Thursday, October 19, 2006

Spurs vs. Besiktas -- LIVEBLOG

Welcome to Istanbul! Today, Spurs kick off the group stage of the UEFA Cup against Turkish side Besiktas, which was a quarterfinalist in this competition in 2003.

Spurs welcome skipper Ledley King back into the fold. Ledley missed this past weekend's trip to Villa Park due to lingering issues from knee surgery earlier in the year. He'll be partnering Michael Dawson, returning from a concussion sustained against Villa (his second such blow of the young season). Pascal Chimbonda and Benoit Assou-Ekotto assume their usual positions on the side, all four of whom will be playing in front of Paul Robinson, who assuaged some of the criticism directed at him following the now-infamous blunder in Zagreb with a strong performance in Birmingham.

Didier Zokora is rumored to have a stomach virus and that is why he is not in the squad for today, being replaced in his usual central midfield role by young Tom Huddlestone, who will be alongside Jermaine Jenas, with Hossam Ghaly and Danny Murphy on their right and left flanks, respectively. I would have thought Edgar Davids would be given a run out to go along with a more defensive-minded midfield that would make sense given a European away match.

Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov will be the striking partners today, although it's likely Keano will drop into a deeper role. The bench is comprised of the usual suspects: Robbo's deputy Radek Cerny, rightback Paul Stalteri and centerback Anthony Gardner, Davids, and wingers Reto Ziegler and Aaron Lennon and striker Jermain Defoe to provide width and/or a spark if Jols feels it's necessary.

A draw would be a good result, and a win would just be gravy. If Spurs can find a goal somehow, they've already got one defensive-minded center midfielder in Huddlestone and they have Davids on the bench, and it would not be at all surprising to see him get some action in the second half. Lennon may get some pitch time as well as the team attempts to return him to match fitness after his spell recovering from knee surgery.

1st min. -- Spurs kick off, clad in their all-white kits that are designed to bring back memories of past triumphs in Europe.

4th min. -- It must be cold in Turkey; Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Pascal Chimbonda are wearing gloves. Robbo deals with his first backpass without incident.

9th min. -- The closest Spurs have gotten to goal, a free kick from Robinson is flicked on by Berbatov to Keano, who tries to do something magical on the edge of the box but is completely swamped by Besiktas defenders.

10th min. -- The game has started sluggishly, as would be expected, but Spurs are starting to enjoy a little more position. Hopefully not too much longer before they start fashioning some serious threats on goal. If we can create a goal and sit on it, that would be mission accomplished in a big way.

12th min. -- And there it is!......or not. A good collection of passes leads to Ghaly getting dumped on the edge of the area, with the ball running to Danny Murphy, whose first-time shot is parried into the path of Dimitar Berbatov, who puts the ball into the empty net...only to be ruled offside.

16th min. -- A nifty cross-field pass finds Assou-Ekotto, whose bending ball into the box is deftly headed by Berbatov, but as the Bulgarian is falling away from the goal, it lacks any sort of power and doesn't trouble the keeper.

17th min. -- As suspected, Keane is helping out a lot on defense, but there hasn't been much to do back there. Spurs are really enjoying the lion's share of the possession, and they've just won their first corner...which is delivered straight into the arms of the keeper off the head of Berbatov.

20th min. -- Besiktas are putting together their best stretch of possession. A ball is headed in the air in Spurs' box a few times, but eventually cleared by Ledley for a throw. Chimbonda's been booked for what looked like a pretty petty foul (EDIT: It was for dissenting the foul). Besiktas works one shooting opportunity, but it deflects off Dawson's back and gathered easily by Robbo.

24th min. -- Keano's already started the arm-waving and gesticulating. Besiktas have won their first corner, but nothing comes of it. Besiktas are really getting into the game now, and their third consecutive attack is cut short by a foul on Assou-Ekotto.

26th min. -- A ball from Ghaly is superbly flicked on by Jenas, but Berbatov is beaten to the ball by Besiktas, which clears for a throw, which is turned into a corner. It's headed away, and Assou-Ekotto sends an ambitious shot over the bar from over thirty yards out.

28th min. -- Chimbonda has been superb. Not just in this game, but since being purchased from Wigan in the last hours of the transfer window. He deserved man of the match against Villa for his performance acting as a center back when Spurs were down to ten men. Meanwhile, Besiktas seems to be targeting Assou-Ekotto down their right side, and the Cameroonian blocks yet cross for a corner, which turns out to be harmless.

31st min. -- Ghaly is up to his usual tricks, hitting people and committing fouls. The game is opening up a lot more. Besiktas gets a chance at the edge of the area for an open shot through Sedef, but it's shanked well to the left under pressure from Ghaly for a goal kick.

32nd min. -- AND THERE IT IS! For real this time! Berbatov does exceedingly well to bring down and control Robinson's goal kick, and sends Ghaly through with no one to beat but the keeper. Runje comes out and manages to get a piece of the ball, but only swats it right back into Ghaly's knee, which directs the ball into the open net. It's Ghaly's first goal for Spurs, and a big one it is!

36th min.-40th min. -- Besiktas are already striving hard for an equaliser. Nobre's diving header is directed wide of the right post. Dawson is showing no fear of getting up and heading the ball despite this season's run of head injuries, but one of his attempts results in a free kick. It's bent around the wall and stung at Robinson, who does superbly to leap and punch it into the air, and then again off his goal line with attackers bearing down. Spurs nearly get something on the counterattack, but Berbatov's ball across the box eludes Keane.

43rd min. -- Spurs are at it again. Berbatov outmuscles Toroman and another defender for the ball and sends Murphy through with a clever pass. Murphy is forced to shoot from an extremely narrow angle, and his ball just misses the far post and rolls along the line somehow without going out.

45th min. -- Besiktas nearly pull one out at the death. The ball is worked in from the right side of the attack, and chipped into the box for Nobre to run on to. It appears he had the better of Dawson and King, but was late in arriving to the ball and skies his shot over the charging Robinson. He appeals vehemently that he was being held back by one of the Spurs defenders, and perhaps he has some reason for complaint. I have to see another replay.

HALFTIME -- Overall, Spurs have played a solid first half, about as well as could be expected in a tough away atmosphere like the ones the rabid Turkish supporters create. A draw would have been a good result coming into the game, but a win would be fantastic. The main worry in the second half, however, should be keeping everyone fit for the West Ham game on Sunday.

Another thing I've found is that soccer is much more difficult to LiveBlog than, say, baseball or American football. Those games have plenty of pauses and stops. Here, I'll glance away from the stream to type something and I'll end up missing a key bit of action.

46th min. -- Keano has a word with the referee as the teams take the pitch for the start of the second half. Brazilian Bobo replaces Sedef for the Turks.

47th min. -- Ghaly is everywhere tonight. He's beginning to look like a potential man of the match candidate. Here he nearly blocks what should have been a routine clearance into Keane's path. Berbatov has been busy tonight as well. He beats two men down the sideline before it's knocked into touch.

50th min. -- A long ball by Chimbonda is directed at Keane, but the Irishman fails to make significant contact on a volley attempt and the ball rolls through to Runje.

51st min. -- Berbatov earns a free kick from an angle, and on the ball into the box, Runje collides with one of his defenders and can only punch it out for a throw. The throw goes to Berbatov, who deftly flicks it up to himself and tries a volley from a tight angle that's easily gathered by Runje.

55th min. -- This ref has been very quick to blow his whistle tonight, although to his credit he's kept his book in his pocket most of the time. We've hit somewhat of a dull patch in the game, as Besiktas tries to find a combination that will work to get pressure on goal. Spurs have successfully snuffing out all of their efforts without too much trouble.

57th min. -- Ghaly goes into the book, either because he's just committed a repeat infringement or because he kicked the ball away after the ref blew the whistle.

59th min. -- A shot from distance by Kutulus looked to be on target but it deflects off King's head for a corner. After a scuffle in the box, the ball is kicked straight up into the air by Dawson, but when it comes back down Keano is right there to clear it.

63rd min. -- 2-0, and that should do it. Berbatov emarks on a fantastic solo run following a long ball, cutting inside one defender and then beating the keeper the other way. Beautiful. This is the kind of performance we paid all that money for in August.

65th min. -- There's a shot of a bunch of Turkish dignitaries or something in the stands, looking none too pleased. The crowd, vicious at the start of the match, has been greatly subdued.

66th min. -- Besiktas make their second substitution, Akin for Tatan.

67th min. -- Keane just misses adding to Spurs' already-comfortable lead. Berbatov beats Mercimek yet again, then sends a cross straight to Keane, who pounds it into the ground on the first touch. It comes up and off the crossbar before settling into the hands of a relieved Runje.

70th min. -- Ghaly goes sprawling but a foul is not called and Besiktas have numbers, but the final shot is a daisy-cutter well to the left of Robbo's goal off the foot of Yilmaz.

71st min. -- Spurs again miss an opportunity for a third goal. A clearance from Huddlestone is sent to Berbatov then through to Ghaly, making a run down the middle, and then on to Keano coming down the right side. However, Keane's effort is a weak side-footed shot along the ground straight at Runje.

72nd min. -- Penalty? Berbatov again just pushes past Mercimek, who takes the Bulgarian down from behind inside the box without appearing to make contact with much, if any, of the ball.

73rd min. -- Murphy goes to ground and takes a long time to get up, but he doesn't even need to leave the pitch.

77th min. -- Dawson gets caught too far forward, and Besiktas go on a break with numbers, but Daws does an excellent job to track back and help Ledley deal with the threat without an incident.

79th min. -- Besiktas have not given up yet. A cross into the box skims across everyone's head and rolls to the far touchline. Chimbonda, looking as lively as ever, defuses another Besiktas push forward.

80th min. -- Spurs finally make their first substitution, Reto Ziegler for Murphy. Spurs are taking their time and trying to slow down the pace of the game.

83rd min. -- And here comes Aaron Lennon, coming on in place of Ghaly, who had a very good night. Jol is most likely conserving him for a start on Sunday at the Lane.

85th min. -- The away supporters are bouncing up and down, rocking the stands. They know it's getting close.

87th min. -- Lennon very nearly fashions one more attempt on goal, making it look easy as he just flies past Mercimek into the box, who has been beaten all night long, but instead of shooting, tries to lay the ball off to Berbatov, but his pass is intercepted.

88th min. -- Besiktas finally get a shot on goal in this half, Yilmaz plays with the ball at the edge of the box, finds some space, and hits a low drive that Robbo goes down and saves well to his right.

89th min. -- Ziegler leaves Toroman in his wake and has all day to cross to either Keane or Berbatov in the box, but still hits it straight at a player dressed in black.

90th min. -- Spurs are just wasting time now, sending Defoe on for Berbatov, who could very well win Man of the Match. Three minutes of time to be added on.

93rd min. -- One last corner for Spurs, it's headed away by Chimbonda and the ref blows his whistle.

FULL TIME -- A superb performance by Spurs, going into Istanbul and emerging with three points in Group B. Next up is Brugge at the Lane in two weeks. My Man of the Match is Dimitar Berbatov, with consideration going to Hossam Ghaly as well.


Askinstoo said...
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About Health Blog said...

I would have thought Edgar Davids would be given a run out to go along with a more defensive-minded midfield that would make sense given a European away match.