A strange, low key afternoon at White Hart Lane but one that led ultimately to another league win, our fifth in a row since that dismal evening at Molineux. The plus points were the form of Gareth Bale (yet again), the confident debut of Kyle Walker and the excellent keeping of Heurelho Gomes. On the negative side were the injury to Michael Dawson, the dodgy performance of Younes Kaboul when he came on in his place and (if youâ€™re being really strict) the inability to completely overwhelm and batter a poor Pompey team.
Portsmouth were in many ways typified by Kanu. Heâ€™s always looked like a bloke who plays in his slippers but now, as he shuffles round in the centre circle, he also bears the air of a man whoâ€™s forgotten his walking frame. Itâ€™s still devilishly hard to get the ball off him mind. The tempo of the game was slow by any measure but especially when compared to the intensity of Wednesday nightâ€™s win over Fulham. Both sets of fans sang of Wembley whilst keeping half an eye on the pre-season like affair in front of them.
We should be getting accustomed to Bale by now but every time he bursts over the halfway line carrying the fight so directly to the opposition it sends a thrill up the spine. Our first goal came when his cross to the near post was met with a sharp downward by Peter Crouch who had totally lost his markers. That was on 27 minutes. On 41 minutes Niko Kranjcar flicked home the rebound from a Luka Modric shot after some great work from Walker to get to the bye-line. There had been other chances – Huddlestone hit the bar and Crouch hit the post and put an overhead kick straight at James.
The second half was more notable for the casualty rate than anything else. Dawson for us and Hreidarsson, Webber and James were all either carried or limped off. This led to eight minutes of added time (after four in the first half) which in turn led to the closing stages being played out in front of a quarter empty stadium as people decided they had seen enough well before the end. The Pompey fans were excellent throughout and made the most of it.
Everyone expected us to win this and we did but it wasnâ€™t as straightforward or routine as mightâ€™ve been hoped. We again showed that without Palacios we struggle to get and keep the ball and we didnâ€™t create many chances. Gomes had to be at his best to thwart both Vanden Borre and Michael Brown (who was excellent I thought for them) & when Dawson went off Kaboul came on alongside Bassong and looked really sloppy, giving the ball away dangerously and at one point being spun in circles by Brown.
Still, Walker looked speedy, Crouch was tireless and deserved his goal and Huddlestone and Bentley got more time on the pitch. Three points is three points and itâ€™s always handy to pick them up without needing to play like Barcelona.
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