SAM ALLARDYCE admitted the goals his Blackburn team gave away were down to poor defending, but he also insisted that things might have been different had Blackburn been given a penalty by controversial referee Howard Webb — allegedly England’s best — after 19 minutes, when Vedran Corluka appeared to have fouled David Dunn.
“We should have gone in at 0-0,” he said. “We gave a silly goal away in the second half. We were controlling the game and looking pretty good and let Tottenham come from their box to the edge of our box and Pavlyuchenko scored. But our defending was diabolical on the free kick [that brought another Tottenham goal].” Allardyce’s other main complaint was a strike by Nikola Kalinic that was disallowed for an alleged handling offence. The Blackburn manager said Kalinic was pushed by Michael Dawson, the Spurs centre-back, which made handling accidental.
Spurs manager Harry Redknapp was still harder on Webb than Allardyce. “I never seem to have any luck with Howard Webb. He gives decisions that cost us goals.”
Redknapp himself admitted that Blackburn should have had that penalty, while Spurs were refused a couple of spot-kicks in the second half.
Overall, however, Blackburn deserved no more than they got out of the game. Their attitude, particularly in the first half, was depressingly negative. For most of the time, Kalinic was a lonely figure until another striker, Franco Di Santo was sent on after 73 minutes.
For Spurs, Bale, best known as a left-back but playing splendidly further forward, was a revelation; fast, adventurous and elusive. “He came here with a lot of hype, still a very young player. He’s a lot more grown up than he was a year ago,” Redknapp said.
In midfield, the immensely talented little Luka Modric had another of his outstanding games with a combination of skill and intelligence. Time and again, making light of a slender physique, he set his team on the move.
But with so many Blackburn men behind the ball, it took a long time for Spurs to take the lead, despite Blackburn losing their goalkeeper, Paul Robinson, with a pulled calf muscle after only 25 minutes. He was generously applauded by Spurs fans, who remembered him well at White Hart Lane. Jason Brown, who succeeded him, was beaten for the first time in first-half stoppage time. Vedran Corluka flicked on Niko Kranjcar’s corner and Jermain Defoe scored easily.
Brown might have done better with Tottenham’s second goal, driven home by Pavlyuchenko after a brisk counter-attack inspired by Modric.
Christopher Samba gave Blackburn a glimmer of hope on 80 minutes when he headed in a corner, but that was extinguished five minutes later when when a ball squirted across the box was crisply returned from the left by Bale and knocked in by Pavlyuchenko.
It now looks as if the Russian striker will stay at Tottenham. “He’s given me a nice problem,” said Redknapp. “We’ve got Defoe and Crouch. The form he’s in, he’s fantastic for us. He’s got us working harder, without a doubt.”
In stoppage time, Brown impressively kept out a fierce shot by Bale, who would surely have deserved a goal on his overall performance.
Luka Modric (Tottenham) Referee:
H Webb Attendance:
Gomes 6, Corluka 6, Dawson 6, Bassong 6, Assou-Ekotto 6, Kranjcar 6, Modric 8 (Gudjohnsen 88min), Palacios 7, Bale 8, Pavlyuchenko 7, Defoe 6 (Crouch 81min)
Robinson 6 (Brown 25min, 6), Salgado 5, Samba 7, Givet 5 (Di Santo 73min), Chimbonda 5, Emerton 5, Nzonzi 5, Pedersen 6, Olsson 5, Dunn 6, Kalinic 5