A trademark performance from 2 months ago leaves Tottenham Hotspur right in the hunt for Champions League football still. 2 wins down, 2 to go. Adam Nathan reflects on the match from last night.
Let’s take a vote. At 1-1 last night, was there anyone who thought that Spurs, our Spurs, with two wins in ten miserable outings, would pick themselves up, transform into the players we all know they can be and dismantle a spirited Bolton on a ground that we had never recorded a league win? No, I didn’t think so. What an outstanding half an hour of proper, organized football. After looking absolute certainties to go behind as a result of Bolton’s rejuvenation after equalizing through Nigel Reo-Coker, a few touches of class, a couple of rousing words and a realization of their own quality saw the team completely turn the match on its head. Two wonderful goals in the space of three minutes were capped by another flowing team move, and before anyone had time to fully grasp what had just happened, a team who had shown practically nothing for three months had trampled all over their opponents to record an outstanding victory. To be clear, yes, Bolton are in the relegation zone, but clichés exist for a reason, and the old caper that we struggle against teams like that is only continually used because we do usually crumble against battling opposition, a sad fact that made our turnaround all the more unexpected, but most importantly thrilling.
In terms of the game itself, a bright start from Spurs didn’t look like it was going to reap rewards until Modric unleashed a thunderbolt from twenty-five yards that swerved viciously into Bogdan’s top left corner. It was one of those strikes, as with his stunning goal against Liverpool, that was in from the moment it left his foot. I’m happy to admit that my reaction to the shot and goal was, ‘oh do me a favour LukaaaAAAAAAAAA!’ such has been his wayward finishing this year, but had it not been for Cisse’s stunning goal at Stamford Bridge, we may have had a real contender for goal of the season. Despite a couple of lapses in concentration at the back, most notably from Rose, we looked fairly in control of the match, and fully capable of forcing matters a touch more should it have been necessary. Credit to the Trotters however, who, perhaps buoyed by the fabulous return to the Reebok of Fabrice Muamba, started the second half with tremendous purpose, pinning the visiting defence deep into their box, and eventually equalizing as Reo-Coker slammed home after a clever flick by Ngog. The eighty-nine minutes around that goal save Modric from any real criticism of losing his man, although it should be noted that this is not the first time the Croatian has been guilty of switching off from set-pieces this season; thankfully he would repay us later on in droves.
At this stage it really was panic stations for Spurs, and it should come as no surprise that the first moment of relaxed play by a visiting attacker led to our second goal. With the ball fizzed in to Van Der Vaart on the half way line, he showed his class with a calm chested pass to release Bale on the left hand side. As the Welshman sprinted towards the Bolton box, Rafa made a trademark late run which was perfectly found by Bale’s low cross. If there was one foot in the side you would want that ball to fall to it was the Dutchman’s left and he made no mistake in guiding it past Bogdan to restore our advantage. Before the celebrations had halted the lead had been doubled, as a wonderful pass from Modric found Lennon who had run in behind Sam Ricketts. With Adebayor open in the middle, the England international rolled the ball across the box for the striker score his 14th of the season; his first real contribution to the match after an anonymous first sixty-five minutes. That goal signalled the end of Bolton’s resistance and the Spurs forwards punished their tiring opponents with a fourth goal. After Bale and Van Der Vaart had exchanged passes, the Welshman sped into the space vacated by the Bolton midfield before releasing Adebayor to round Bogdan and slide home. A wonderful team goal, although the celebration left a lot to be desired! The last twenty minutes were played out at a far slower pace, although good work on a couple of occasions by the Sandro and the imperious Kaboul kept the lead, and our heart-rates at a comfortable level.
In terms of the team overall, a couple things should definitely be raised:-
Sandro’s return-To be clear, Scott Parker has been a brilliant signing for us, from a leadership and performance point of view. However, the last two games, whilst against poor opposition, have seen us look far more balanced in attack and defence, a fact which largely revolves around the Brazilian’s return to his natural position in front of the back four. As well as probably having a touch more invention than Parker, Sandro is much quicker at winning the ball back, which, with four attackers in front of him, allows us to recycle possession far quicker and advance against a defence who haven’t had time to get as many men behind the ball as they would like. The amount of space afforded to us in the first half was great evidence for this; with Sandro turning the ball over quicker and higher up the pitch we had more space to attack into on the break. In addition, his freshness through not playing that many games allows him to cover much more ground than Parker. This subsequently frees up Modric to join the forwards and create opportunities as opposed to sitting deep to fulfil defensive duties. It was another excellent performance from the Brazilian, who will no doubt be a crucial player next season.
Bale and Lennon-Firstly, it really is a joy to see both of those players on song and in their correct positions. Bolton’s 442 formation had no answer to our stretching of the play out wide whilst maintaining solidity through the middle, and one can only think how many more points we may have picked up had we played with more width in the past two months. In addition to their positioning, their willingness to run in behind their full backs last night made such a difference, and should really be a pre-requisite of them every time they are on the pitch. I’ve been lucky enough to see a lot of Barcelona live recently, and one thing that always amazes me about their play is that every time one of the midfield three has the ball the wingers ALL run in behind, irrespective of whether they have been released once or ten times in the game so far. Lennon’s run for our third goal is a movement that he really should be making twenty or thirty times a game, safe in the knowledge that on 90% of those occasions he won’t get it, but that in the precious remaining 10% in which he does receive possession we will have a great chance to score. Last night was a great throwback to the unbeaten run in the first half of the season where our wingers relentless work off the ball caused the opposition all kinds of problems and made us a very difficult side to play against with threats coming from the central and wide positions.
In conclusion, it really was a great win last night. With two games to go we have put ourselves in a great position to finish in the top four or even third, and to throw it away now would perhaps be more upsetting than it may have felt with six points less on Sunday morning. People will naturally not be able to relax until the Champions League Final in Munich, but ultimately that is out of our hands; all we can do is show the levels of maturity on display last night and enter our final games with the same desire as yesterday. It was a great sight to see the players rejoice like fans on the final whistle, and hopefully we will all be able to join together for some fantastic celebrations at White Hart Lane next Sunday.
Come on you Spurs
Adan (@adamdnathan on Twitter )
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