Three goals in 12 minutes in the second half saw off Olympiacos this afternoon and helped to disguise a largely underwhelming Spurs performance against a side who rarely looked like they gave a toss. The Greeks played nine of the eleven who started their Moneybags League game on Wednesday night but appeared to know that they were here principally as fodder and were quite happy to think of the money and play the part.
Harry used the game to give home â€˜debutsâ€™ to Crouch, Bassong and Naughton but otherwise seemed content to give everyone available a workout. We used ten subsÂ including seven at half time. Poor Jon Obika was the only Spurs player â€˜involvedâ€™ who was able to return his kit unused. Bostock, Livermore, Cudicini and Boateng all got outings.
Ledley King started. Yes, you read that right. Assuming that his knee is still in the same state as it was last season, then we know that he needs as long a rest as possible between matches. So why play him in the last game before the big kick off, i.e. the one after which he has the least possible time to recover? Perhaps heâ€™s had other non-knee problems and this is the first one heâ€™s been genuinely fit for. I donâ€™t know. He played like the thoroughbred he is before being subbed at half time.Â
Of the missing usual first team suspects, Hutton and Palacios are with international squads and Jenas, Woodgate, Dawson and Bale are all injured. Luka Modric was substituted in this game with an unspecified, hopefully not too serious, â€˜foot problemâ€™.
We started at a good tempo, Crouch was lively and got plenty of early possession, providing regular knockdowns for Robbie and Huddlestone breaking from midfield, but after about twenty minutes or so the game seemed to run out of puff and began to swoon in the heat. We stopped playing passes to feet and started humping balls too early to Crouch with little profit. The first half closed with Olympiacos keeping the ball well for short spells but then losing it quickly whenever they crossed the halfway line. Having said that they did have the best chance of the half when Didier Domi got to the goal line behind Bentley and Naughton but the cut back into the box was fired overÂ (unfortunately not by Dudu thus precluding any number of puerile & childish jokes). Oâ€™Hara played alongside big Tom in the middle and was possibly the most impressive player in a blue shirt with dodgy bright yellow piping in the first half. His distribution was quick and accurate and he was skilful when in attacking positions. Bassong was another success looking comfortable on the ball and showing plenty ofÂ pace to regain control when he got caught out of position.
Pav and Defoe came on up front at half time for Crouch and Keane. Modric, Lennon, Corluka, Cudicini and Chimbonda swapped with King, Gomes, Oâ€™Hara, Rose and Naughton. We looked brighter from the word go, Lennonâ€™s pace in particular causing problems. Just as the half looked like it was going to ape the first forty five by slumping back in its armchair after a lively opening, some excitement clawed its way through the clinging and all smothering preseason friendly atmosphere when Pavlyuchenko finished superbly with his left foot to give us the lead. A great pass from Modric inside the full back had put Lennon in. The ball broke from a (possibly illegal) challenge on the winger and Pav crashed his shot home. That lifted everyone and we played some good stuff from then onwards. Other chances followed immediately before Corluka prodded home a Pavlyuchenko cross a couple of minutes later. Confidence grew and we played some neat passing football with just a hint of a swagger. Defoe was brought down for a stonewall penalty which was waved away by Steve Bennett but a minute later he took the refâ€™s rustiness out of the equation by wriggling into the box in typical fashion and drilling a shot low into the corner. The closest we came to a fourth was in the last minute when their keeper beat away another Pavlyuchenko shot following probably our best move of the match.
David Bentley didnâ€™t make it to the end, he was subbed just after the first goal on 65 minutes. Harry came to the touchline and applauded him off, Bentley didnâ€™t acknowledge his manager and disappeared straight down the tunnel. Iâ€™m no student of body language but it didnâ€™t look good. If you put the long periods of general mediocrity down to the heat and the fact that we were at half strength then Bentleyâ€™s mini-tantrum (if thatâ€™s what it was) was the biggest negative of the afternoon (assuming Lukaâ€™s okay of course).
Defoe looks currently like a man who could never sate his hunger for goals. Pavlyuchenko showed touches of class and Crouch proved that he definitely will bring us something up front we didnâ€™t have last season, i.e. a target man who will win his fair share of the ball. Keane didnâ€™t have the best of games but again he provides something different, plus he didnâ€™t play when Lennon and Modric were on, i.e. when we at our best. Itâ€™s almost anyoneâ€™s guess who Redknapp will play next week up front but at least heâ€™s got options; this time last year we had only Darren Bent and a selfish twat with an Alice band to choose from.Â
We were pretty average before we scored and pretty good afterwards. Even if weâ€™d been pretty good all the way through though we should know from last yearâ€™s experience that getting too optimistic is just asking for a smack in the teeth so letâ€™s just say that with a week to go, we look in reasonable shape.
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