April 28, 2009
The performance of officials has become a running theme of Spurs’ games in recent weeks and Howard Webb certainly kept it alive at Old Trafford. It now seems clear that he called a fairly tight decision the wrong way, but the man who will take charge of the Cup Final - and who has sent off both Ronaldo and Vidic this season - is also widely regarded as a competent and honest referee.
What is less than honest was Harry Redknapp’s reaction to Webb’s error:
April 21, 2009
"The defensive record here has been incredible. At times you win 1-0 and that's what good teams do - no game is easy and you are not always going to score three or four goals."
The first part of Harry Redknapp's remark following the 1-0 victory over Newcastle is certainly accurate, reflecting the fact that Spurs' ascent up the table has largely been built on a solid back four. His observation is also borne out by the statistics. Spurs have the second best home defensive record in the league (after Liverpool) and will set a new club record if they can maintain clean sheets in the games against West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City. With just those two home fixtures remaining, the team has conceded only nine goals to date at White Hart Lane, in marked contrast to last season when the opposition managed a total of 34.
April 14, 2009
Spurs moved up to eighth - their highest league position of the season - with a thoroughly deserved win over West Ham. While the statistics reflect the team’s dominance over their London rivals - ten corners to West Ham’s one, and almost three times as many attempts on goal - the game finished only 1-0. This was partially a result of yet another poor refereeing display, with Martin Atkinson denying no less than three legitimate claims for a Spurs penalty. Yet overall, his performance was still better than that of Spurs' starting pair up front. Robbie Keane had, by his standards, an off day, while Darren Bent had, by his, a typical day, failing to link with the midfield, hold the ball or provide a scoring threat.
Fortunately the manager did use his bench effectively, unlike last week’s game at Blackburn. Jenas was taken off (although seemingly with an injury) and was replaced by the dynamic Zokora. Even more effective was the withdrawal of Bent for Roman Pavlyuchenko, early in the second half. Within ten minutes of coming on, the out of favour Russian had the ball in the net, following a clever turn and a smart finish.
April 7, 2009
Spurs' six game unbeaten run came to an end at Ewood Park, thanks largely to an inept performance by the referee. The worst of Peter Walton's many mistakes was to send off Wilson Palacios - the team's best player on the day - and thus allow Blackburn back into a game that they deserved to lose.
The home side's Aaron Mokoena tried to handle Palacios by kicking lumps out of him in the first half and elbowing him in the face in the second, yet all of that went unpunished. Mokoena was taken off on the hour mark, presumably in recognition not only of Palacios' dominance in the middle of the field but also out of concern that Blackburn themselves would be reduced to ten men.
In the event, it was the Honduran who was given his marching orders, following Dunn's absurdly theatrical dive. Harry Redknapp condemned the referee's decision as "diabolical" and even Sam Allardyce conceded that it was "a bit harsh". Spurs proceeded to lose two quick goals and it was game over.