What a contrast this was to the last time we bagged fourth. Then, Crouchy’s goal at middle Eastlands led to tears and wild celebrations, here Adebayor’s uncharacteristically clinical finish and Everton’s very typical late season flourish meant that there was little drama in this game and after Defoe had given us a two goal lead, it all petered out in very typical end of season fashion.
Our early lead was greeted with glee, the rapidly changing scoreline from West Brom with confusion, and the goals from Goodison with wistful and knowing acknowledgement, (“good manager that David Moyes”). Fulham were barely in the game for the first half an hour but then were the better team for most of the middle third as the trickery of Dembele and Frei caused us problems. Luckily Pogrebnyak gave a display that proved that in Pav we definitely have had the best Russian striker yet to ‘grace’ the Premier League. Defoe’s goal seemed to knock the stuffing out the away side though and both sides coasted towards the final whistle. We did have to cope with several defensive rearrangements as both Walker and Kaboul ended up finishing their seasons by limping off, our final back four of Smith, Bale, Gallas and Nelsen had youth, experience, flare and a cobbled together look.
The win in the end was comfortable but that was due to the quick start and a few stand out performances. Younes Kaboul was my man of the match (and possible player of the season) and he it was who appeared in front of Bale at left back to play the ball to Adebayor less than two minutes in. A quick one-two with Van der Vaart (who also left the field injured – what is it, does no-one want to play in the Euros) left Adebayor one-on-one with the keeper and instead of side-footing a back pass straight into the goalie’s arms as he usually does in this situation, he curled it beyond Schwarzer and into the corner. Cue blessed relief.
Dembele forced a good save and scramble from Friedel and Gallas and then later hit the post but after the ball had broken luckily for us twice in quick succession, Defoe prodded home left footed with possibly his first touch. Apart from the regular reorganisations of our defence, that was it.
Redknapp’s decision to move Bale to left back in place of Benny and Rose worked despite the Welshman looking not entirely comfortable with it. I’m no body language expert but he seemed to give the impression that he’d rather be up front swashing his buckle in front of potential suitors instead of shepherding Damien Duff towards his right hand side. Sandro once again gave an impressively enthusiastic and effective performance and Livermore a mature if unadventurous one alongside him.
The final whistle blew and thanks to Marton Fulop’s ridiculous and untimely ineptness we have to wait until next Saturday to find out which European competition we’re in next season. All distinctly anti-climactic. Seeing the players leave the pitch one wondered how many will return in a white shirt. There are questions marks over all of Adebayor, Nelsen, Bale, Modric and Defoe. How many will be there for the start of the building work on the “new supermarket to the north of the stadium towards the end of the year”? We shall see.
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