White Hart Lane became the home for the
bewildered for the night ... mainly off the pitch, but the way that
Villarreal played to defeat Spurs 4-1, many people in the crowd would
have wagered that it was on the pitch too.
I have no issues with people getting a
glimpse of Spurs when they can, but the attendances at pre-season
friendlies tend to consist of people who have very strong opinions,
based on very little and want to share them with everyone who goes to
the games. Either that or they have what would fall short of a
working knowledge of the team and the way they play, if not football as
The reason this irks me is that they
always end up sitting behind (or very near) me. The 30-stone bloke
and his six year old daughter who was attending her first game were just
the tip of the iceberg (although by no means the 10% visible).
Starting by reassuring his young girl that Spurs were playing in yellow
and "look, there's Gudjohnsen", such pearls of wisdom continued
throughout the game. David Bale was on the pitch and Bentley was
on the bench, while Danny Rose was urged to "Go on Jermain."
I am pleased to report that the Tickets for Troops that had been donated
by the club for this match had seen the servicemen sit away from such
paying customers (although I later found out that many had been given
tickets when their children attended the Spurs Soccer School recently
... I wondered how they all knew each other).
I long for the start of the season
proper, when I will be surrounded by the regular nutters I am accustomed
to who are entry card holding attendees.
The action began with Villarreal
attacking the Paxton end and Spurs fielding a side featuring some of the
returning World Cup players, more of whom were to enter the play later
in the match. The ground was far from full and it was hard to
estimate the crowd as people were still coming in at half-time.
The away end contained about 45 fans of the Spanish club and there were
huge expanses of blue seats visible and I fully expect it to be the same
for the Fiorentina friendly in nine days time.
Tottenham started pretty well.
Passing sharply, they opened up the Villarreal defence, with Corluka
slipping Keane in to try a chip over the keeper, albeit as a cross that
dropped too close to the goal, forcing Diego Lopez to tip the ball over
the bar with only two minutes gone. From the corner, the ball was
played back in and Lennon's shot was blocked and a minute later, Dawson
suffered the same fate as he got on the end of Kranjcar's cross at the
near post. Michael was soon in more familiar territory when he
timed a perfect sliding tackle at the other end to prevent Giuseppe
Rossi, the former Manchester United striker, going through.
The La Liga team showed the style that
Spanish national teams had displayed at senior and Under-19 level this
summer, being able to comfortably hold onto possession, while moving the
Spurs defence around to wait for a decent opening, rather than just
hitting a percentage ball into the box and hoping for the best.
Two such passages of play lead to shots from Fuster and Cazorla both
striking shots that narrowly missed Gomes' goal by the time a quarter of
an hour had passed. After Jermaine Jenas had limped off, with
Danny Rose replacing him in a central midfield role, Villarreal scored
the first goal of the night. 22 minutes into the match and the
ball was manoeuvred around until Cazorla put the ball into Rossi's path
and he struck the ball low past Gomes from the left into the bottom
right corner from about 10 yards out. It was well deserved and a
fine finish from a player that Spurs have been linked with and you could
In stark comparison to the Villarreal
play, Spurs were not playing at a tempo they would in the Premier League
(unsurprising for a friendly before the season starts) and their passing
was not true or inventive enough. They were restricted to long
shots, one by Rose ending well wide and another from Defoe not being
placed away from Lopez. Gomes was called upon to keep Los
Submarinos out at the other end as Cani made a yard of space by turning
away form his man to shoot from 20 yards out and make Heurelho dive to
his left to save. It only kept Villarreal out for a few more
minutes, as another good spell of possession, moving the ball across the
pitch until the opening arose to allow Senna to put Rossi through in the
left side of the penalty area again and finish in the same manner to
beat Gomes and make it 2-0 in the 32nd minute.
The irregular "fans" were not happy.
Comments about how the Spurs team will be thrashed in the Champions
League, how the players didn't look interested and were looking forward
to getting out on the beach (?) and how we always win home friendlies,
as they turn it on for their own fans began to seep out of their mouths.
It made me long for those who had attended the match the night before at
Spurs did manage a spell of passing of
their own five minutes before the break to allow Rose some space to
cross in to Defoe, who looked to turn, but he was blocked as he was
about to shoot by Catala. The half time whistle came as a relief,
both in terms of the action going against Tottenham and as a break from
those around me, even though it was replaced with the incessant
advertising on the big screen, that was preferable to what had been
suffered during the first half.
As expected a large number of
substitutions took place at the break and Spurs came out with Crouch and
Giovani up front, replacing Defoe and Keane, while Walker, Bale,
Assou-Ekotto, Bassong and Button also took to the pitch. The
experience given to players against European opposition is probably just
as useful as the actual result, but some fans had come to the Lane to
see Spurs win and that was all that was important.
Spurs pepped up a bit at the start of the
second half. Gareth Bale ("He's the only one who looks fit") ran
up the left side and his first cross on 50 minutes, was low and beat the
keeper, ending up at Kyle Walker's feet on the far post and he attempted
to put the ball back where the keeper had come from, but only managed to
put it wide of the side of the goal where Bale had crossed from.
It was a good opportunity, but perhaps unfortunate that it dropped to a
defender. That opportunity was followed a couple of minutes later,
when Giovani showed some of the ability he displayed in the World Cup
finals by manufacturing a low cross that Crouch was a bit too far away
from as he slid in.
When Tottenham did finally get the ball
in the net, the excited fans who were jumping up and down celebrating
had missed the fact that when Bale had passed through to Kranjcar to
"score", the referee had blown for offside some considerable time before
the ball left his foot. it was only a minute later that Spurs had
a goal which the assembled crowd could celebrate. Peter Crouch
intercepted a pass, then moved towards the edge of the box and fed the
ball onto Giovani on the right. Taking not time to fire in a low
shot, the ball flew past Oliva and into the opposite bottom corner to
make it 1-2.
The goal inspired Spurs and when the
keeper dropped a corner from Kranjcar, the ball was headed out and then
headed back towards goal by Tom Huddlestone and Crouch met it with his
head, but Oliva had recovered to grab the ball as it was going towards
the net. With just about 20 minutes to go, Villarreal made some
more substitutions and it produced another goal, which had a fair bit of
fortune about it. The ball was played through to Rossi and like
all good goal-scorers, he wasted not time in getting his shot off - even
though he was 25 yards out. Button looked to have it covered, but
Corluka stuck out a leg to try and block, but only succeeded in
deflecting it into the other side of the goal, where Button wasn't.
At 1-3 there looked little way back (I know because I was informed from
the bloke behind me) and it would be a case of seeing out the last 18
minutes by the visitors.
Giovani put Kranjcar in with a shooting
chance on the left of the box and he hit a shot that Oliva did well to
tip around the post, although the Croatian should have scored (I
know because I was informed from the bloke behind me). Corluka has
looked a bit of a liability in pre-season and he managed to almost gift
Villarreal another goal, when he went to take a throw-in to Button and
the ball slipped, going straight up in the air where it was picked up by
Ruben, who played the ball across goal past the out of position Button
and the fourth goal was on the cards, as Montero ran in with the goal
gaping in front of him. However, the presence of Giovani, who had
run back with the Villarreal man was enough to put him off and he
incredibly put the ball wide from about a yard out with nobody in front
It was the Spanish who were looking most
likely to score again and Button did well to spread himself as Montero
went through on the left, blocking his shot and the Spurs keeper would
have been helpless in the 78th minute, when Montero got past
Assou-Ekotto too easily tight to the line and pulled a low pass back to
Ruben, who hit his shot way over the top from about six yards out.
The fourth Villarreal goal did eventually come five minutes from the
end, when Valero (who was playing for West Bromwich Albion last season)
put in a low cross from the right wing and Ruben slid in to get it right
this time and put the ball in the net.
To be honest, it was little more than
Villarreal deserved and their passing and movement alone was well worthy
of the win. The other pleasing aspect of the goal was that a vast
majority of the "fans" who attended (most probably expecting an easy win
over "these") had enough and headed for the exits.
While very little happened in the final
four minutes (two were added to cover the injuries - mainly one where
Benoit Assou-Ekotto elbowed someone in the head and got a yellow card
for it), at least we could watch in relative silence.
The relevance of this game to Tottenham's
Champions League campaign is about comparable to the degree of knowledge
that the bloke behind me possessed compared to the average Spurs fan.
Players only just back in training, the proper first eleven not taking
the field, players injured and the fact that it was not a competitive
game all add to the performance and the result.
What is important is that those who took
part must learn that the style of play they will face in the Champions
League is totally different to the hustle and bustle of the Premier
League. The Benfica and Fiorentina matches have been lined up to
give exposure to different European styles and that is the benefit of
these games ... not winning them all. I would be happy if we win
the games that count and not the ones that some of the fans think
themselves entitled to see won.
marco van hip