With a sun that burned down on the White
Hart Lane stadium, the match was always going to be a slower version of
last week's friendly against PSV Eindhoven ... wasn't it ? Well,
no actually. It was a slow, but technically expert performance
from both sides with no little pace about it, despite the regular drinks
breaks for players to take water on board.
The start of the match saw a minute's
silence for the young Man U player Jimmy Davis, who dies will travelling
to a match for Watford, where he was on loan for the season and for
ex-Blackburn and Fulham manager Ray Harford, who died yesterday of
cancer. The announcement of the silence was made too early by the
announcer and this lead to booing of the Sporting Lisbon fans (numbering
about 250-300) who were singing away oblivious. But the minutes
silence had not actually started, even though many fans had stood up for
it. Chirpy was still in the centre circle and the captains still
exchanging pennants and doing the toss. It was only when the teams
stood around the centre circle that the stadium fell quiet for the
remembrance of the two football men.
There was even less of a crowd than last
week and the idea of kids for a quid is great, but only if accompanied
by an adult seemed to have backfired. However, the Portuguese fans
made a lot of noise and the Spurs fans took the opportunity to sing some
songs while they could get into the ground before the season took hold.
Spurs produced a sprightly start, taking
the game to Sporting at quite a pace. As early as the third
minute, Spurs might have taken the lead. Robbie tricked his way
down the right wing and put in a wicked cross that Taricco (what the
hell was he doing up there) met full with his forehead, forcing the goalie to save very well. But he could not hold
it and the ball fell invitingly for Postiga closing in, but his 2 yard
shot was too close to the keeper, who grabbed it.
Spurs were moving the ball quite nicely
and it was not surprising that they had the pitch watered just before
kick off to give it a bit of zip. The ball was manoeuvred to
Redknapp on the edge of the box and his low drive made Ricardo fall on
the ball and then a free kick from out on the right wing was swung in by
Bunjy and the effort made the keeper scurry to get behind it.
The best chance to score came shortly
after when Taricco put in a decent cross coming back inside on his right
foot (as is his wont). Helder went for it with his head and I
think his marker just got a touch on the ball, which took it towards
Carr coming in at the far post. Unfortunately, the flick made
enough difference to put him off and his volley went way over. The
Irishman was linking up well with his compatriot on the right and both
were showing off some tricks. Carr did pull one back to Davies,
who blazed over and on another occasion, Keane lifted the ball over the
defence for Carr to latch onto, but his ball back into the box was
behind all the Spurs strikers.
The movement was good even though at one
stage all the Spurs players had moved into the shade of the West Stand
!! Mbulelo Mabizela made his home debut and showed a sturdy
understanding of the defender's art. He didn't hold back and
unlike Sporting's cynical challenges from behind that went straight
through the Spurs players from behind, his tackles were made front on
and 'crunching' would be an apt term to use in conjunction with
them. Hoddle needs to sign him up quick, as he is the sort of
defender we need ... one who won't be pushed around. Although
subbed in the 71st minute, the South African captain had shown enough to
impress the crowd.
He was filling the right back berth in
the back three and in the centre Bunjy did OK, looking a better defender
than I had previously experienced, while Gardner gave a supreme
performance and we must keep everything crossed that injury doesn't
strike him this season, because he will be a star for Spurs if he stays
fit. He stopped Joao Pinto getting his head to a cross from
Clayton and produced a formidable barrier to the muscular Silva, who
tired everything he knows to get Anthony off the ball.
Spurs did have a decent chance for a
penalty go unrewarded by Mr. Wiley, who consistently let Lisbon's player
get away with murder with nary a word said. Postiga played a
one-two with Keano and as he raced into the box, he had contact made
with him by Jorge, but it was not deemed a foul by the ref. Helder
did come close shortly after with a flicked header from another Bunjy
free-kick. Another unusual starter was Rohan Ricketts who also got
a standing ovation when he left the action in the second half. his
energetic display along with his willingness to dribble past players
brought the Spurs fans a glimpse of what might be. Perhaps in the
absence of Anderton and the now departed Etherington, he can give the
side some forward momentum and directness in attacking the opposition.
He showed good awareness of where to be
when he made a shrewd run out to the right to be found by Bunjevcevic
and then produce a cross that just evaded Postiga and Keane in the
middle, thanks to a defender's intervention. Rohan also showed he
had confidence to have a 20 yard shot that produced a dive from Ricardo.
At the break, Sporting made three changes
and the pace of their attacks stepped up a bit. The times the ball
fizzed across the front of the Spurs goal increased and I do not know
how it stayed out on a couple of occasions. A similar change saw
Poyet introduced for Ricketts, while Zamora replaced Postiga, who had
been subdued by his fellow countrymen, who he then went and chatted to
on the bench. His drive will be useful in such situations for
Tottenham this season. The other sub produced a couple of moments
worth mentioning. Gary Doherty arrived to groans when it was
announced that Mabizela would be the one making way, but he produced two
blocks to deny Silva and Lourenco from getting shots in when on the edge
of the box.
However, everyone thought he had given
Sporting a last gasp chance to win the match when the ref blew up after
Doc had appeared to handle the ball in the area. However, he had
given a free-kick just outside the box for a foul by Marney and Beto
Servero managed to get his dead ball kick up and over the wall and it
beat Keller's dive, but hit the bar. When it came down, it took
Spurs three goes to get a touch on it to divert it away and then a
Sporting boot took it wide.
So at the end, we could have lost it, but
held on for a 0-0, which was a good result in a good performance.
No-one could complain with their day, apart from those fans who all
moved back at half time, because of the short shower of rain. It
wasn't the only thing I found refreshing this afternoon !!
MEHSTG TOP MAN : - ROHAN RICKETTS