Spurs’ success is SA’s concern

1 August 2007

Tottenham Hotspur’s pre-season tour of South Africa was a big success for the English club as it won all three matches it played in the Vodacom Challenge, highlighted by a dominating 3-0 victory over Orlando Pirates in the final at the weekend.

A crowd of 40 000 was in attendance at Loftus Versfeld, but the Buccaneers’ supporters, hoping to see their team reverse their earlier loss to the Lilywhites, were quickly silenced.

Goal blitz
An early goal blitz, with Spurs’ recent record signing Darren Bent to the fore, left Pirates 3-0 down after only 22 minutes and the outcome of the match pretty much decided.

They looked somewhat tired, having edged Kaizer Chiefs 1-0 only two days previously to book their place against Spurs in the title decider. The English club, fifth in the Premier League the past two seasons, by contrast, was sharp early on when chances came its way, punishing any errors by Pirates.

It took 10 minutes for the first opportunity of the game to be created and it went the South African team’s way, but Lucky Lekgwathi blasted over the goals when he tried to beat goalkeeper Paul Robinson from a sharp angle.

Opening goal
A minute later, Tottenham, through Bent, showed how to finish when he fired a scorcher past Pirates’ goalkeeper Francis Chansa after a weak clearance from a corner. It fell kindly for Bent who lashed the ball into the underside of the bar with a powerful right-footed volley.

Not long afterwards, Bent turned goal provider, first stealing the ball from Destin Makita, before picking up Dimitar Berbatov with a neat cross which the Bulgarian ace knocked into the goals. Orlando Pirates were rocked, but that wasn’t the end of the hammer blows being delivered by Spurs.

Bent’s torment of Pirates continued when he, almost immediately, hit the woodwork. That effort didn’t change the score, but three minutes later he netted Tottenham’s third.

Three goals clear
Adel Taarabt, Berbatov and Bent combined well before the striker struck with a low shot across the goalkeeper.

His goal hunger not yet sated, the former Charlton Athletic man nearly notched his hat-trick when, after picking up a long pass from Steed Malbranque, he tried to chip the ball over goalkeeper Chansa, but his shot passed across the goalmouth.

Pirates’ best opportunity of the half fell to Bennet Chenene, the scorer of the winner in his side’s victory over Kaizer Chiefs, just after the half hour. He found space just outside the Spurs’ box, but his shot flew just wide of the target.

With the score 3-0 in favour of the Lilywhites at halftime, the destination of the Vodacom Challenge silverware was already decided.

Hopes dashed
Pirates’ hopes of emulating Kaizer Chiefs’ success in the 2006 tournament, in which the Amakhosi lost to Manchester United before edging the Red Devils from the penalty spot in the final, had become merely a distant and unreachable dream.

Two minutes after the break, Chenene beat two defenders to create an opportunity, but his shot was a disappointing one that goalkeeper Paul Robinson had no problems dealing with.

Not long afterwards Chene was replaced, with Rudzani Ramudzuli coming on in his place. Ramudzuli responded by testing the England goalie with a stinging shot which Robinson deflected away for a corner.

Experimenting
Thanks to their three-goal advantage, Spurs were able to experiment a little in the second half. Manager Martin Jol tried different combinations and different formations, knowing that the game was already in the bag.

Tottenham came close to making it a four-goal lead when a cross from Malbranque was almost steered into his own net by Makita, as opportunities became fewer.

Time slowly ticked away and when the final whistle blew, Spurs had become the first team from outside of South Africa to lift the Vodacom Challenge Shield.

After five pre-season wins on the trot, Jol will be satisfied with the promise shown by his club. The signing of Darren Bent for £16.5-million looks as if it is one that will pay off.

Frailty
The Buccaneers, in their two matches against Spurs, showed some frailty in defence, worryingly so when defending the long ball. In the midfield, they lacked the combative, ball-winning ability of Tottenham, often surrendering possession to the English players.

Because they lost the midfield battle, there were few chances created for their strikers.

Chiefs, after three losses in succession, will be concerned. The club signed Muhsin Ertugral as coach for a second time after a poor PSL season in which the Amakhosi managed only a ninth place finish. For a team that views titles as the only mark of success that was a very disappointing showing.

Against Spurs, their newly-signed Zimbabwean left-back Onisimor Bhasera impressed, featuring on both attack and defence, but the Chiefs’ centre backs, Cyril Nzama and Patrick Mayo looked shaky.

The midfielders, like those of Pirates, lacked the speed and ball-winning ability of the Tottenham players, while, up front, Shaun Bartlett and new signing Mabuti Khanyeza showed they still have some way to go before they gel as a combination.

Using SAinfo material Want to use this article in your publication or on your website?
See: Using SAinfo material