Sunday, December 28, 2008

West Brom Given Hope in Relegation Dogfight

The relegation dogfight took another turn at the Hawthornes today, as West Brom beat Spurs in a real six pointer.

Heading into this afternoon's game, West Brom were five points behind Spurs. A defeat would have seen them cut adrift, as we head into the second half of the season.

Tony Mowbray gambled everything he had on this match; he dropped his entire forward line in their last match against Chelsea, knowing and hoping they would be firing fit and ready for the Spurs encounter, and right he was.

West Brom started the match as if their entire season hinged on this match, their ferocity in the tackle and the way they closed Spurs down caused all kinds of problems for the North London outfit.

And just as Spurs started to make headway into the match and gain control of midfield, Benoit Assou-Ekotto was sent off for the second time this season. The Tottenham left full was sent off for what can only be described as a "cowards tackle".

Roman Bednar slid in to tackle the ball, and Assou-Ekotto came in from the side with his back turned and his foot raised over the ball. He made contact with the ball, but came down on Zuiverloon's calf, leaving the West Brom man to receive attention.

The angle that Assou-Ekotto attacked the ball left the referee with the only decision he could make, and the Spurs man left the field for the second time after receiving red.

From there, Spurs packed midfield and tried to catch The Baggies on the break. Harry Redknapp brought his team in at half time at 0-0 knowing a professional performance was needed in the second half.

Professional performances haven't been Spurs strong point in over 25 years and today wasn't any different.

The second half kicked off and with West Brom sensing blood, they tore into Tottenham. Heurelho Gomes pulled off two fantastic saves as the Baggies went in search of the opener.

One thing to note about Gomes is that according to statistics he is now Tottenham's best player so far this season. A strong testament to a player who had a nightmare first 10 games for his new club.

With Luka Modric now operating in a defensive role, Spurs lacked any creativity and Darren Bent looked a lonely figure up front, as he struggled to make any impact on the game.

Redknapp is on the lookout for a striker to compliment his striking options, as he seems to have come to some agreement with his predecessor that Bent and Pavyluchenko can't play together.

As the half wore on, Spurs began to fade and every West Brom attack was followed by another, as they went looking for a goal.

In the 83rd minute, they received the reward their play warranted, even if it was by foul means.

Brom's right full Cech found himself in acres of space as he moved into the Tottenham half. Looking up, he picked out Roman Bednar with a long lofted cross. But Michael Dawson had read the ball and as he moved to head clear, Bednar pushed him in the back.

With Bednar now having a free header, he tucked the ball away into the top corner giving Gomes no chance.

Spurs and Redknapp in particular were furious with the decision to allow the goal, and they were still arguing with the fourth official as West Brom scored a late second to wrap the game up.

In reviewing this match, I must say that it was one of the worst matches this season. And the referee gave out more cards than the teams had shots on goal.

Tony Mowbray couldn't hide his delight at this important result, and the Baggies have now made the relegation battle a five-way tussle.

Tottenham, Middlesbrough, and Stoke all have 20 points, while West Brom and Blackburn have 18.

Harry Redknapp was not only furious with the referee, but he was incandescent with rage at his own team, and kept them in the dressing room after the match for almost two hours. After this abysmal performance, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to work out what Harry said, I'd imagine he cursed more than once.

Interestingly, both managers had few good words to say about the referee, and both felt he had a poor game. Redknapp being slightly more outspoken than Mowbray.

When asked to comment on the controversial sending off and the referee's performance, Redknapp had this to say: "I thought it was a sending-off. I thought he turned his back, he put his foot in and I could see why he sent him off.

"I never walk in after game and complain about a referee but this guy today (Steve Tanner) is scary. What can you do? Someone thinks he is good enough but he is definitely not."

Mowbray was less controversial but wasn't supportive of the referee either.

"I have no comment on the referee. Some games as a coach you sit there and have thoughts but I've not been as brave as Harry and said anything.

"I think we all abide by the officials. We agree with some decisions, we don't agree with others.

"The bottom line is you hope to get the big ones right. I was very surprised when a red card was given but the referee saw it was and you have to live with that."

After this result, Spurs will not have won a game in five matches, and with Harry Redknapp in search of a new striker he'll be counting the days 'til January

twitter / WillieGannon