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21-09-2007, 12:19 AM #1
A comfortable victory and a scoreline that should see us progress to the group stages of the UEFA Cup for the second season running. In truth, the result owed much to a spell of five minutes late in the first half where we bagged three goals, while the scoreline owed much to the sublime finishing of Jermain Defoe.
Ahead of the game there were murmurings of how we had to win the game for Martin Jol to keep his job. Boring. Heard it all before. The fact that Mourinho had left Chelsea earlier in the day added a little extra interest, although quite what basis anybody would have for speculating that he would join Spurs is beyond me.
Famagusta included in their ranks one Marian Pahars - on the bench. "Not a bad life", I thought to myself. Do your bit in the English top flight, bag a few goals, move to Cyprus and put your feet up on the bench in the warm weather!
A somewhat different looking Spurs side emerged today compared to the weekend. The Robbo critics would have been pleased to see Cerny get a start. He did well and his distribution was high quality, particularly long throws to release the wingers. Assou-Ekotto replaced Lee at left back, Malbranque started on the left wing, Lennon on the right, Zokora in the middle and Bent up front. I hardly realised Bent was playing until about half an hour in when he should've been given a penalty!
As for the game itself, well, we plodded a bit. Created sufficient chances early on, and, would you believe it? Scored from a set piece! Shocker. I've moaned and moaned about how bad our set piece play is - both attacking and defending, but the goal itself was a pretty good one. Decent corner swung in by Huddlestone with Kaboul connecting to angle the header into the bottom corner.
Famagusta really weren't much of a goal threat, but at 1-0 things were always a bit too finely poised - especially given our track record of conceding leads! So that spell of five minutes where we bagged three - a Dawson shinner (well, knee anyway) while their defence was static, a Keane turn and volley (somewhat like Adebayor's effort at the weekend, but not quite as emphatic), and a Bent scramble. 4-0 up going into half-time and the tie was as good as in the bag. I know, I know - don't count chickens. But really, Famagusta just don't seem to have it in them. And we were playing well within our means.
At the start of the second half I was surprised that they didn't try a bit harder. With Ketsbaia in charge the expectation was that he'd fire them up and they'd be bang up for it, but not really. The introduction of Defoe with plenty of time on the clock made me comment that there was plenty of time for him to cause havoc across their back line and maybe even bag a hat-trick. Not quite, but the two he did get were superb finishes.
He was, as is to be expected, roared on when he did get on the pitch. And his first meaningful contribution not long afterwards - a sublime chip into the corner of the net. A truly wonderful piece of finishing. His celebration was very indicative of how much he wants to do well at Spurs I think. In the time he was on the pitch - details of his second goal still to come - he offered an awful lot more than Bent. Not that I'm criticising Bent. I just still have the feeling that Defoe can deliver more for us. Perhaps its a case of different styles for different situations? Bent to inject pace to beat the offside trap, Defoe to use his close control to beat defenders when on the ball and create shooting chances?
Anyway, we took our eye of the ball a bit and as Taarabt got on, concentration lapsed, and Famagusta pulled one back. Scrappy looking goal, but even then, 5-1, pretty safe. The little confidence it gave them meant they spent the next five minutes or so with their best spell of the game, but did little to trouble Cerny.
Then, late on, a concerted bit of possession with a very large number of passes from back to front and side to side culminated with Defoe firing in from long range, curling past the keeper to make it 6-1. Not quite the incisive one-touch passing I remember from another European game at the Lane - 31 passes I think it was - against Porto in 1991-92 that led to a Lineker tap-in, but a fine build-up regardless.
And that was about it. I really can't see how we would fail to make the group stages now. Famagusta really didn't cut it at this level and it would take a superhuman effort for them to get anything out of the second leg. It may be a draw, they may even win, but to turn around a five goal deficit should be way beyond them.
Most impressive performance of the night was unquestionably Defoe. He was given the time to make a difference and he did. Two great goals and a celebration that said it all - clutching his shirt as if to show just how committed he is to the cause. Its fantastic to see that after all the rumour and speculation about his future, and the fact that we have Berbatov, Keane and Bent vying for a place with him, he's still willing to put himself about and score goals of the quality he did tonight.
We won very comfortably with plenty to spare, and given the piffling allocation of about 450 we have in Cyprus - meaning I can't go! - I look forward immensely to the draw for the group stages and to a couple of European away days. I'm not counting chickens here..... am I?!