Pompey Lose To Dodgy Pen
White Hart Lane
Sunday 01-10-06, 4pm
Pompey travelled to White Hart Lane knowing a win would, at worst see us sitting in second place in the Premiership during the International break.
A debut was handed to Niko Kranjcar who along with Lomana LuaLua came in for Matty Taylor and Benjani respectively. Mido didn't get his chance to face his "easiest" opponent Sol Campbell as he started the game from the bench, where he remained.
First half goals from Danny Murphy after 42 seconds and Jermain Defoe ten minutes before the break from the spot following Didier Zokora's blatant dive put Spurs in control. Kanu pulled one back before the break but Pompey couldn't create enough to avoid a second successive defeat as they went down 2-1.
Pompey got the game underway in their new all black strip as we looked to gain our first points ever at White Hart Lane, but after only 42 seconds we were 1-0 down! Dimitar Berbatov's header could only be parried by David James and rather than clearing Glen Johnson tried to leave it for James only somehow managing to nudge it to Danny Murphy as James tired to pounce on the ball and Murphy took advantage to tap into an empty net.
Having not conceded before Monday we had now conceded our first away goal of the season also, but the crowd reacted as always and so did the players, responding by winning a series of corners won initially as a result of Paul Robinson turning away Kanu`'looping header.
Debutant Niko Kranjcar first real involvement would be to be sandwiched between two Spurs players as he won a free kick in a first ten minutes that were very open with Spurs' Berbatov looking dangerous.
Spurs started to apply some pressure and after winning a couple of corners from one of them David James would have to make the games first real save. Having made room for himself on the edge of the area Murphy went for the top left hand corner but James denied him with a fine save flying away to his right.
Gary O'Neil forced Robinson into his first save at the other end, although it was a timid effort. Trying his luck from the edge of the area his effort lacked power and feel straight into the arms of the England goalkeeper who set Spurs away on a break.
Having previously struggled to really get into the game Pompey started to see more of the ball from and Sol Campbell, being booed anytime he touched the ball, or came anywhere near it could have silenced the crowd could he have better directed his header from a corner.
With Pompey getting back into the game they were almost caught on the break as the lively Berbatov flicked on to Jermain Defoe who would have been in had it not been for James' finger tips as he raced to the edge of his box.
As the game entered the final ten minutes of the half the moment of controversy, which ultimately settled the game would occur. Having done well to get into the box Didier Zokora's blatant dive would con the referee into awarding Spurs a penalty. Under no pressure from Pedro Mendes, who pulled his leg away Zokora went down and the referee bought his act, pointing to the spot. In all fairness to the referee my initial reaction was "penalty" but it certainly wasn't and although he only sees the incident once the ref did seem to be in a very good position.
Defoe placed the ball on the spot and despite James going the right way he was beaten low into the bottom left hand corner as Pompey's already difficult task was made harder, they were now left with a mountain to climb to claim even a point.
This mountain was reduced to a mole hill as Kanu headed Pompey back into the game in the 40th minutes. Although I was finding it hard to single out one player for special praise (Johnson was having a terrible game, constantly giving the ball away or misplacing passes) Gary O'Neil was having a decent enough one having already put in a series of fine crosses into the middle, and it would be another inch perfect ball that found Kanu.
As the second half got underway Mendes looked to extract some revenge on Zokora with a cynical foul which earned Spurs a free kick on the edge of the Pompey box. A few words were exchanged, but Mendes had made his point, not that it would be any real consolation for what had gone before.
Pompey upped the tempo at the start of the second half with Lomana LuaLua, who had found it difficult to get into the game before, linking up well with Kranjcar before Mendes tried his luck from long range, which on reflection he maybe wished he hadn't.
The game flowed from end to end but with little clear cut incident or opportunity, although a great defensive header from the once again steady and commanding Linvoy Primus denied Michael Dawson what would have been a free header on goal.
Kranjcar was coming into the game more and seeing more of the ball in the second forty-five minutes as Pompey pressed, trying to turn their possession into something meaningful, Johnson on the other hand continued to struggle.
64 minutes in and Harry Redknapp decided changes were needed, off came captain Dejan Stefanovic and the quiet Sean Davis with Matty Taylor and Benjani coming on in their places. With Stefanovic's departure the captain's armband was passed to Sol.
With his first effort on goal Kranjcar narrowly put over with a powerful effort from some 25-yards, before Robinson almost got caught out in the Spurs gaol. As he attempted to leave a ball which he thought was running out for a goal kick LuaLua nipped in behind him but was unable to pull the ball back for the waiting Pompey attackers.
A rare mistake from Linvoy let in Spurs on the counter attack but Taylor's last gasp covering challenge on the tiring Berbatov cleared the danger for a corner, which Primus would defend well. From a corner moments later Jermaine Jenas was denied by another good save from James.
With less than twenty minutes to play the third and final Pompey change was made, off came Kanu, who looked to be carrying a slight injury with Andrew Cole coming on for his Pompey league debut in his place. Spurs' Bulgarian threat Berbatov soon followed Kanu off the pitch as the seventy odd minutes he'd played, his first game in some weeks caught up with him.
The disappointing and seemingly off the pace Johnson, playing in the worst match I've seen him play EVER had a shot charged down which found its way to Cole who's own effort was well blocked by the Tottenham defence before somehow ricocheting it way back to him but he wouldn't be able to get a shot away this time.
As Pompey pushed forward in numbers late on Defoe broke away and as the defence backed off he got a shot in which James again saved well, with Jenas, with the goal pretty much at his mercy from the edge of the box following another Spurs break unable to connect with a pull back, wildly miss kicking completely.
Without being able to create any clear cut openings Pompey were being restricted to long ranged efforts, most of which were from Kranjcar, with most of them being disappointing. One in particular had he played in Cole instead of shooting the veteran would have been in one on one with Robinson and you'd have fancied him to score.
Following a collision between Sol and Spurs defenders Dawson and Tom Huddlestone, Dawson would have to be removed after a lengthily stoppage with Huddlestone bandaged up which would lead to five minutes injury time, giving Pompey hope if they could just create that chance... which they did, although not clear cut LuaLua got in the end of a cross to the far post in the 93rd minute but his header, shoulder, back or neck, whatever connected powerfully would be superbly saved by Robinson to deny Pompey a probably fair point.
There would still be time for Spurs to have another break away and when through on goal Jenas' effort would go over the bar, with the aid of a great Mendes challenge, not seen by the referee or his assistants though as a goal kick was given.
So we were beaten again, can't say we deserved to win the game but I don't think we deserved to lose. Once again it was a case of not converting our possession into clear cut chances, which Spurs need some credit for.
Not ideally we now go into the International break off the back of back to back defeats. This can either work in our favour with players working on match fitness etc. or players will reflect on what has happened with negative thoughts creeping in which shouldn't happen as we've just been beaten by to good, and well organised sides in Bolton and Tottenham, no disgrace there but I had been looking for at least four points from these games though...
Spurs - Danny Murphy 1, Jermain Defoe pen 35
Pompey - Kanu 40
Dejan Stefanovic (c) (Matty Taylor 64)
Sean Davis (Benjani 64)
Kanu (Andrew Cole 72)
Substitutes Not Used
Not many Pompey players really had good games but Pedro Mendes did in my opinion, he covered so much ground doing a lot of good defensive work as well as pulling the strings in the middle of the park, was harshly penalised for yet more good tracking back on Didier Zokora for the "penalty." His one mistake aside Linvoy Primus looked fantastic at the back again; covering at times for Sol Campbell who had a few rocky moments in front of the booing Spurs fans. Gary O'Neil also had an OK game but seemed to drift in an out.
Glen Johnson was poor and Niko Kranjcar needs to learn he won't get the time he wants on the ball in the Premiership but he will, still showed some nice touches and decent ideas so I have no doubt will be a top player.