although he looks good on the ball, he rarely makes a killer pass.  So Hoddle must think he brings something to the side.  Doherty struggles to play in the style the Spurs fans want him to, but if Tottenham play to his strengths, he can do a job up there.  Teddy had one of those days.  He could have scored when a defender nodded the ball into his path in the box, but he blazed over.  He did get his goal in the end from his old supplier Anderton, who had a very good game.  Davies was not in the game the whole time, but when he was in possession, you had the feeling that something would happen.

While we would like to play Sunderland every week, it's just not going to happen.  But we do have to play Bolton, Birmingham, Fulham, West Ham, Leeds, West Brom and Middlesbrough.  All occupy the the places above Sunderland at the moment.  Wins in those games would give us a minimum of 63 points and somewhere around 67 would give us a chance of Europe.  It is not impossible, but needs a consistent effort from the players to get that far.

One thing today's win should ensure ... that we don't get relegated !!

Purcell Cole

 

 

Other scores this weekend :

Birmingham City

1 Chelsea 3 Saturday
Blackburn Rovers 1 SCBC 0 Saturday
Charlton Athletic 2 Everton 1 Saturday
Fulham 2 Aston Villa 1 Saturday
Leeds United 1 West Ham United 0 Saturday
Liverpool 1 Middlesbrough 1 Saturday
Manchester United - Manchester City - Sunday
Newcastle United - Arsenal - Sunday
WBA 1 Bolton Wanderers 1 Saturday

 

League Table
 
  P W D L F A Pts
1 Arsenal 26 17 5 4 56 28 56
2 Manchester United 26 16 5 5 43 24 53
3 Chelsea 27 13 9 5 48 27 48
4 Newcastle United 25 15 3 7 41 31 48
5 Everton 27 13 6 8 35 32 45
6 Liverpool 27 11 10 6 38 26 43
7 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 27 12 6 9 40 37 42
8 Charlton Athletic 27 12 6 9 36 34 42
9 SCBC 27 10 9 8 28 26 39
10 Manchester City 26 11 4 11 37 37 37
11 Blackburn Rovers 27 9 10 8 32 31 37
12 Aston Villa 27 10 5 12 31 29 35
13 Leeds United 27 10 4 13 34 34 34
14 Middlesbrough 26 8 7 11 30 30 31
15 Fulham 26 8 6 12 28 34 30
16 Birmingham City 27 6 8 13 23 40 26
17 Bolton Wanderers 27 5 10 12 30 44 25
18 WBA 27 5 6 15 20 38 21
19 West Ham United 27 4 8 15 28 52 20
20 Sunderland 27 4 7 16 18 42 19

 

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