|The clear sky meant
that the crowd of about 700 who gathered to watch this match ended it in
very cold conditions, but there was enough to warm the heart of Spurs fans
as they coasted to a 2-0 win. Among them were Ronnie Henry and Mark
Hughes, checking out their team-mates.
Chelsea started sprightly enough, but it
was not a true reflection of how they would approach the rest of the
game. Lining up with Terry, Ferrer, Babyaro and Bogarde in the side,
you would have thought that they would show some gumption, but apart from
a few strong tackles, they showed little inclination to put themselves out
for their huge wage packets.
Five minutes in, they won a free-kick on
the edge of the Spurs box, which Nicholas hit straight at the wall and
Babyaro's follow-up shot flew wide. Two minutes later a cross lead
to Ross having a header from the edge of the penalty area, but Hirschfeld
comfortably saved the effort in the six yard box.
Rohan Ricketts showed once again that he
has a nice touch on the ball and a fluid passing technique that brings
others into the game. He made a nice link up with Dean Marney,
captain for the day, in the twelfth minute to free the defender on the
right and his first time cross was well cleared. However, from the
next attack, Tottenham opened the scoring.
Darren Anderton, in the process of
completing his first full game since the Celtic friendly, was positioned
centrally and about 25 yards out. He played the ball out to the left
edge of the box, where Gary Doherty was stationed. The Doc stepped
over the ball, letting it run to the foot of Jonathan Blondel, who was
running in and who struck the ball first time, crisply past Pidgeley in
the Chelsea goal at his near post. It was a well taken goal and well
created against a packed Chelsea defence.
Spurs only had to wait until the 18th minute
for their second. Blondel won the ball in midfield with a suspicion
of handball about it, but then set off on a silky run with the ball
seemingly glued to his white boots. He slipped a pass out to the
right wing through Ross' legs, where Lee Barnard was waiting.
Barnard's cross was inch perfect to drop over Albert Ferrer's head for Gary
Doherty to bring the ball under control and crash a shot into the net from
the left hand side of the box.
It was a goal typical of Blondel's play in
the match. His quicksilver feet managed to control almost every ball
played to him, however it arrived. His passing was crisp and
incisive and his runs with the ball were electrifying. He is a real
box of tricks and the experienced Spaniard Ferrer was reduced to kicking
him over a couple of times. This foul play did not fit in with the
supposed classy ex-Barcelona defender's reputation.
Blondel was so involved that in the 21st
minute, he ran to keep the ball in, only for the offender Ferrer to knock
in a cross which Ambrosetti could not convert at the far post. In
fact, the Italian was involved in the Blues' best chance, when Wolleaston
ran through the middle of the Tottenham defence and fed Ambrosetti, who
hit a low cross into the six yard box. Kneissel missed the ball
altogether and at the far post Oliviera hit the ball well over the bar in
the 27th minute. In the very next minute the same player again shot
high when a ball over the top found him with only Hirschfeld to beat.
Barnard linked sweetly with Marney down the
right with five minutes to go to half-time and the captain's cross was
kicked out for a corner. It was a well worked move that left
Marney in space to stride forward and his forays up the line gave Spurs a
good attacking outlet, especially when Blondel shifted the play from the
left with a cross field pass. Marney ended the half with an athletic
slalom-style run past about four Chelsea bodies, before he was halted on
the edge of the area.
Unfortunately, the ref went through a stage
just before half-time, where he seemed to be blowing up for everything.
Almost every tackle was deemed too physical and then in the second half,
he spoiled what had been a good game for him, by being too pernickety
about the placement of free-kicks, which annoyed both crowd and players.
Winston Bogarde had ambled through the
first half and seemingly unperturbed by the fact that he might have been
playing for a place in the first team ,he did not appear for the second
45; replaced by young central defender Huth. Spurs took off Alton
(or Anton as the programme had it) Thelwell, who was feeling his groin
injury at the break.
Tottenham continued to dominate with
Anderton floating a free-kick that Barnard headed at the keeper, while a
flowing move through Ricketts, King and Anderton ended with Shaggy missing
the target narrowly from 25 yards. Ricketts showed he can also be a
useful player to have. Lovely touch on the ball and plenty of energy
off it, he linked play well and was as much a ball winner in midfield as
anyone else. The bloke sitting next to me (not a problem you usually
have at a reserve game, but this was a bit packed) was obviously not
Anderton's biggest fan. Sarcastic cheers when he did anything right
and quick criticism when something went wrong, he was amazed that he won
five tackles in the match. Well, he did well all round really.
Good control and sensible use of the ball allied with his winning tackles
and good movement off the ball showed he is just a little match fitness
off a return to the first team squad.
The Chelsea midfielder Oliveira beat
Gardner with a back heel wide on the goal line, but Anthony used his speed
to get the ball back and stepped out with the ball imperiously. He
looked very god today and never in trouble, apart from a couple of early
incidents when trying to lay the ball back to the keeper. Alongside
Ledley King, who also did not put a foot out of place, they could both be
back in the first team picture sooner rather than later. Their work
in the middle of the defence left Hirschfeld with little to field. A
70th minute save from a 25 yard shot from Kneissel was not too taxing and
then he was more seriously tested in the 77th, when Ambrosetti cut in from
the left wing to hit a fierce shot that Lars tipped over for a
corner. The only other problem he had was with a ball into the
danger zone that Wolleaston challenged for, but Hirschfeld smothered the
ball at his feet as he was a couple of yards out.
Doherty, who's touch was not great up
front, but he did battle away to hold the ball up, had a header half
blocked. His link play with Barnard wasn't bad considering they
don't play together that often, but Doc is surely better as a
defender. Barnard was a willing runner and his astute vision put
others in good positions with his passing. One such pass set Blondel
off on a run, then slide a pass out to Gardner on the left wing. He
played the ball inside to Ricketts, who tried to play Doherty through, but
the Irishman was offside.
Unfortunately, the game ended on a bit of a
sad note as Terry was booked for a crude tackle on Blondel as he ran past
the England under-21 player once too often. It was unnecessary, but
showed how on top Spurs were as this was in the last minute. There
was just time left for Spurs to carve out one more chance that saw
Anderton waved offside before his shot hit the bar.
It was a good all round performance by
Tottenham with both teams fielding a healthy number of players who could
be first teamers. The Spurs players application was much better than
that of the West Londoners and the result reflected that. Clemence
looked very good in midfield, running well with the ball and using it
intelligently and he will add to the squad soon. Ledley looked not
only fit, but positively thin, so that will stand him in good stead for
the rest of the Premiership season.
With many of the regulars from the reserves
squeezed out to accommodate returning injured stars and some having played
in the Under-19s at the weekend, it was a well deserved win, with little
to criticise. Next up are Leicester City at home on November 11th,
in which I hope the team can perform just as effectively.